With public schools in tatters, a Damascene teacher fears ‘an ignorant, illiterate generation’

February 23, 2016

Five years of war has taken its toll on public education in Damascus. Experienced teachers have left Syria or been conscripted for military service, and classrooms are packed with displaced students seeking refuge in the capital.

“Education is going from bad to worse,” a kindergarten teacher at a private school in Damascus, who requested anonymity, tells Syria Direct’s Nisreen Nassar.

“There are fears that we are raising an ignorant, illiterate generation, which doesn’t understand a thing.”

Q: Why are families sending their children to private schools?

Because the quality of education at the private schools is a lot better than public in terms of the care bestowed on each child. These schools closely follow the child’s educational level, and will always include his family in the process. Add to that private schools’ focus on teaching English, and the fact that private schools offer bussing is comforting to families in light of the security situation.

Q: What’s the quality of education like at public compared to private schools?

There are some decent and some subpar public schools. The teachers don’t have sufficient experience, or they haven’t finished their college degree yet, and did not take special courses in developing curricula and teaching. There is no interest in the student or her educational level, and classrooms are packed with large numbers of students. This is the opposite of private schools where the number of children in each class is ideal, and the learning process much better.

The public school teaching staff has gotten worse. Most teachers have left the profession: some traveled abroad, others have been taken for reserve military service. This has led to a decline in the educational process.

Additionally, families are afraid to send their students to school due to a lack of security.

Q: How much does private school cost? Can families afford it?

Tuition begins at SP50,000 ($265) and reaches SP100,000 ($530) or more for a single student per year. Of course this is a burden on families, which leads some to borrow money. Many can’t afford the cost.

Q: What sorts of alternatives exist to private schools?

The alternative is private lessons at home. Some families do the teaching themselves because they can’t pay for lessons.

Q: In your opinion as a teacher, what sorts of negative consequences are you seeing as a result of the decline in education?

Education is going from bad to worse, unfortunately. There are fears that we are raising an ignorant, illiterate generation, which doesn’t understand a thing. This will impact future generations.

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