Wednesday 28 April 2010

Schools without manners- Can they teach our kids manners? and more

I dont want to sound so presumptions, I think that some schools in the UAE are very rude. The main thing about the schools is to transfer manners to our children. Of course this will only happen if the school has that culture instilled in it. Also, on another level, schools have the responsibility in informing the students about everything, keeping them abreast on what is available out there. So these two levels were violated today.

We were distributing some information to some schools in Dubai, one of these schools' rep ( and by the way this one considers itself the beacon of education in the world) refused to take the information and shouted at our rep saying that they have their own information to provide to the students and they dont want to take our information. They had forgotten that we make it our responsibility to find the best of breed in overseas knowledge, and tire ourselves in travelling to outer bounds to find the best to bring to our students. We do not want our students to hunt on the internet and then end up in places that are shacks and then have to forfeit the fees that they paid and of course more importantly lose that time that they had spent in learning and find out that the certificate is not acceptable. There are many ways to ensure that overseas institutions are accredited and safe, and this is our responsibility to find this information. Besides, we have built our business to complement the school system and till date the schools reject this, and find us interfering, I need to know why?

This story reminded me of two things. I am sure you will find them Very interesting.

When we first started our work, we sent faxes to all the schools to let them know that we are here and we are ready to help their students, and if possible a meeting can be arranged. Funny that none of the schools have answered us, except one who had actually phoned and started a lecture on why we dare to send a fax to them, and how rude are we in assuming that the school is ready to let us through its gate, and we should have contacted the ministry first to take permission to send a fax to them bla bla bla. I am not going to say what else the principal had said, suffice to end this first story by saying that we would have been in jail now! as we had committed a crime by interfering in the school life.

The second story which is more interesting is that I had gone to a café in a mall, to buy my coffee. I see many students around the cashier buying their frappochino; so as usual, and being friendly, I talked to them and we laughed, and talked more for almost an hour. Guess what they were doing there? it was their student day out, which they do 4 times a year! And every one of those times it will be in a shopping centre. 14-15 year old girls on their own in a shopping mall, doing nothing the whole day! Is this acceptable? And do we think that their trip is going to teach them how to buy stuff or merchandising? Or how to start a business? No, they had no goal, and they are not required to produce a report on their trip either. So rather than take them to a place that will enhance their knowledge and complement the school work, they are left in a mall feeling totally lost that they grab a friendly stranger like me to talk to.

I need your opinion please. if there is someone reading my blogs, I need to know what you think.

Saturday 24 April 2010

Ironic but True

Well I am not sure how to start this, I cannot say that I am upset, and I cannot say that I am indifferent. I have to tell you what exactly went through my mind when I read this little article on gulfnews campus notes yesterday.

I have been working in the field of education since 2003, and before that people would enquire with me since I have been an international student almost all my life about universities and what not; the same comments arise, is this a ranked university? Is it high quality? What’s the employment rate for its graduates? Is the country safe? Are the people nice? etc etc

So I had assumed that the people are so wary about these facts, and built our small business around it. Then the mushrooming of the universities in UAE and the rest of the gulf happened. It was a real phenomena, the various ones that had sprung up in a 4 bedroom apartments, with two shelves of books and teachers that shake their heads when they speak, who have no previous teaching experience, I can go on and on, but I will stop here. However despite all of this the people who had previously questioned me on why I am choosing a particular university for their son or daughter, they themselves placed him/her in these joints. Of course the ultimate happened and some found out that they cannot go to master’s programme, some found out that they cannot practice medicine, some are working as hospitality employees rather than dentists; some were stranded as the university closed down and packed up and gone. There is no ranking system, and to top it all up, find out if any of these local universities are in any international list? I dont think so either. The gulf, and the Middle East do not feature, and if we talk about research, what we have in all of these countries put together may not even represent 1% of one single small university in the world. Also branches of international universities lower their acceptance criteria and their high standards when they open in the Gulf, whether it being in research or in quality of teachers, or in number of books available to the students in the library. I worked in one of these international universities, and the students would fight over a single book per subject that is placed in the library, even us the teachers didn’t have our own set, in one of the subjects I had to ring the main campus to send me a photocopy of what they have, and in turn I photocopied the book to the students. Well don’t ask about the local support services either, for example in the smallest university overseas you will find a book shop, a clinic, gardens, gym, many cafe's and restaurants, over here these are scarce. The university doesn’t want to make it easy on the students, nor it want to encourage local businesses to open on its campuses.

My question here is why didn’t the parents ask the same questions to the local universities? Did they assume that a higher authority is going to look after these facts? I personally will not depend on a higher authority for this, unless of course I witnessed a track record? For example there are conflicting bodies, one that provides the assurance, and one that provides the attestation, so the latter will not attest it, as the assurance did not qualify with its standards. What do we do? I have no idea. But, having said that I think all of us the educators have the responsibility to speak up, and tell everybody to be careful, to evaluate, to compare and to think of 4 years down the lane when their kids graduate.

I am not sure if I will be heard, I dont really care, but my voice will have to be heard one day.