The Future is Leaving

الأربعاء 27 حزيران 2007

doha, qatar

This article is the third in a three-part series focusing on education in Jordan. This piece concentrates on brain drain or the educated moving and living abroad.

The lure of money in the Gulf is drawing some of Jordan’s best and brightest where they can earn what they are worth.

Written by Ramsey G. Tesdell

Low quality education, rising living costs and the lure of money in the Gulf are causing many to move away from Jordan to work and live according to education officials and experts.

Education and industry officials argue that some of the best-educated Jordanians are leaving the country because of the decline in work opportunities and an economy that cannot support the employees.

“The economic structure is not prepared to absorb the educated graduates from Jordan’s educational system and forcing them to look elsewhere for work.” Hisham Ghassib, the president of Princess Sumya University of Science and Technology said.

“Our labor force is in high demand in Gulf States because their education is geared to the Gulf market rather than to the globalized economy. Jordan’s school graduates are much better educated than the Gulf graduates,” said Ghassib.

For Jordanians, according to Musa Shteiwi, a professor of sociology at the University of Jordan, there are more opportunities and chances to make money and due to the educated masses leaving, Jordan is facing a shortage of educated persons.

“Jordan has become a country of exporting educated labor. For Jordan citizens living and working in the Gulf, remittances might be close to 1 billion. I think in some areas we have shortages of certain professions because of people leaving,” Shteiwi said.

Ghassib said that Jordan isn’t the only country that faces the “brain drain” problem and that many countries are facing educated populations leaving to work outside of their native country.

“It’s a problem in the globalized marketplace with openness at all fronts. Not just a Jordanian problem. The fact that it’s a good education system contributes to the brain drain because our graduates are highly sought elsewhere in the Arab world,” Ghassib said.

Yusuf Mansur, an economist and consultant in Amman argues that the nearly 260,000 nationals living outside of Jordan are earning more as compared to those working inside Jordan. He said that remittances from outside of Jordan totals one-fifth of Jordan’s gross domestic product.

Duried Jerab, the general manager for the medical division of Karael International Trading Establishment attended Amman Baccalaureate School and then earned his bachelor and MA from the United Kingdom said that his whole plan was to come back and work with the family business.

“I had a job ready for me and the returns came back to me. Even if I didn’t have a job waiting for me, I’d eventually come back to Jordan. As a person who grew up here, I am proud of the traditions we have here,” said Jerab.

Jerab said that he would encourage his future children to study outside of Jordan.

“I’m going to encourage them to go aboard to get a good education. Even if I was in the U.K. I’d give my kids the option to live and study abroad. The university life is a great way to expand their horizons,” Jerab told

Many graduates study in science and engineering fields, such as electrical engineering and medical doctors and are not taught critical thinking and speaking skills, which Mansur argues is one of the reasons these graduates are successful.

“They [large multi-national companies] find it easy to hire engineers and accountants because they don’t need communication skills. For other jobs such as communication and higher management, they don’t hire 3rd world nationals because they aren’t taught these skills,” said Mansur.

Professor Anmar Kaylani, Dean of the Faculty of Educational Sciences at the University of Jordan said that the effect on the workforce is also a source of major frustration.

“Educated people leaving affects our society in many ways, but mostly it hurts the industry.”

Dr. Zaaki Ayoubi, Director-General of the Jordan Chamber of Industry argued that there is very little coordination between education and the needs of the industrial sector.

“The labor market is partly ineffective because no information is being shared between people who need the labor and those who train the labor,” said Ayoubi.

“Our educational system does a job, but its clear to me that it doesn’t do the job for the Jordanians.”

There are attempts however, to connect the industry sector to universities and education according to Ayoubi.

“There is a Professor for each factory Program. It pays the professor to spend 3 months at the factory during the summer to exchange knowledge. This program helps the professors stay current in the industry,” Ayoubi said.

Ayoubi said this apparent disconnect between academia and the workforce is also hurting foreign direct investment and turning away potential investors.

“In terms of international investment, the answer is easy for any investor: if we don’t have an effective labor market and effective training capabilities, why bring your company here?”

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