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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Why don’t Jordanian Women Graduate? A theoretical look at gendered experiences in Higher Education in Jordan


Jordan, in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, is viewed as a country of social, political, and economic advancement by development agencies such as the United Nations and the World Bank. Jordan currently leads the region in literacy rates and based on these statistics, Jordan is well on its way of achieving gender equity, one of the Millennium Development Goals. However, completion/attainment/graduation rates for females at the tertiary level are not as easy to locate. Recent World Bank (2005) data report that the female completion rate is 31% of the male completion rate. This is the widest gender gap in the MENA region in tertiary completion. This exposes a glaring discrepancy in Jordan’s education system. Why is there such a significant gender gap at the tertiary level when Jordan is achieving other education standards as compared to other countries in the MENA region?

This paper, a part of a dissertation in Social Sciences and Comparative Education, will explore the gender regime that exists in Jordan’s higher education system and how it contributes to low completion rates for women. Examining the ways in which institutions of higher education shape and reinforce normative gender roles (specifically in the Middle East and developing world) will help to contextualize the Jordanian situation and hopefully contribute to a better understanding of the gendered processes of education at the tertiary level.

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