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Archive for October, 2010

This week The National ran yet another story on ADEC’s revamping of the primary/secondary system:

Being taught in English ‘undermines local identity’

Check out these quotes:

Local educators responded that the native English teacher hiring campaign is “an ‘external intervention’ that will erode the cultural and national identity of students” (Ahmed, 6 Oct 2010).  Note the word external.

Dr Maryam Sultan Lootah of the UAE University said that “foreign experts come in and draft these programmes without understanding the cultural sensibilities” (Ahmed, 6 Oct 2010).  Note the operative word experts.

Ms Hessa Ali, a maths supervisor, believes that despite the well-known shortage of qualified UAE national educators “the ministry [of education] does not need to recruit teachers from abroad…We have good teachers here who are qualified and most importantly who speak with the students in their mother tongue” (Ahmed, 6 Oct 2010).  Note the absence of Ms Ali’s grasp of reality.

In my thinking, there are two things wrong with the local reaction to ADEC’s Education Strategy 2010-2020 (which seems to be quite similar to the failed Vision 2020 that was announced over a decade ago and scrapped because of the negative local reaction — one has to wonder how many times this cycle will repeat itself).

The first problem is that Abu Dhabi is already chock full of identity-reducing matter:  western fast-food chains, Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim, skyscrapers (remember, we’re talking about a traditionally Bedouin identity), expat labour (both skilled and unskilled), and more Italian sportscars than I’ve seen on the roads in Italy — ALL HERE because the local population (and this is key) wants them.  As one would expect, the demand has created the market.

The second problem is that old chestnut of whining about external experts. Well, folks, this country is what it is today by and large as a result of those highly-skilled workers who have been hired from afar to build an infrastructure. They are necessary due to the dearth of internal experts.  Once the local skill and knowledge base (not to mention the willingness to work at certain jobs) is built up, we can dispense with the foreign guest workers.  Until then, the external expert will continue to be necessary.

Or we can just continue along the same road, with the infelicitous result that most university freshman will be ill-equipped to succeed in the global economy.

References:

Ahmed, A. (6 October 2010). Being taught in English ‘undermines local identity’. The National. Retrieved (8 October 2010) from http://www.thenational.ae/news/uae-news/education/being-taught-in-english-undermines-local-identity

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Funny the people one meets when walking around the neighbourhood, buying produce at the Lulu’s, or getting a manicure at the nail spa.  They all have a story to tell, and some of those stories go like this:

I’m unemployed now.  After X years of teaching at Y University, I was suddenly informed that my contract would not be renewed.  Never got an explanation.

or maybe like this:

A colleague of mine was fired after refusing to change the grade of an emirati student, even though the grade had been second-marked and externally reviewed.

or this:

I wish I’d kept my job in Canada.  It didn’t pay as well as the offer I got from ABC University, but now all of my colleagues are moving ahead with their research and I don’t even have a lab.

and sometimes like this:

How is it possible that a place like HCT continues to recruit faculty with all that bad press?  Have you SEEN those blogs?

I know two types of people working in academia here:  those who keep their heads down and their mouths shut, and those who tell it like it is.  That second group is hard to find and I expect it’s because there just aren’t many venues for them to share their stories — Dave’s ESL Café is not tertiary-focussed, The Chronicle Middle East Forum is too far under the radar, and the few higher education blogs that have cropped up in the UAE are dedicated to one institution.  Or perhaps those with stories have since moved out of the desert and don’t see the point in relating their experiences to would-be newcomers.  So what to do?

I’m happy to provide the venue, but I can’t do it without your help.  If you’ve got a story to tell (positive or negative), send it on in.  Here are the rules:

  1. Keep it clean.  I don’t mind occasional profanity, but too many verbal nasties will degrade this blog.
  2. Keep it anonymous.  I don’t need to know who you are.
  3. Keep it factual.  No need to exaggerate for effect, and references (where appropriate) will add to your, and my, credibility.

I’ll look forward to hearing from you.

EA

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For a good paper, call this number:

050 787 4207

For those of you ringing outside of the UAE, dial 00 +971 50 787 4207.  But before you do so, read to the end of this post.

Yesterday morning’s cruising of the education news and job posts supplied me with a refreshing break from the usual why-our-branch-university-failed reports.  THIS is what I came up with:


(I’ve learned my lesson about taking screen shots, as you can see.)

Right, so here we have an advertisement for essay-writing services who is enough of a shameless mercenary to supply his/her contact information to the world, as opposed to hiding behind an anonymous essay mill website.  And  I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if Joe Essay Writer is making a bit of jingle here in a land where the money-to-brains ratio can be scarily high.

Although I don’t need a paper written, I have undertaken to respond to Joe’s Dubizzle advert and encourage you to do the same.  Feel free to let me know how it goes.

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Admittedly, this post is feeding off second hand information from the rumour mill — of which I get bits and pieces from individuals who I’m never going to name.  The reason I’m writing it at all is because of three recent bits of information happened to converge:

  1. One of the search strings on today’s blog stats was “XYZ University dishonest.”
  2. A faculty member at XYZ University suddenly departed prior to the start of the Fall 2010 term.
  3. Another blog stated the following with respect to XYZ University (this particular piece of text is no longer to be found on the web, but it was there this morning):

If you were thinking to go there and teach, don’t bother: they treat academics with smirky suspicion, and they do not follow up with promises to pay for courses you teach.

Draw your own conclusions.

One might think that this bad press on XYZ University is without basis. Perhaps.  But in a land where the rules change and contracts are re-interpreted at management’s whim, these three little bits would make me think twice before accepting that job offer at KUSTAR XYZ University.

Note to Suede Oasis:  Yes, I realise this is yet another post on compensation (or perhaps lack thereof!), but when the issue on the table is whether or not faculty are being remunerated for the work that they do, I question the value of reporting on academic substance at all.

References:

Removed by EA

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