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Part III

Future expectations

Progress assessment

The population growth rate in Syria reached 3.3% between 1970 and 1995.Youngsters under the age of 15 make up 45% of the total population.15% of the population are under the age of 5.

All these figures lead to the following conclusions:

-High percentages of economically productive members of society are supporting younger persons.

-Schools undergo a lot of pressure in all grades.

In spite of the globalization policies and the economical restraints imposed on the developing countries including the Syrian Arab Republic, the political will and the common belief that education – through its capacity to educate people, to change their lifestyle and satisfy their basic needs-remain capable of initiating the required changes, taking up challenges and raising people in particular and society in general to a higher level of development.

Everyone in the Syrian Arab Republic can sense the sweeping positive changes that education brought into the whole society during the past thirty years. In fact, multiple viewpoints were unified, the poor and middle classes were allowed increasing access to education and their economical and living standards were improved through free schooling in all forms and levels.

It is essential to mention that the political stability and well—organized society can effectively turn education into a lifelong process that contributes to develop people and transform them into efficiently productive and interactive individuals within their local environment and bigger nation.

1-Objectives and strategies:

Providing free education in all levels and compulsory education in the first six years is a constitutional obligation. Hence, the state is expected to persist in enforcing it without bringing any potential modification to other pursued objectives.

Strategies:

It is of great significance to:

- Persist in consolidating the principle of democratic education in order to impose compulsory education and offer equal opportunities to both sexes in all courses of study, especially basic education, in full accordance with the principle of free education stated in the constitution.

- Develop the educational curriculum in order to meet the contemporary requirements and latest developments.

- Introduce new educational concepts (relating to demography-ecology-health-technical education-computer science…) to the curriculum and develop its content in order to serve the educational process.

- Provide the educational techniques and instructional materials necessary to the flawless application of the new perfect curriculum.

-Introduce computer science as a teaching material and a technique conducive to the assimilation of various materials and the reformation of the administration’s systems.

- Persist in providing and developing the technical and vocational education in order to raise the competence level of graduates, to meet the requirements of global development and fulfill the needs of the labor market.

-Train and form teachers according to the principle of efficiency.

2. The spread of education

Some expectations in this concern:

1.endeavor to raise the percentage of students who completed primary course from 85% to 95% with an increase averaging 1% per year.

2.persist in providing ambulant schools by an average of 10% per year.

3.apply the slipping school year in new province schools.

4.encourage female dropouts from age 10 to 18 to attend primary school at a higher rate through specialized sessions.

3.The role of schools

Schools have assumed, throughout the ages, a key role in building up individuals and societies. Philosophers and scientists are school teachers. Prominent thinkers and politicians are school graduates. Schools have provided all people from different backgrounds with priceless knowledge. Thus, the role of schools gained prominence and became a criterion in assessing peoples’ development and progress. Consequently, nations have eagerly applied themselves to radically and thoroughly reconsider their educational and educational systems, as they realized that education constitutes the perfect means to keep pace with advanced civilizations and come up with developed nations.

One of the tasks assigned to schools in specific and to education in general has always been to build up a balanced individual who treasures his civilizational heritage, culture and national language, and aspires to the future in full determination and steadiness, paving his way to success with education, professional competence, virtuous behavior, proficient cooperation and understanding of others.

True, schools have come under great pressure, especially over the past two decades, as a result of the development and rapid transmission of knowledge. Still, it is no less true that schools remain the most efficient agent in forming virtuous citizens.

If unity and mutual assistance are peoples’ greatest strongpoint, school remains their secret maker, as it unifies divergent viewpoints and seeks inspiration from the past to forge future perspectives.

If struggle-worth values are a lighthouse that provides people with guidance, school is its torch and fuel. The valuable diplomas it grants furnish clear evidence for this.

If the national language is a bridge that helps people to cross from the past to the present onward to the future, school is its generous source.

If people are nowadays required to gain various competencies, school is the primary agent that helps acquiring them through constant training.

If machines have strikingly developed over the past years, school remains the first agent that teaches the basic rules of work, functional systems and technical principles.

If smoking, drugs and epidemic diseases are matter-of-factly spread in many societies, school remains the most efficient agent that promotes values and virtues and warns whole generations against imminent and threatening dangers.

Building up an educated and conscious individual aware of the importance of civilizational and human communication makes up the cornerstone in the philosophy of education and its future perspectives.

Schools in the Syrian Arab Republic reflect the philosophy of the state and society in building up a balanced individual, on the basis of organized and responsible freedom, cooperation, working and honoring work, scientific thinking, planning and the right of each individual to education.

The principle of democratic education calls for all this and requires to enhance the quantitative assimilation competencies of students and to spread schools across the country until the smallest village or community in order to implement the principle of equal opportunities. Democratic education also stresses on compulsory and free education and the right of individuals to equal educational opportunities in every field of life. Additionally, it advocates the right of students to have access to the basic knowledge and information that enable them to enter practical life.

This philosophy also reflects the viewpoint of society that regards school as a micro-society seeking to sow in its members the seeds of certain values and trends, and pass on to them the knowledge and skills necessary to the positive interaction among individuals within their environment and their wise investment. This helps to achieve prosperity, progress and welfare for all citizens.

3.1 Curricula

The curricula applied in schools play a primary role in shedding light upon the school philosophy and translating its goals into concrete action, due to the great influence they exert on students’ beliefs, trends and behavior. Although slow in impact, educational curricula produce radical and deep changes.

Curricula are supposed to:

  1. Take into account the educational, social, economical and political facts in all their aspects.
  2. Focus on children and their mental, emotional and physical needs and interests.
  3. Seek inspiration from the optimal future to conceive the possible future.
  4. Be flexible and adaptable to different educational methods and changing circumstances.
  5. Respond to the arising needs in the labor market.
  6. Be integral and comprehensive.
  7. Be reliable and deal with facts honestly while giving full reign to imagination and creativity.
  8. Be sequenced and properly adapted to the students’ mental age. In this respect, it is advised to adopt the spiral multi-centered method.
  9. Be moderately intensive, thus allowing students to participate in educational activities and in the live application of theoretical information.

Functions of school

Preserving the national culture

National culture is regarded-thanks to the coherence it brings to the nation’s structure- as a springboard towards the future. Because culture holds within the nation’s civilizational heritage, it is crucial to treasure its values and to develop it by eliminating its negative sides that impede the process of development so as to benefit from its positive true values by adapting them to contemporary needs. Therefore, it is indispensable to use this culture as a springboard to the scientific and technical progress.

3.2 Teaching Arabic and developing its teaching methods in all levels.

This process should take place on scientific and sound educational basis, with consideration to diversity and progression, as it is important here to determine the minimum amount of knowledge and skills required at each level. The integrative method has been adopted in this concern as it combines both phonic and syntactic methods in teaching Arabic. This teaching process centers on enhancing the linguistic performance of children through active participation in dialogues, practical works and learning activities. Teaching Arabic calligraphy and literature is no less important.

3.3 Providing students with some basic competencies

This objective is accomplished through the experiences, curricular and extracurricular activities that play a constructive role in building up individuals from the physical, mental, psychological, social and human point of view. Additionally, such activities contribute to build up society on democratic basis founded on the necessity of respecting each individual’s personality, spreading the spirit of cooperation and interest in work and supporting democratic values.

Extracurricular activities are of primordial importance in casting full light on each student’s personality, teaching the youth to be aware, responsible and creative and encouraging fun and optimism in life.

Such activities help connecting the youth more effectively to their community, surroundings and society, thus developing every aspect of their personality.

Activities conducted in all levels of education aim to create a pleasant learning environment that provides the youth with the information and skills that serve the curriculum’s objectives.

Another goal is to enable students to apply their academic experiences and theories in practical life, to discover and develop hidden talents and channel them into the right direction and solve the psychological problem of some students.

In addition, extracurricular activities seek to: create strong bonds between scholar and social lives, teach educated people to praise and respect work and workers and appreciate and practice manual works. Moreover, they teach the youth to spend their leisure time in profitable occupations, thus avoiding them the threat of delinquency. Similarly, they train students to make perfect use of their time, acquire the spirit of sportsmanship and cooperation, appreciate teamwork as an effective means to achieve common goals, plan their work, organize and determine responsibilities. Furthermore, such activities help the youth to gain qualities of leadership and urge them to respect laws and order so as to build up a virtuous citizen.

3.4 Teaching foreign languages

Teaching foreign languages is fundamental in all courses of study, given that graduates of all levels are required nowadays to gain sufficient linguistic skills.

To reach this end, teaching foreign languages in the Syrian Arab Republic begins from G5 onwards using the communicative method with consideration to the following:

1.writing new books and developing them into communicative tools.

2.providing the instructional requirements through distribution of recorders, tapes and educational cards.

3.training teachers to apply the communicative method.

A second foreign language will be taught in secondary schools, starting this year (experimentally).

Devoting special attention to gifted students

The purpose here is to unleash the maximum creative energy of talented students, thus contributing to achieve progress in the age of knowledge and technology.

In order to provide the ingredients of progress, the Syrian ministry of education took the initiative to:

A- establish in all provinces intermediate and secondary schools exclusively destined for students who demonstrate outstanding talents.

B- attend to those schools by providing them with convenient buildings and necessary requirements of development such as:

- Electronic libraries conducive to self-education and subsequently to sustained education.

- Scientific teaching and learning laboratories.

- Practical workshops where equipment and tools are manufactured from materials available in the local environment in application of the theoretical principles. This helps creating a concrete relationship between local industry and education.

The efforts exerted to enhance the quality of teaching.

A. Teacher training and preparation

Teacher training and preparation are of indisputable importance in any educational reform, for teachers remain pillars of strength in carrying out such reforms.

Even if every technical requirement of the educational process is available in terms of techniques, equipment and adequate building, promoting the quality of their outcome calls above all for the enhancement of the training level of teachers and a constant effort to develop the teaching methods and the new curricula. This is expressed by:

1.Inaugurating new faculties of education where teachers of all grades will be trained.

2.Training ancient teachers who hold no educational qualification diploma by successively enrolling them in faculties of education after granting them a fully paid leave from school.

3.Holding constant promotional sessions for teacher preparation.

4.Holding special sessions to prepare the teachers of the grades whose curricula and books have been newly developed. Such sessions allow teachers to learn about the new curricula, train them to apply their new contents and enable them to know about the defined steps that help achieve their goals.

We will later on discuss the new role of teachers.

B. Introducing computers into schools

Introducing computers into schools constitutes an essential bonding factor between traditional teaching methods and the age of information and technology.

The ministry of education has elaborated a national strategy to introduce computers and informatics into precollege education. In fact, the ministry believes that the computerization of future schools could be achieved through the following:

  1. Teaching computer science as an integral part of the curriculum.
  2. Using computers and informatics as an instructional tool and material.
  3. Using computers as helpful tools to assist the administration in performing its tasks, especially in the evaluation process.
  4. Using computer networks to develop the administration’s systems and communications.

It is therefore essential to provide the requirements of computerization:

  1. Take on computer - specialized teachers.
  2. Engaging the services of specialized teachers is necessary to teach computer science and to promote computer-aided instruction. To achieve this end, the ministry of education established five centers destined to train and prepare teachers through special sessions extending over one entire school year. Each of the five centers was built in a different province to ensure a comprehensive coverage of the whole region.

  3. Establish student centers for informatics
  4. The ministry has inaugurated computer-equipped rooms within secondary schools for general, vocational and technical education, where computer science is to be taught according to curricula developed by specialists from inside and outside the ministry. In addition, the ministry created a new specialization in computer technologies, in an effort to increase the number of computer experts in society.

  5. Produce educational computer Programs in two fields:
  1. Educational computer Programs presented through educational television Programs as illustrative tools to assist teachers in explaining and evaluating courses and to help students in assimilating the course materials completely.
  2. Educational computer Programs on compact discs so as to make information more accessible to students through self-education and to enable them to evaluate the final informationa they obtain by using such Programs.

By observing the developments occurring in this context and the future visions, we realize how necessary it is to provide future generations in future schools with sufficient amount of knowledge in the field of informatics and computer science. This undoubtedly allows students to keep pace with the scientific and civilizational progress and to reach efficient levels of education by interacting with the acquired knowledge and skills. It also plays an important role in developing the spirit of cooperation among the members of society and in strengthening their social integration.

C. Adopting the principle of twinning (double education) in vocational and technical education.

The vocational and technical education witnessed in all its branches remarkable development. In 1995, the plan set by the state has been brought into action and 70% of students were admitted in technical and vocational education on completion of their intermediate schooling.

Therefore, a wide range of professions was created to meet the needs of the labor market and the requirements of development. Schools also proliferated, along with laboratories adequately equipped for the successful training of students. Moreover, efficient curricula and schoolbooks were developed, competent teachers were recruited and appropriate training was planned.

With regard to the rapid and renewed developments occurring in the labor market, and in order to produce highly qualified graduates with knowledge and practical experience sufficient to meet the needs of the labor market, partnership with national production institutions was suggested. In other words the twining or double education within future schools.

The whole concept of twinning is based on putting great emphasis on practical training and enhancing the level of graduates in order to meet the market requirements and to serve its rapidly growing needs.

This aim could be reached by allowing various non-educational sectors (production and service sectors) to participate in the training process. Such project brings the skills of graduates to their highest level during formation and prepares them as much as possible for entry into practical occupations with no need for a long adaptation period.

D. The supportive future role of schools

The efficiency of educational systems is largely defined by its management methods. This is directly related to:

  1. The social and political variables occurring in society.
  2. The economical variables, employment conditions and labor market.
  3. How serious is the educational system in going along with the rapid scientific and technological progress.
  4. Hoe independent is the educational institution.

The main function of the school administration is to achieve the goals set by the school. This purpose could be successfully materialized through efficiently and sufficiently organized management of human and material resources. Therefore, school directors are required to focus on the daily management of the teaching and learning process and to accomplish a number of administrative tasks that cannot be perfectly done unless they observe important rules related to planning, organizing, leading and controlling.

Thus, the director is asked to be totally aware of his responsibilities and obligations, the scope of his work and the details of his various roles.

E. Future look on the educational orientation

Educational orientation is deemed to be the key to developing the educational process and to enhancing teachers’ performance, especially in the compulsory primary schooling which constitutes an extensive course of study with high percentages of enrolled students of all ages, some of whom might be unable to pursue higher education.

Developing the educational orientation relies on two major pillars: The content and the method.

Enhancing the content and method in educational orientation should be achieved with respect to the following basic principles:

It is thus essential to develop the conditions and basis on which educators will be selected in the future:

Qualifications:

Experience:

  1. Participate in a contest to select educators (oral interview- written test…)
  2. Attend a training session to improve one’s educational knowledge and experiences after successfully passing the above-mentioned contest.

F. The new role of teachers

After being efficiently prepared and trained to perform various tasks, teachers are assigned a new role that could be defined by comparing their traditional and new roles. In fact, teachers are traditionally regarded as mere vehicles of knowledge and students are considered to be passive recipients. Teachers used blackboards and chalk as only tools of education and decided by themselves the pace of the educational process.

The new role of teachers consists of:

  1. Teaching techniques
  1. A center for sources of learning - "comprehensive library"
  2. This center aims to place heavy emphasis on learning by providing sources conducive to self-education. Such centers are of invaluable help in allowing educated people to acquire various skills such as the ability to analyze, compose, criticize, innovate and solve problems thanks to the broad range of educational tools they offer such as: books and references, indexes, guides, audiovisuals, computer Programs for different course materials. All these tools are designed to create a suitable educational environment enriched with varied and multiple sources of knowledge. In fact, they offer students opportunities favorable to the acquisition of necessary experiences by using various printed and non-printed materials that promote individual studying and self-education. As a result, positive directions are being developed and consequently, permanent education can be provided through the optimal use of the tools and means the center has to offer.

  3. Scientific learning and teaching laboratories

These include demonstrative (teaching) laboratories where teachers can conduct experiments in basic sciences for their students to see. They also include student laboratories (learning laboratories) where a student or groups of students (more than 5 students) can perform laboratory experiments.

3. Practical workshops

In practical workshops, students produce equipment and tools by applying classroom learning, especially in the field of science and scientific practical works (technology) such as solar heating devices or electrical engines (from simple materials) or waterwheels.

The importance of such workshops lies in the use of materials available in the local environment such as the remains of raw materials from local factories, hence creating a relationship between local industry and education.

Applying the acquired knowledge (the learning and teaching activities) in laboratories or in workshops is important because it:

Observations show in this respect that students have in general an inclination for the positive activities that are favorable to self-expression. It was also noticed that students prefer activities conducive to their studies. In this context, students who have a predilection for specific activities mentioned that their favorite activity helps them to better understand and assimilate their courses. Whereas students largely differ from each other, conducting a wide range of educational activities proves to be essential so as to offer each student the opportunity to use the activity or activities that help him understand what he is studying.

Providing demonstrative laboratories, student laboratories, workshops and the like according to international standards and after the pattern of industrially developed and rich countries is hard to achieve, considering its high cost. This is remarkably evident, especially that the international practical experiences proved that innovative projects applied in the educational field remain limited, confined or cancelled when costly.

Some maintain that the cost of such projects can de reduced by carrying out a detailed study on the specifications of the sites or areas where activities are to be conducted in terms of building, equipment and furniture…as far as primary, intermediate and secondary schools are concerned. It was also suggested to focus on the basics and use the sites and equipment optimally and energetically.

4. Sources of knowledge in the local environment

It was internationally recommended to devote 20% of the studying time to accommodate central curricula to the local environment and interact with this environment, whether it was natural, industrial, relating to services, production, society or culture.

Interacting with the close local environment doesn’t need a long time. To begin with, an hour per week or two successive hours are sufficient to visit factories, hospitals, health units, fields or farms, breeding centers, airports, railway stations, power plants, water purification stations, pools, and the like. Such visits help setting plans and studied Programs.

School buildings

Convenient school buildings incite students to cherish their school and to participate in the activities it conducts, thus enabling schools to move toward their goals.

Enhancing school buildings requires considering the following:

    1. The actual shape of classrooms.
    2. Enlarging the space devoted for each student.
    3. Devoting larger spaces for playgrounds and halls.
    4. Increasing the number of activity rooms, laboratories, libraries and computer rooms.

In addition to using school buildings for the usual educational activities, they can be used:

    1. As gymnasiums and theaters for the local society.
    2. As a starting point to perform social services.
    3. To develop Programs for spreading informatics.
    4. To develop literacy Programs and to educate young girls as well as adults.

In any case, all these functions depict a dynamic and bright picture of future schools.

Conclusion

If schools assume- as previously mentioned- the most active role in transforming all youth into virtuous citizens, they are not the only ones to perform this task. Truth is that family, society and the local environment are also responsible for producing the righteous individuals who constitute the final end of life and its starting point.

Hence, all these agents should work in coordinated efforts to achieve their pursued goal in producing a better society.

There can be little question that sundry factors highly contribute to integrate the work of the school, family and society and help the present and future schools to perform better results as the twentieth century draws to an end. Those factors are the following: the introduction of a broad range of human and health services into schools, the effective participation of parents, educators, popular and private organizations in achieving such services, the total commitment of all administrators to perform those services efficiently and to coordinate proficiently all efforts from all parts.

If nations build their glory on their scientific and technological thrust, and if some others still bow under the yoke of ignorance, underdevelopment and widespread epidemic diseases,

If some nations are torn apart by social discords and exacerbated dissentions,

If some nations endure moral degradation and increasing youth problems,

It remains true that schools are indirectly responsible for the achievements of some and the failure of others.

With the beginning of a new century, the solution to all these problems lies in listing the educational status among the most urgent problems.

                                                                                                                                END


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