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from issue no. 12 - 2006

An interview with Khalid Tuqan, Jordanian Minister of Education and Scientific Research

The happy memories of a former pupil

Interview with Khalid Tuqan by Gianni Valente

Khalid Tuqan, 52 years old and the father of three sons, is the respected nuclear engineer who since 2000 – an unusual case of political survival in the unstable life of Jordanian government ministries – has been in charge of the national Ministry of Education. In 2005 higher education and scientific research were included in his portfolio. Degrees and post-graduate specializations done at renowned American universities figure in his CV (he is also president of the Jordanian Commission for nuclear energy). But his brilliant human and professional career also had its starting point in the Christian schools of Jordan. He, too, who according to gossip cultivates an interest in Sufism, studied as a boy at the «Holy Land» College of the Franciscan fathers.

Jordanian Minister of the Education Khalid Tuqan with Father Rashid Mistrih, director of the «Holy Land» College

Jordanian Minister of the Education Khalid Tuqan with Father Rashid Mistrih, director of the «Holy Land» College

You, too, then, now running all the schools of the Kingdom as Minister of Education, are a former pupil of the Christian schools of Jordan...
KHALID TUQAN: The «Holy Land» College is a highly esteemed educational institute that provides an education in step with the times. It was and remains one of the most authoritative and respected Jordanian schools, with standards of international level.
But its educational traditions are also rooted in the values that are at the basis of our society, its tradition and its culture. It is a model of respect for the discipline and legislation on education. Its directive and teaching staff is of the highest level and it takes pains to ensure that its students get the best results.
The relations between the pupils are based on friendship, affection and respect, and the memory of that atmosphere is still present to my mind. The relations between teachers and pupils were founded on trust, mutual respect and shared responsibility. The teachers always exhorted the pupils to good education, moral and noble values, and to try to achieve excellent academic results.
Today that school still has a special place in my memory, and I conserve some very fine memories of it.
What is your assessment of the role played by the Christian schools in Jordanian society?
TUQAN: The Christian schools are an essential member of the private schools of our country. They are fully integrated into the Jordanian educational philosophy, with some original elements in terms of religious education. The Jordanian educational program is an obligatory point of reference for all the schools in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, but it leaves room also for the choices of some institutes to round out such programs by adding supplementary books. The textbooks used are established and authorized by the Council for Education and Teaching, and serve indifferently for the Christian schools and for the other Jordanian schools. The Christian schools are among the most respectful, ordered and disciplined and their contribution to society is a very positive one. Apart from having the responsibility to educate and bear the burden of instructing pupils, they ensure a modern social education rooted in the values of the good and of love according to the message of Christ – may peace be with Him – and of all the prophets of mankind.
More in general, what do you think of the situation of the Christian minorities in Jordan?
TUQAN: The Christians here are children of Jordan and share the responsibilities of common citizenship as do all other Jordanians. Through the richness of the education received, they have grown up assimilating the identity and tradition of this homeland, to which they are proudly attached. The fact of being a minority does not diminish their rights that the Constitution guarantees to them as to all their other fellow citizens.
As you know, the Christian religion entails a gaze opened towards transcendence, nobility of mind, forgiveness and mutual respect and this is reflected in the spirit and practice of the educational communities of the Christian schools, both among teachers and taught. Emphasis is given to the many aspects in common between the Muslim religion and Christianity and this ensures co-existence in peace, love and brotherhood.
Our Muslim history is rich in examples that over the centuries have testified to a leaning to encounter, peace and collaboration. Where there are issues to clarify, they are subjected to debate in dialogue and the exchange of opinions, in civil fashion rid of fixations, with mutual respect for the convictions of the other and with the shared concern for the good of our native land.
The Eastern Christians have always lived with the people of the region, enjoying their religious and civil rights. They are native children of this part of the world, they share the problems and back the common causes of their respective countries.
Many Muslim parents prefer to send their children to study at the Christian schools. How come?
TUQAN: Usually, when parents want to enrol their children in schools and can choose between various options, they take into consideration the academic level and the educational facilities that a school can offer. It’s known that the Christian schools in Jordan have a good reputation and ensure a high level in teaching. That translates into a high demand for enrolment, even without considering religion, because the reason inspiring the choice is the educational aspect.
For Muslim parents, sending their children to the Christian schools is correlated with reputation and the trust which such schools enjoy with all families. For Christian parents, apart from the considerations already mentioned, the other determining factor is the religious education that is given in the Christian schools. They are very keen on a traditional education that hands on the observance of practices and teachings, because they wish their children to be believers.

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