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Jordanian Principal Shares Culture With High School Students


 

WINSTED — Northwestern Regional High School opened its doors this month to a principal from the country of Jordan as part of a grant from the Fulbright Exchange Program. Ziad Al-Shorafat, principal of an all-boys high school in Jordan, remained at Northwestern this week to pick up tips on the American education system.

Jordan, an Islamic country which borders Israel and Saudi Arabia, is a strong ally of the United States. The country’s leader, King Abdullah, was educated in the United States and has expressed interest in modeling the Jordanian education system after that of the United States.

Northwestern is one of 10 schools in the United States that were awarded the grant to host a foreign school administrator.

Looking for ways to improve his school, as well as the Jordanian school system, Al-Shorafat signed on with the Fulbright Exchange Program for a three-week cultural and educational experience. He is staying with Ken Chichester, housemaster and curriculum coordinator at Northwestern and initiator of the Fulbright grant application process.

Al-Shorafat said he is pursuing a Ph.D. program in Jordan but would like to continue it in the United States. His trip began as a 10-day stay in Washington, D.C., followed by 10 days in Connecticut. He arrived at Northwestern last week and will leave on Sunday for another two-day stay in Washington to meet with the other administrators and compare experiences and exchange ideas.

Intrigued by the idea of a regional school system, Al-Shorafat plans to discuss the benefits he has seen from joining several communities at the school level. Back home, each village has its own school. By pooling the resources of several communities, Al-Shorafat sees a big advantage for children.

Other programs Al-Shorafat would like to see adopted in his school are career counseling, typing classes and an increase in technology. Currently he has 13 computers in his school and would like to see more. Al-Shorafat would also like to see the public schools in Jordan become co-educational. Currently, only private Jordanian schools allow boys and girls to attend school together.

Both Al-Shorafat and his hosts at Northwestern said his visit was beneficial.

"We are trying to have a curriculum that takes a global position on education," said Chichester. "It has been our culture as a school to try to have outreaches. It has raised our cultural competency."

Excited at the opportunity to host a foreign administrator, Clinton Montgomery, superintendent of Northwestern, echoed that sentiment.

"We’re setting a foundation to build on the goal of understanding a broader world culture and expanding our world language," he said.

Northwestern already has a Chinese program at the school and school officials are eager to adopt an Arabic program. Hosting Al-Shorafat has been a step in breaking down cultural barriers and misconceptions.

"We’re not always aware that we’re on friendly terms with Jordan," said Montgomery, who noted that students learned much about Jordan’s relationship with the United States.

"Ziad has been a tremendous ambassador for his country," added Chichester.

Al-Shorafat visited landmarks in Boston and Rhode Island and attended the musical "Chicago" at the Warner Theater in Torrington. He visited the inside of a church, which is not allowed in his country, and enjoyed the cuisine of several local restaurants.

While short on time, Al-Shorafat said he has enjoyed his stay.

"I didn’t feel that I was away from my home," said Al-Shorafat. "It was as if I was a member of the family. I am excited, as if I am in my own home."

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