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It started in 2013 as a small forum on the sidelines of the annual Model United Nations (MUN) conference at King’s Academy, during which 19 students gathered to discuss, in Arabic, hard-hitting topics specific to Jordanian society. It proved so popular that two years later a stand-alone conference was organized, conducted completely in classical Arabic (fus-ha), and with that, the Jordan Model Parliament (JMP) was born.

Over 100 students took part in the inaugural JMP, where for two days student delegates from 15 public and private schools participated in eight simulated forums. In lieu of countries, students represented the 12 governorates in Jordan, and debated selected topics before laboring over solutions to pertinent Jordanian issues. The conference was led and run by students.

King’s second JMP conference took place in 2016, this time with around 300 participants including delegates from 12 public and eight private schools across the kingdom. The number of interactive forums increased to 12, dealing with Human Rights, Environment, Economics, Law, National Security, Foreign Policy and Education. MUN conference staples included Arab League, Security Council, Crisis Committee and the General Assembly while the World Bank and Ministers Cabinet forums were introduced for the first time.

Delegates discussed hard-hitting topics such as tribal conflicts, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, freedom of the press, women’s rights, the Syrian crisis and refugee rights, the Arab Spring, the threat of ISIS, the Tawjihi system and solar energy in Jordan.

With the opening of the Middle School at King’s in 2016, the JMP Secretariat proposed extending the JMP concept to the Middle School. Soon afterward, some 85 students from Jordanian public and private schools joined forces in November at the first Jordan Model Parliament (JMP) Middle School Conference. Designed for a younger audience, the Middle School conference incorporated more interactive activities and fewer debate and writing sessions, instead focusing on teaching skills needed for the conference.

“Seniors are doing a great job preparing the younger students to take the lead next year,” said JMP Secretary-General Amr Almghawish ’17, who also taught the Middle School JMP workshop this year.

What motivated them, he said, was one of the school’s core guiding principles: “Students will learn that they are stewards of what they receive and that it is their responsibility to pass on this stewardship to others, such as younger students and the community as a whole.”

Fast forward to 2017 and JMP continues to go from strength to strength. Upper School students joined the JMP co-curricular activity to prepare for the conference. Over 115 students signed up for JMP — up from just 25 the year before — making it officially the largest co-curricular on campus.

“Students are interested in JMP because it is a way to apply and work towards His Majesty King Abdullah II’s vision,” said Almghawish. “In order to create positive change, we need to start with the youth of our country because they are the ones who will go on to become its future leaders.”

Conducting JMP in Arabic has actually been a draw for many students who see the activity as an opportunity to express themselves in their own language, in an otherwise English-speaking school.

“All other school conferences in Jordan are in English, so having one in Arabic makes the conference unique,” said Almghawish. “It reminds us that we need to solve our problems in our own language and embrace our identity.”

“The fact that it is in Arabic, our mother tongue, helped me connect more with my community and country,” said Dina Dawood ’20, a JMP delegate who represented Irbid Governorate at the conference.

International students too have jumped at the chance to immerse themselves in an activity where they can learn more about Jordan, be part of something that is stimulating change in Jordanian society and pick up some Arabic words and phrases in the process. Although not proficient enough in Arabic to participate as delegates, they can be involved as organizers, photographers and volunteers.

“Speaking strictly in Arabic during JMP helped improve my grammar and vocabulary a lot,” said JMP Head of Staff and Planning Abboud Hassan ’18, who grew up in the United States. “I used to get lost talking to students from all over Jordan who sometimes had different accents. Now that I’ve had more exposure, I find it easier to understand and talk with people.”

Almghawish explained that in order to give all students an equal opportunity to take part in JMP, no matter their level of Arabic, this year an English-language forum was introduced that enabled non-Arabic speakers to get a better understanding of Jordanian society and key local issues.

“When international students come to a new country they want to learn about its culture, and how it works and its politics; they want to meet its people,” said Almghawish. “They get to meet people at the JMP conference they never met before because of the diversity of students taking part from across the country.”

“I joined JMP to learn about this country I’m living in for four years,” said Chinese student Zhiwei Lin ’19. “At school we are in a bubble; JMP is our access to connect with the real Jordan and real Jordanians.”

“It’s interesting to hear people arguing when they get passionate about a topic,” she added. “It gives me a sense of the strong emotions they have on these issues.”

While King’s has always conducted training sessions for students from participating schools ahead of upcoming JMP conferences, this year they kicked it up a notch and held training for teachers too, to enable them to reach and prepare more students. Four sessions for 80 schools took place, helping to spread the JMP message far and wide and educate students around Jordan about the issues their country faces, in addition to ensuring all delegates are on an equal footing when they take part.

Jordan Model Parliament 2017 was the largest conference yet. The Secretariat doubled in number to cope with the work load, and over 500 students representing 80 schools across the country converged on the King’s Academy campus to participate in 19 forums including new ones on Technology and Communications, Arts and Culture and the Court of Justice.

“The nice thing is we get to communicate with people from different places who have different perspectives,” Dawood said. “We see their points of view and share ours, which helps to shape our arguments and create resolutions.”

Over the past four years, the Jordan Model Parliament has evolved from a small workshop to the biggest co-curricular activity on campus and one of the most eagerly anticipated interscholastic events nationwide.

Its success lies in its mission, which mirrors that of His Majesty King Abdullah II: to empower young leaders to drive change within and beyond their communities, to think for themselves, and to discover that the differences between us enrich our experiences and broaden our horizons.