Monthly Archives: March 2008

Hariri Foudation – Championing Education in Lebanon

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From educating thousands of Lebanese in the worlds’ best colleges to protecting heritage educational institutions and building new ones, Hariri Foundation has metamorphosed with the changing times.

“My incentive for having started the Hariri Foundation was grounded in the belief that universities and institutions of higher learning in Lebanon admit students with hidden talents and skills. And since human talent is the wealth of the country, I feel that the best way to build Lebanon is through man’s educational and cultural development and the realization of his hidden talents”

– The late Lebanese Premier Rafic Hariri.

World War II was still raging in 1944 when the son of a low-income farmer was born in Sidon, Lebanon. In his teenage years, he roamed Sidon’s streets and famous fishing and trading port determined to rid himself of economic deprivation. The lapping shores of the Mediterranean immersed him in dreams of social mobility. Unable to afford tuition and complete his studies at the Beirut Arab University, he borrowed money from a friend and moved to Saudi Arabia in 1965 in search of a better life. Unbeknownst to Rafic Hariri at the time, his own struggles to get educated would later turn him into a world-renowned education philanthropist. “Hariri Foundation was an idea Hariri had, one of many that resulted out of his suffering to get an education. His family’s name is known and respected but it came from a poor background with limited means,” said Mustapha Zaatari, the foundation’s Director General and personal friend of the late Hariri.

What is a man’s true wealth if it isn’t measured by the good that he does? Heading five governments and presiding over the physical and economic reconstruction of a war-torn Lebanon did not prevent Hariri from overseeing an even greater endeavor, at least in the eyes of thousands who benefited from his patronage. “The Hariri Foundation loan facilitation program allowed more than 32,000 students to study in the best universities in Lebanon and abroad. Perhaps in every Lebanese family there is one individual who has been taught at Hariri’s expense,” said Fatima Rashidi, head of pedagogy and teaching at the Hariri Foundation. The program has raised more than 4000 engineers and 1500 doctors, people who would otherwise have likely remained without a proper education. In 1979 it was called ‘The Islamic Institute for Culture and Higher Education’ and run by Hariri’s sister, current Member of Parliament Bahiya Hariri, but the Hariri Foundation has carried its present name since 1984 when it moved to its central offices in Beirut. At its peak loan-granting activity, the foundation opened offices indifferent parts of the country to facilitate the transactions.

Zaatari who had a long history with UNESCO joined the foundation in February 1986. The foundation had a large number of students and it needed organization, so Zaatari, an educator and administrator, had to institute new laws, rules and regulations. “Our acceptance criterion for the students was based on their school performance and we gave those who needed help in the French or English language a preparatory year before going to college,” Zaatari said. Students secured loans that covered all or most of their tuition fees, housing accommodation, transportation, meals and books. When the situation in Lebanon stabilized in1992 and the economy improved, the foundation slowed down its sponsorship programs until it stopped it completely in 1995. “The fact that we had a functioning Lebanese University helped us make that decision but we kept supporting those who were studying abroad through our offices in Washington, Paris and London which we still maintain to keep in close contact with our student protégés who had joined around a hundred universities in Western Europe, North Africa, Canada and the US,” Zaatari said. Rashidi added another factor: “The Foundation tried to bring back some of the students that studied abroad and some did, but because of the socio-economic situation in Lebanon, many stayed abroad. This is partly why the program stopped,” Rashidi said. It is believed that a large number (if any) of the beneficiaries did not pay back their loans to the foundation and neither did the foundation make a concerted effort to recoup its investment. Although it abandoned its national program, the foundation still sponsors a select few high achievers from its school network to study abroad.

Rashidi said there were two parts to the philosophy of the Hariri Foundation with the first being to rescue the Lebanese youth from bearing arms and joining a bloody civil war which in 1979 was recruiting disillusioned youth. “Many young people didn’t have cash flow and thought at the time they could make money carrying weapons but the foundation gave them an opportunity to study in their country or abroad,” Rashidi said. Hariri’s idea, Rashidi added, was to create a snowball effect where a person learns and supports his family and then his/her own kids would in turn do the supporting.

The second part was to preserve heritage schools and establish educational institutions. Lycee Abdul Kadir was founded at the heart of the capital by the Mission Laïque Francaise at the turn of the 20th century and today accommodates 1200students in a K-12 program. The National Evangelical School for Boys and Girls just across the street had an equally culturally rich background and could take 1,300 students through all grades. They were both on the selling blocks in 1984 to make room for a large retail development. “When Hariri caught wind of this, he put out the highest bid for both schools and began by asking the foundation to agree with the French mission to share in the management of the Lycee,” Rashidi said. Today, Hariri Foundation has eight board members sharing the decision-making with four from the French mission. As for the Evangelical School, it was turned over to the foundation and was renamed Hariri II. Whereas at one point in 1989 both schools were 100% subsidized by the foundation, Rashidi said that she fought with the administration to involve the parents and make them participate in their kids’ education. “They agreed and the tuition fees that parents now pay cover only the school operating costs. The foundation backs the construction, renovation and every investment that needs financing, and the foundation has invested a lot in renovating and modernizing the once-aging facilities,” Rashidi said.

Rashidi is responsible for both those schools and another in the Chatila slums in Tareek Al Jadidah called Hariri III, which the late premier established in 1997 (see The Middle East Educator, issue 2). “At Hariri III, the Prime Minister said he wanted a school with the best education in the poorest area. This was his goal. He was even thinking of having it tuition-free,” Rashidi said. Here again, Rashidi and Zaatari were adamant that parents’ participation was necessary, because once they partner in their kids’ education parents will participate in it and so the foundation now subsidizes about 2/3 of the tuition fees with low-income families paying the remaining balance. Hariri also built Rafic Hariri High School in Sidon in 1985 and equipped it with elaborate laboratories, athletic facilities, playgrounds, courts and classrooms and today hosts 2000 students. In 1996, the foundation built Hajj Baha’ Eddin Hariri elementary School in Sidon offering free tuition to the poor and presented it to the Makassed Islamic charity organization.

In 1986, when the budget for the foundation was running at $95 million yearly, Hariri still made a pledge to the Lebanese university to supply it with buildings to create the University Institute of Technology, which opened its doors to students in October 1997. “He had dreamed of creating his own university and stayed on the subject until he fulfilled the dream in 1999 with the Hariri Canadian Academy of Sciences and Technology which he opened in Mechref,” Zaatari said. The idea of creating a university was, according to Zaatari, really about creating vocational institutes to secure a middle class. Japan, Germany and Canada were the top three countries in vocational training at the time. “The foundation members were not encouraged by Germany because that country’s delegation was not excited about the project. I saw the Canadian ambassador and he was excited. There was logistical collaboration from the Canadians, in terms of curriculum support and sending experts for a year to back the teachers,” Zaatari said. Extensions to the university are now planned in areas of the Bekaa and the North with specializations according to these areas’ needs.

The foundation champions education in all its learning institutions, not only through varied forms of tuition subsidies, but also through offering quality education and hope of a better future. “Hariri was resolute in furnishing all the foundation’s schools with the best there is in terms of classroom environments, extra-curricular activities, arts facilities, computer labs, libraries and educational space to maximize the learning process. This is very evident,” Rashidi said. Every school also has a team of psychologists and counselors to deal with special needs children and those troubled by events on and off campus, especially those dealing with domestic issues involving divorce, violence or otherwise.

But perhaps even more exciting is the directorate for professional guidance. The Hariri Foundation originally established the ‘Career Guidance Center’ in 1985 in collaboration with AUB to offer career counseling services to Hariri students enrolled in the English Program at AUB. “Currently from the 10th grade on, any student from a private or public school can come for free orientation or career guidance session with our counselors,” Rashidi said. These students will receive help discovering the different aspects of their personalities and channeling their interests, skills, work values and abilities into an appropriate selection process of what to major in at the university level or what vocational institutes to join as well as what potential careers to choose. One of the important activities prepared by the Career Guidance Department is the Career Fair, an annual activity in participation with universities licensed by the Lebanese Government as well as some higher technical vocational institutions at the TS (Technician Superior) level and a number of hiring institutions.

The foundation’s mission has transformed in form but not in principle. Hariri’s assassination on February 14th 2005 did not lessen the foundation’s drive to support the working class and educate their children. Funding has continued to subsidize tuition and send overachievers abroad as well as to maintain the high standards of education at all levels. “We are in constant negotiations to acquire real estate and build more schools in other deprived areas of Lebanon such as in Akkar. Hariri’s son Saad is taking over his father’s legacy especially when it comes to education. The foundation is here to stay,” Zaatari said.

Early Educational Charity Work for the Late Premier

While the Hariri Foundation is what people remember most of the late Prime Minister Rafic Hariri’s educational interests, little is known about his early involvement in the field. Mustapha Zaatari, the foundation’s Director General experienced first hand the man’s altruism when Hariri was still a relative unknown on Lebanon’s political scene. “The first time I heard of Rafic Hariri was in 1977 while attending a graduating ceremony in Al Makassed School in Sidon, when an organizer announced that one of Sidon’s own was pledging 300,000 Lebanese Pounds (about $150,000 at the time) to start rebuilding his own school which was destroyed by an earthquake,” Zaatari said. The two later met at Beirut’s International airport and engaged in a casual conversation which set the course of their future association. In 1979, Hariri’s sister Bahiya Hariri called Zaatari and asked him to become part of the Kfar Falous center project which the former Premier founded and called the ‘Sidon Institute for University Studies’. The institute is run by the administration of Saint Joseph University and consists of a college of food technology and nutrition engineering in addition to other higher technical specializations. The center was to contain a high school, a school for training nurses and a big hospital, but the 1982 Israeli invasion disrupted all activities and destroyed all furniture and equipment. As a member of that team, Zaatari met Hariri on a related work detail in 1981. “Hariri came to Sidon and I asked to see him (he gave me an appointment at 10:30 pm!). He asked for my opinion on the Saint Joseph project and I was candid and critical about it. He replied that no one had ever been that honest with him before,” Zaatari said.

On the next occasion the two met, the relationship developed further. “He was behind the wheel driving us from Sidon to Beirut. I said I needed his help raising LP10 million for a project for the Islamic charity organization Maqassed to show people that there is renewal in the south and the project was to buy a land in Majdelioun and build a school there,” Zaatari said. In fact, LP5 million were needed to cover debt and the other five were for the project’s cost. “You cannot talk about the foundation without knowing the kind of man Hariri was and his attention for educational matters,” Zaatari said. Hariri promised he would take care of the debt and that he would buy a piece of land but only in the Kfar Falous area where he was building the center. After Zaatari refused Hariri said “Look, think about it, I will build you a compound for Maqassed and I will cover the organization’s entire debt”. One month later, Hariri called Zaatari and the two met with Bahaa’ Bsat, then president of the Maqassed association to further negotiate building a school in Kfar Falous in return for another in Majdelioun. “However by August 1982, I went to Paris and joined Hariri at his house. He had abandoned the idea of Kfar Falous. Then he purchased a 65,000 m2 piece a land, built a center which housed Husam Eddin Hariri High School and donated it to the charity organization,” Zaatari said. Hariri later exempted the association from paying its collective debt of $35 million which it owed to his financial institution Banque de la Mediterrannee. Mustapha Zaatari, Hariri Foundation’s General Director.

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Microsoft – A Software Company With A Heart Drive

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There is nothing “micro” about Microsoft. As of July 2006, The Microsoft Corporation, a multinational computer technology corporation which develops manufactures, licenses, and supports a wide range of software products for computing devices, had global annual revenue of $44.28 billion and employed more than 71,000. Owing its success to the community it serves, Microsoft went “macro” with an educational concept aimed at establishing a connected learning community with IT knowledge at its core.

We’re intimately attached to our personal computer whether it being a desktop, laptop, palmtop (or PDA) or wearable computers – the latest trend in computing where common computer applications (e-mail, database, multimedia, calendar/scheduler) are integrated into watches, cell phones, visors and even clothing! e challenge lies in giving everyone of us the opportunity to tap into this technology and this is where Microsoft comes in. “We don’t look at education as a profit driver, but rather as a vehicle to deliver on our corporate citizenship mission as a way of paying back to the societies the company is working with, and we think the best way is through education,” Microsoft Education Sector Manager Ahmad Al Komi said. Microsoft’s website says the company enables people and businesses to realize their full potential. “Our mission for education is to enable students, educators and educational institutions to realize their full potential, as these are the main pillars supporting the education process,” Al Komi said. He added that the company’s goal is to have a connected learning community that includes students in K-12 schools and higher education institutions, educators, government employees, business leaders and companies.

NGO-based initiative

One important segment of the society Microsoft is targeting are those underserved by technology, like women, the elderly, and the handicapped. Extensive work with NGOs, governments and concerned ministries enabled Microsoft to meet a number of candidates in this target group, which the company empowers by starting technology learning centers. “We have lots of activities in many parts of the world and we donate the software and find partners to donate the hardware,” Al Komi said. After the ICT components are provided and installed, Microsoft covers the cost of training master trainers with the idea of having a sustainable model. “We don’t want them to come to us every time they need to train a portion of their community; we need to empower them to do things on their own,” Al Komi explained. Under the training master trainers program, Microsoft is ambitiously looking to directly or indirectly train 250 million people worldwide within five years, an endeavor covering all its activities including K-12 and higher education. Regionally, and working with ministries of education, the company has trained around 1600 master trainers, which benefited a combination of 100,000 students and teachers. Microsoft has very strict guidelines not to link business with philanthropic community services. In many parts of Africa where Microsoft doesn’t have licensing agreements, Microsoft still engages in several community affairs and this is partly due to a company culture that measures employees by how many community services activities they had participated in.

Partners in Learning

Partners in Learning is Microsoft’s global K-12 initiative that the company believes will enable students, educators and the institutions rise to their full potential and has so far spent $253 million towards that goal. Regionally, the company goes to ministries of education and asks them what they required to empower the educational process in those countries. This could be in areas pertaining to teacher development, teacher training, help in curriculum, curriculum development, help in integrating ICT into teaching and learning, or help on starting an e-learning system. Microsoft covers the whole spectrum of education talking with policy and decision makers at seminars and forums, where the company gets them communicating with each other to collaborate and exchange experiences on educational initiatives. “Some people believe that we pitch our software but we don’t! We talk about the importance of ICT in education and learning and the role of ICT in educational reform,” Al Komi said. Under Partners in Learning, Microsoft has created ‘the innovative teacher’ network. When teachers acquire some IT skills, not more than 10-15% will use those IT skills in teaching and learning. If they are then trained to integrate ICT in teaching and learning, that percentage will perhaps increase to 30 or 40%. “What about the rest? We believe we need to integrate some system of motivation by creating communities where teachers communicate, collaborate, compete and recognize the innovative teacher,” Al Komi said. In addition to having trained master trainers and teachers from different ministries of education in the region on Integrating ICT into teaching & learning, Microsoft also organized the “Arab Innovative Teachers Forum” twice (Sharjah 2005, & Cairo 2006), where teachers and curriculum developers from the entire Arab world came to exchange ideas, discuss integration of ICT into education and compete on the forum awards. In 2007, Microsoft will create the innovative teacher’s portal as a way for continuous collaboration for the teachers.

Peer Coaching Program

Microsoft’s peer coaching program is aimed at having the senior staff help their colleagues integrate ICT in learning, and to create a peer coaching champion in every school. “If you have a teacher who has basic IT skills but cannot implement these skills into teaching or learning, a trained senior staff will supply this missing link in tandem with another program called integrating ICT in teaching and learning.

School Leadership Program

Microsoft has on its staff a number of university educators from the University of Washington’s college of education in addition to specialized education consultancy groups. “Under this program, we train school principals and their assistants about new management techniques such as the new directions for leading and management while preaching the importance of ICT in education,” Al Komi said.

Future programmer program

Starting in the UAE and soon in the rest of the GCC and the Arab world, the Future Programmer Program is targeted for students, but Microsoft trains trainers who are teachers to roll out the program to students who could become programmers. It takes 160 hours of training for students to become programmers. A related initiative is called the “IT Academy” which helps university students during their early information technology (IT) experience and offers a life-long learning model of continuous improvement and career development. Microsoft gives a university a set of curriculum and training guides which will help them deliver a market-related training program where students can earn a certificate, not only an academic degree. “If you graduate with a Computer Science degree, you may or may not get a job but if you have something that says you are a certified network administrator, or a certified software solution developer, which is something you really need in real life, then your chances are much better,” Al Komi said.

The PC Initiative

With governments thinking about the digital inclusion problem and how to bridge the digital divide, providing a world class education also means providing the means and tools like software and hardware to each and every citizen. “We should help and think of programs which will help governments reach their goals,” Al Komi said. With The PC initiative, Microsoft talks to multinational companies, computer manufacturers and the system builder channels to provide the hardware. Local manufactured brands by computer assembly shops are cheaper than global brands and they benefit the country more. “As part of the company’s citizenship goals, bridging the digital divide has to benefit the local economy; while working with multinationals is fantastic, working with local providers not only helps them get introduced to governments but also do better business and it creates more local PC manufacturers,” Al Komi said . In Egypt, Microsoft’s PC initiative helped create local PC brands through three factories who are now exporting PCs to the entire Arabic region. “Centra, now a famous brand, is a child of this initiative.”

Knowing that we cannot escape technology’s growth or impact on our standards of living, it’s better to be prepared for this eventuality. And while some believe that technology has advanced to such an extent that it has exceeded our humanity, philanthropy has thankfully not escaped the minds of Microsoft founders.


E-learning means a lot of things but basically it is getting your education and learning through an automated computerized system. “E-learning has now become the foundation of any educational reform; it is an integral part to enhance the learning experience of the student and is also the only way to transform the students into autonomous learners,” Microsoft Education Sector Manager Ahmad Al Komi said. In the traditional method of teaching, the teacher is the focus of the educational process. Now the world is changing and the teacher is becoming more of a facilitator. In order to have the students learn by themselves, companies like Microsoft created a system where the students can go, log in and get their knowledge; the teacher can help them use this knowledge. “E-learning is the main driver to have autonomous learners, and if we can create those autonomous learners, then we would have extended the educational process outside the boundaries of the school or university so that once they leave the school or university, they could still learn,” Al Komi explained. The same concept applies to employees who could log into their company’s e-learning system. One of Microsoft’s initiatives is ‘The School of the Future’ concept. This can be achieved when the school has a ratio of one student to one PC and has implemented an E-Learning system. “At that point, we would have empowered teachers, students and administrators with state of the art infrastructure and a collaboration system enabled through our software. The role-based portal like “The Learning Gateway” from Microsoft is an e-learning possibility that allows students, teachers, parents and administrators to log onto the portal- each with different credentials – and access a set of services related to the user. “These services are colorful and interactive and give teachers for example the chance to upload homework and group related activities, which could be done by students from home or during class sessions using a communication software in place like instant messaging,” Al Komi said. During communication with governments, Komi advises that when they create e-learning portals, officials need to take into consideration the lifestyle of students who nowadays like to chat and have blogs, instant message, or play. With a subscription service software that enables the user to manage personal information, create project files, and invite multiple players- and the tablet PC replacing interactive whiteboards, the school of the future is looking more like a reality, at least in the US, Europe and parts of the region.

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Modern Motessori School – Amman

The students call it “home”. The teachers are extremely loyal to it. Modern Montessori School caters to the individual educational needs of kids from the KG levels. It created a model of learning that fosters a freedom in teaching based on the Montessori and IB systems. That school model is now beginning to spread regionally.

My best memories of school, outside sports and falling instantly in love with attractive members of the opposite sex, were of the times I concocted a successful plan to escape the school grounds. The stiff regulations and traditional chalk and talk ways of learning never suited me and many of my co-conspirators felt the same. While many educational institutions are still embracing traditional methods, some are seeking to change students’ attitudes towards their establishment. One in particular has made a complete crossover into uncharted territory. “We are a family,” said Amr Hasri, a student in an Arabic Literature class at Modern Montessori School (MMS) in Amman, Jordan. Hasri was merely echoing feelings he shared with many of his peers like Ali Sharaf who is graduating in 2007 after having been at MMS since Kindergarten. “This is my home,” Sharaf said, “but when I leave I’m going to major in Business Information Systems.” Similarly, Sandy Deen said school “feels like home” explaining that teachers are warm, friendly and informed.

In fact, teachers had a lot to do with the way these kids felt. Omar Kurdi said teachers at MMS are emphasizing concepts like teamwork and sowing in them an interest in learning and discovery, preparing them for the future, every step of the way. Shafik Nassar said teachers are preparing them for “the new world” and Nassouf Kayali said teachers are involved and share in the students’ successes in and out of the classroom, “which is great”.

Of course there are still borders between students and teachers, but this doesn’t necessitate a lack of friendship between the two camps. Educators at MMS are themselves authorized to adopt modern teaching methods that generate interest through camaraderie and learning through acquired expertise and genuine fascination in the students’ lives. “We have a very nice atmosphere in school, making it a second home for students and teachers. We empower our instructors by investing in them, trusting them, and giving them a lot of freedom, and as a result they’re satisfied, relaxed and highly efficient,” said Randa Hasan, Principal and owner of MMS.

I caught up with a few teachers later during my visit and took the opportunity to validate the owner’s claims. Jihan Abu Awad has been teaching English to Grades 11 and 12 since joining MMS three years ago. “The school offers teaching flexibility and many opportunities for widening one’s horizons through professional development (PD) which serve to benefit students at different stages of learning,” Awad said. Integrating e-learning with mixed recipes of teaching, Awad said students are better able to communicate with their peers and the teachers, electronically or otherwise, directly or through forums and debates. “I taught for 8 years before coming here. There was a period of adjustment to the new methods we learned through PD, but it’s been the most rewarding experience I’ve ever had,” Awad said.

Dr. Maria Montessori was born in Italy in 1870. She developed over the years an interest in the treatment of children. At age twenty-eight, she became the director of a school for mentally disabled children. After two years under her guidance, these children, who had been considered “un-educable”, took a school examination along with normal children and passed successfully. Educators called Dr. Montessori a miracle worker. She was twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. The name Montessori is not legally protected. Montessori is not a system for training children in academic studies. It is a revolutionary method of observing and supporting the natural development of children.

Multi-aged Grouping, based on Periods of Development: Children are grouped in three or six-year spans and have the same teacher.

The 3-Hour Work Period: A minimum of one uninterrupted 3-hour work period per day.

The Human Tendencies: The Montessori method is based on human tendencies— to explore, move, share with a group, be independent, develop self-control, abstract ideas from experience, use the creative imagination, work hard, repeat, and perfect.

The Process of Learning:

Stage 1- introduction to a concept by means of a lecture, lesson, etc. Stage 2- developing an understanding of the concept through work, experimentation, and creation. Stage 3- “knowing”, demonstrated by the ability to confidently pass a test, or to express with ease.

Indirect Preparation: The steps of learning any concept are analyzed by the adult and are systematically offered to the child.

The Prepared Environment: Since the child learns to glean information from many sources, it is the role of the teacher to prepare and continue to adapt the kid’s environment.

Observation: Scientific observations of the child’s development are constantly carried out and recorded by the teacher. These observations are made on the level of concentration of each child, the introduction to and mastery of each piece of material, social development, physical health, etc.

Work Centers: The environment is arranged according to subject area, and children are always free to move around the room, and work on a piece of material with no time limit.

Teaching Method: There are no textbooks, and seldom will two or more children be studying the same thing at the same time. Children learn directly from the environment, and from other children—rather than from the teacher. Large groups are phased out as the children gain independence.

Class Size: The most successful 3-6 or 6-12 classes are of 30-35 children to one teacher, with one non-teaching assistant, this number reached gradually over 1-3 years.

Basic Lessons: A well-trained Montessori teacher spends a lot of time during training practicing the many basic lessons with materials in all areas. She/he must pass difficult written and oral exams in order to be certified. Trained to recognize a child’s readiness, the teacher plans lessons for each child, each day, but will bow to the interests and passions of a child.

Areas of Study Linked: All subjects are interwoven; history, art, music, math, astronomy, biology, geology, physics, and chemistry. A child studies them in any order he chooses.

Assessment: There are no grades, or other forms of reward or punishment, subtle or overt. Assessment is by portfolio and the teacher’s observation and record keeping of the children, their happiness, maturity, kindness, and love of learning.

Learning Styles: Musical, bodily kinesthetic, spatial, interpersonal, intrapersonal, intuitive, natural, and the traditional linguistic and logical-mathematical— are nurtured.

Character Education: Children are given the opportunity to take care of themselves, each other, and the environment through activities such as gardening, cooking, building, moving gracefully, speaking politely and doing social work in the community.

After heading the math department for the International School of the Hague in the Netherlands and the Kingdom School in Saudi Arabia, Mohamed Youssef headed the math department at the MMS. “I have proven myself over the past five years here. This school will trust you, but in other establishments, a teacher is questioned over and over again and has to follow procedures and policies and face restrictions and interferences in the syllabus,” Youssef said.

The Montessori system (See box A) has a lot to do with the way things are run here, but it’s a mixture of pioneering, leadership and drive that helped build a school with this culture. e MMS was only the second school to introduce the IB system after the prestigious Amman Baccalaureate School and the first, according to Hasan, to adopt the Montessori philosophy of education in Jordan and essentially in the region. “When I established a Kindergarten in 1985 in the Shmaysani area, every time people heard of the name Montessori, they thought I was part of a religious sect. That was my first real struggle,” Hasan said.

The second obstacle that faced Hasan was the perception her friends and acquaintances had of her as a shipping expert and a leather shop owner, prior to deciding to become an educator. “My father, who later financed my endeavor, initially almost had a heart attack, but I was determined to make a difference in education especially when my kids were of school age,” Hasan said.

Next came the challenge of finding trained teachers in the Montessori method, so Hasan found a reputable Montessori center and established a teacher training college in Jordan in 1988, which she bought in 2000. “We have now Arabized the Montessori method in terms of training procedure, material, and curriculum; something no one else has done even as far as the US,” Hasan said. Using workbooks to apply knowledge and translate thoughts on paper is an innovation to the Montessori system. Kids go through 25 books during the three years that they are in KG, tackling subjects that include math, culture and language, with each student receiving his own level of work depending on his ability. “We found a way to enrich the kids’ learning experience and the Montessori system that we have designed can be franchised,” Hasan added.

MMS uses a mutated version of the Montessori system to adapt to the grade system applied in Jordan. Unable to use vertical grouping all the way up to high school level – students aged 2 1/2 to 6, 6 to 9, 9 to 12 and 12 to 18 are grouped together – MMS applies the same philosophy into the grade level where each student can work at their own pace. “The nice thing about using your own abilities and not rote learning is that students apply logic and deduction in line with the International Baccalaureate (IB) philosophy, where you do your work, structure, analyze and get results,” Hasan said. The similarity of the system with the IB enables MMS to use a unique philosophy, which allows the students to meet the IB program all the way to the Diploma level.

In 1993, MMS bought the land and moved into its current location and began building up its K-12 program according to the IB requirements with a focus on having a pure bilingual program. Every subject was taught in both English and Arabic using a teacher/student ratio of 10 to 1, thus catering to the individual abilities of the students.

The teachers at MMS are mostly Jordanian who have either studied abroad, are experienced educators or new local graduates who were trained at the school’s center. “Losing teachers is a major concern, especially after you make such an investment in them in terms of them attending conferences, workshops and training. But we manage to keep them because they feel it is their school, where they are the decision makers and we give them an incentive to move forward and grow to their full potential,” Hasan said. Dina Lahlou is a theory of Knowledge teacher, a branch of learning that cuts across all subjects like science, history, and math and which turns out versatile students able to manipulate perception, emotion and language using logic and reasoning. e Boston University graduate with a master’s degree in International Relations has been teaching at MMS since 2001. “This school has a very unique and interesting culture. It encourages creativity a lot. We have the freedom to bring our own personal touch and that’s what makes a difference for a teacher. I am always encouraged to experiment with new things,” Lahlou said. She said the school’s extracurricular activities are feeding the students’ creative processes “while other institutions are more rigid, restricting students in time and space, not allowing them to either make mistakes or tap into their full potential. Somehow this school’s culture has contributed to the amazing loyalty the staff has for it.”

MMS is constructing a 24,000m2 senior school area complete with theatres, auditorium, gym, art galleries and laboratories, which in size are even bigger than the existing 17,000m2 built-up area. “The new facility will give students creative space and is not intended to attract more students, since I am working at capacity with 1,400 kids who hop on the schools’ 30-plus buses from all over Amman,” Hasan said. MMS already has a strong sports program that includes soccer, basketball, swimming, gymnastics, and dancing, in addition to performing arts, graphic design and technology. This year, MMS introduced the Amin Hasan Award, in the name of the owner’s late father, for children aged 7-12, where students compete for Bronze, Silver and Gold based on creativity, action and community service. “The technology and science labs have opened the door for student inventions. Last year, one of my students came in 3rd in the world through a competition organized by Intel, becoming the only Arab to do so,” Hasan prided. The student had invented a device that can be installed on buses to absorb pollutants in the air. This year, three MMS students won local competitions for devising a method to extract petroleum from rocks using sunlight and qualified for the international award. “We entered a competition and together with my colleagues Luna and Layal, we qualified to go to the US competition with Intel,” student inventor Nader Hamas told me.

Most schools try to limit the number of special needs students they would accept because of the taxing effort it takes in terms of time, cost and required expertise in the field. Not MMS. A philanthropist by nature, Hasan began testing students with learning disorders and recruited teachers who have a master’s degree in those fields. “We started small and now we have 42 teachers just for the learning support. We do our own assessment and that of other schools when asked and now we are focusing on designing programs for gifted students also,” Hasan said. Interestingly, all types of students remain in class, with support teachers working on their individualized programs, assessments and follow up. Abu Awad, for example, has mixed ability classes and is assisted by a teacher who works with seven special needs students with varying levels of disability as well as elite students. “I have many special needs students who passed the IB program and joined other universities,” Hasan said. MMS employs a number of university advisors, psychological counselors and pastoral observers who follow the students’ personal and academic careers. “Starting at fees of 10,400 JDs, tuition is competitive but not cheap, however we rear well-rounded kids who are sure of themselves and trained to live up to their responsibilities as well as balance their independence,” Hasan said.

Building on the success MMS has in Jordan, Hasan is aiming to spread her own network of Montessori schools in the region. “I feel I have the time to start something new. So I visited Qatar, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Bahrain. There is a tremendous need for culturally-oriented bilingual education in an international format,” Hasan said. Having found a location in Dubai’s Green Community, Hasan began building a 7500 m2 Kindergarten there. “My plan is to find locations for different KGs in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, then Cairo, Qatar, and Bahrain and later develop them into full-fledged K-12 schools.” To finance the projects, Hasan is working on establishing a holding company and formulating an education fund to invest in the Montessori growth in the region. “I don’t see others in the field as competitors. This could be dangerous, but if I had thought that way, I wouldn’t have dared open this school to begin with,” Hasan offered.

MMS has another yearly tradition, a sort of graduating farewell to students leaving their second home. The administration braces itself for a stunt that graduating students do before they move to college. One time, the students jumped in the pool with their clothes on. Cute! “Yesterday, they brought an ugly bunch of chickens and let them loose on campus. It wasn’t funny when they did it, but today I laugh about it.”


Modern Montessori’s School (MMS) principal and owner Randa Hasan believes it is important to link students to their homes and parents to their kids’ school. MMS’s portal allows parents and students to remain in touch with the school and teachers, through e-mail and chat rooms. “The e-learning system is in the trial phase, but the curriculum is supposed to be carried online too,” Hasan said. Although not using interactive whiteboards, MMS is studying that option and planning to introduce the technology in the new 24,000m2 facilities they’re currently building. “The teachers want to explore how more interactive the students can be with that technology. My vice principal, also the head of senior school, was telling me that even lab work and experiments can be done on the computer. This type of technology I will definitely go for,” Hasan said. Students that I’ve spoken to at MMS believe having PCs in the classroom is in order. “With the lesson displayed at each desk, it makes it easier to see and interact with the teacher,” they said. Others had their own ideas about what they would like to implement. “Perhaps we should have programs to learn through songs, since rhythmically we learn much quicker. Isn’t that how kids in KGs learn?”

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Filed under Issue 4, Jordan, Montessori, School Profile

School Reform – In What Form ?

School reform in the Arab region is multi-faceted. In this conference, foreign experts shed light on their countries’ experience with public school reform. UAE nationals showed indi erence then apprehension towards western ideas of school reform, of fear that these might rob locals of their cultural identity. Look for The Middle East Educator to cover major school reform projects regionally.

He had a lot to say and he tried to speak slowly and deliberately. Amid the disharmony of sounds, he cracked a joke and nobody laughed. In fact, throughout the keynote speaker’s monologue, the conference room sounded like a cocktail party, except no alcohol was being served.  The expert was Peter McWalters, Rhode Island Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education.

McWalters was speaking at a conference organized last April 17th by The College of Education at the UAE University.  The three-day symposium in Dubai entitled ‘School Reform: Challenges and Aspirations’ hosted workshops and discussions featuring a number of case studies of international scholars and researchers in the field of school reform.

What happened to McWalters came in great contrast to the inaugurating speech made by Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research and Chancellor of UAEU Sheikh Nahayan Mubarak Al Nahayan. His presence so commanded the attention of everyone that you could hear a pin drop. “We have to address this era’s challenges and proceed with important national objectives to elevate the standards of learning from KG to grade 12 levels,” Al Nahayan said.  The minister said the education ministry is working closely with universities on book and curriculum reform, teacher rehabilitation and the implementation of national studies and best practices. “We need to close the big gap between high school and higher education and reduce the exorbitant cost of having college freshmen take remedial courses,” Al Nahayan stressed. He then urged the audience to listen and learn from the experiences of the panel of experts at the conference. Indeed McWalters had some insightful information. He said that in the US, reform was something that was revisited every couple of generations. “We did not serve our children. Only 30% graduated from college with 40-50 percent of high school students not being prepared for it,” McWalters said. In 1983, a federal program entitled ‘A nation at risk’ sent the message that to support one’s family, people needed an education beyond high school with either a two-year technical diploma or a four-year university degree. “The alternative was to become a second class economy with many dropouts being prison inmates and the rest unemployed and either way it’s financially taxing,” McWalters explained. Between 1983 and 2000, all the work was done at state level but in 2000-2001, the federal government revisited with the aim of having all kids graduate. “There was no connetion between high school completion and university placement with teachers on either side not speaking the same language,” McWalters said. He said that children were not encouraged to think critically and debate knowledgably since teaching methods were based on facts with tests based on recall. “They covered who, when and where but not why,” McWalters opined adding “Change has to start at the KG level.”

The commissioner then explained that reform could not happen if the teacher, principal, commissioner and ministry each has a different understanding of leading and supporting. He asked whether UAE schools had teams of teachers who took time or were allowed to share knowledge and practices, or if they made assessment and testing decisions based on state standards. “ e answer in the UAE is here with you. It has to be wrestled with and debated. No one will do it for you,” McWalters advised.

But once McWalters was done, the audience, realizing there wasn’t any auditory input, politely applauded.  The language barrier was something that even simultaneous translation couldn’t overcome. Next up was Kati Haycock. Perhaps thinking of a new communication stratagem to break through the audience, she gingerly took her place at the podium with an uneasy smile on her face.

Being one of the leading child advocates in the field of education, Haycock speaks out for what’s right for young people, especially those who are poor or members of minority groups. She offered a number of suggestions needed to create world-class education. She said that leaving curriculum matters in the hands of teachers will give uneven and repetitive results. “Teachers need clear support as to what to teach and consistency in what teachers ask their students from school to school,” Haycock said. She said that succumbing to a salary based purely on experience means sacrificing teaching quality. “Administrators need to let bad teachers go, no matter what their experience is, and also recognize that effective teachers are not interchangeable,” Haycock pointed out. She said that teachers who get the biggest learning gains need to be studied in terms of their knowledge, practice and attitude “and this is how we prepare future teachers and drive the recruitment process.”

You could almost hear the room full of UAE public school teachers mumble their disapproval of what was being presented to them- reform of their Arab schools based on western ideas. During one of the Q&A sessions, one UAE gentleman commented: “I am not against reform per se, but rather against reform that takes away my garb, my culture, my religion and my children.” He was speaking as a teacher, parent and citizen, and echoing the words of UAEU’s vice-chancellor at the conference. “School reform cannot rely solely on the efforts of those in charge of schools, but also on the effective partnership forged by all stakeholders including educational leaders, teachers, administrators, parents, students and the community at large, said Dr Hadef bin Jouan Al-Dhahiri.


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Filed under Conferences, Dubai, Issue 4, School Reform

The Future Of Reading

Today’s children aren’t motivated to read. However, the same kid who seems distracted and bored and fairs poorly at reading in the classroom might very well concentrate and read a game instruction manual cover to cover with ease and energy. The solution might be to reconsider the role of traditional books and introduce alternative texts.

In the past when novelists created worlds in which books no longer existed, it was usually because those in power wanted to control the information and experiences that were shared with the less powerful. In Ray Bradbury’s classic Fahrenheit 451, books were used to start fires to keep the masses from being exposed to important knowledge and ideas. In The Giver by Lois Lowry, books and the collective memory they contained were kept from citizens for the sake of maintaining order. But in more recent adolescent novels, books seem to be trumped by technology and disappear due to apathy. Rodman Philbrick writes of a future world in The Last Book in the Universe in which books and reading have become obsolete replaced with mind probes to blot out reality. Similarly, MT Anderson’s Feed captures a world in which television and computers are directly connected to citizens’ brains where even school has become a copyrighted software product.

What Anderson and Philbrick have envisioned in the extreme many generations from now, many others have wondered about to a lesser degree looking toward the near future. What is the future of books and reading especially as young people turn to new media that capture their time and energy as they seek entertainment and information? What is the potential impact on schools? What are the implications for instruction in literacy programs? In the first of two articles for the Middle East Educator, let’s explore possible answers to those questions. Let’s examine a new vision of texts and readers and discuss one of the most important reasons for allowing this new vision expand the goals of classroom reading programs – to motivate even more students to find their way to books.

 A New Vision of Reading

For those of us who love reading books and want to pass that love of reading on to the students with whom we work, this generation’s attraction to the new media can be somewhat troubling. It tends to disrupt what some have called the romantic vision of reading that many of us have. This vision was captured in a photograph that accompanied an article in my local newspaper on the popularity of book clubs. The picture was a group of people joyfully sitting around reading and discussing a bestselling novel. Now it was nice to read that book clubs are flourishing in my community until I quickly realized that everyone in the photo was female and no one was under the age of forty. If we do not expand our vision of reading, readers and texts beyond this romantic notion of what literacy is, we may continue to be disappointed with our ability to achieve outcomes in our reading programs. Let me offer alternative visions of reading, readers and texts, both of which took place in the back seat of my van as my sons and I were driving home.

“Dad, what does exceeds capacity mean?” I looked up in the rear view mirror to see that my son was trying to figure out a new game he had purchased for his GAMEBOY. The electronic game was based on Yu-Gi-Oh – the Japanese dueling card game. He was actually taking small identifying numbers off the cards from his real Yu-Gi-Oh deck and programming them in his GAMEBOY to build an electronic virtual deck that he could use to dual the machine. As he was inputting his card numbers, a message “exceeds capacity” popped up on his GAMEBOY screen. I told him that he must have inputted too many cards, but he told me that he was one card short of the number he was allowed to input. He then picked up a small directions manual. (Just for the record, when I examined this little 42 page manual I discovered that there wasn’t a single comprehension strategy that I couldn’t teach using the pages of that manual.) He started independently and strategically reading that manual from cover to cover trying to solve his problem. When he discovered a section called “How to Build a Deck” he read that his inputted cards could only have an aggregated total of points that did not exceed 10000. He had not exceeded the allowed total number of cards, but the cards he had inputted had exceeded the allowable aggregated total. Now I won’t even begin to identify the multiple language and mathematical skills and strategies that were involved in playing this game, but I will contrast this reading moment with what I saw once we got home. I started helping my other son with his reading homework. Even though his teacher had assigned an easy, funny and popular novel and all he had to do was read one chapter and answer a few response questions, there was no interest, initiative or independence in completing the task. The contrast with the moment in the back seat of the van was startling. I was reminded of this difference again when I had three grade seven boys riding in the back of my van a few years later. The middle boy had brought along a popular satire magazine and was reading aloud a parody of the latest Star Wars movie. After he read aloud for a few minutes, one of the other boys nudged him with his elbow and said, “I think it’s my turn to read.” He took over and continued the reading aloud until the third boy requested his turn to read as well. I did wonder at the time whether a classroom teacher could get these three boys to stay as interested and engaged in reading something for class as they were in the back seat of the van.

I am not alone in discovering by watching my own sons and their friends that while the lives of young people may not contain the romantic vision of reading, they are also not leading lives void of literacy. In our new book, Books and Beyond: New Ways to Reach Readers (Heinemann, 2006), my colleagues Michael Opitz and Matthew Zbaracki and I have argued for the use of alternative texts in instructional reading programs. We ask teachers to consider the different kinds of texts they read each day and then compare that with the number of texts they’re using with their students in reading programs. If we can convince teachers to expand the vision of reading and texts to include magazines, newspapers, book series, cartoons, comics, plays, poetry, real-life materials and cyberspace, we may start to see our students through new lenses as readers.

Making alternative texts acceptable and accessible in classrooms has six key advantages. In this article, let’s look at one of the most important reasons – to better motivate all students to be readers. Through alternative texts, we may be able to reach even more students especially those who may not see themselves in the more romantic vision of reading.

Motivating All Students to Be Readers

Motivation tops our list of reasons for using alternative texts. Research on the affective components of reading suggests that there is a complexity to the issue of motivation that defies a one-size-fits-all philosophy. In their research, Allan Wigfield and Linda Baker, identify at least seven motivational profiles of readers. First, they recognize that there are many students intrinsically motivated to read and teachers have to do very little to get books into the hands of those students. Second, they found students who have less intrinsic motivation but seem to want to please their teachers so they read whatever the teacher suggests or assigns.

The third group of students while skilled at reading, still places it low on their list of priorities. They are often students more interested in the social dimensions of their lives. The fourth group of students was motivated through competition but only if they sensed they had a real shot at winning. The fifth group of students stayed away from reading because they didn’t think they were very good at it even though they did have enough skill to read successfully. The sixth group of students disliked reading and tried to stay away from it if they could. The seventh group only differed in degree from the sixth group.

What becomes clear in looking at these pro- files is that many of the students do not see themselves in the more romantic view of reading. If we are going to reach them, we may need to consider the use of alternative texts – texts that might allow them to better see themselves as readers and for us to see them in this way as well.

Looking ahead

As we consider the changing literate lives that this generation of students leads, we may need to reconsider the role of books in classroom reading programs. Clearly retaining a romantic view of reading where young people read and discuss the great works of our time is a worthy vision to hold on to, but we may have to rethink the way we help our students see that vision as well. In the second article in this series we will present five additional arguments for considering the valuable role that alternative texts may play in classroom reading programs. By recognizing the texts that are important in our students’ lives and finding a place for them in classrooms, we may be able to better provide our students with the skills, strategies, motivation and momentum they need to find their way to books, assuring a bright future for both.

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Filed under Issue 3, Michael Ford, Reading

Heads We Win, Tails You Lose

What’s a common factor between “camel jockeys”, “terrorists” and “towel heads” on one end and audiences on Oprah Winfrey, Jerry Springer and Dr. Phil on the other? Nothing! Videoconferencing has been playing a major in eliminating misconceptions for more than 5,000 students in 26 countries. Welcome to EMPOWER PEACE.

“We are peaceful people. We don’t go around shooting Americans, we don’t live in tents and we don’t ride camels!” Until a student from Lebanon clarified this to many of his counterparts in the US through videoconferencing, that misconception was very much alive thanks in large part to media misrepresentation of Arabs. The event hosted by ‘Empower Peace’ last November 30, 2006, connected the Hariri High School II and the American Community School in Beirut with the Robert A. Millikan Peace Academy in Long Beach, California. During that live videoconferencing, the distorted image of Americans displayed in movies or through talk shows like Tyra Banks, Oprah Winfrey, Jerry Springer and Dr. Phil was quickly dispelled by the US students.

The May 22, 2003 peace initiative ‘Empower Peace’ which was launched with the goal of bridging the gap between Muslim and Arab youth on one end, and youth in the United States on the other, has already reached 5,000 students in 26 countries. These include Bahrain, Jordan, Egypt and Kuwait with plans to go to the UAE. The non-profit initiative connecting high school classrooms in the Middle East and South Asia with classrooms in America using videoconferencing and the internet has garnered support from world leaders, educators, schools and peace lovers anywhere. “We’re using cutting-edge technology to connect high school students together in order to break down misconceptions and stereotypes, while building bridges of hope and peace as we progress,” said Asad Mahmood Butt, Empower Peace Director of Media and Advance. Empower Peace also hopes to assist teachers worldwide by enabling their students to learn first-hand about people and countries that they may have only experienced in schoolbooks. Butt, 27, said it was a pretty unique opportunity to work with students and allow them to connect with their counterparts thousands of miles away, but it was tragedy which brought him full time into the endeavor. With background in broadcasting and the son of Pakistani parents, the American-reared Asad was asked in 2005 by Empower Peace founder Rick Rendon to help connect schools in Pakistan to schools in the US. Butt, who had traveled to Pakistan and the Middle East several times, worked for a couple of weeks as a freelancer and returned home. He later learned that a subsequent earthquake which hit Pakistan had killed one of the students who took part in the broadcast. “I stayed on to sort of help out and produce a fundraiser and it snowballed from there; it is the best job I or anyone could ever have,” Butt said.

Using a 90-minute videoconference, students in different locations talk about culture, religion, sports, fashion, music, movies and a little of politics. “We try to stay away from politics and talk more about what students do after school, the movies they see and other questions about dating, family and the like,” Butt said. Nevertheless, Butt says that the number one comment which organizers hear from students in the Middle East is that they love the fact they’re able to tell the world that they are neither terrorists living in tents nor camel riders. “These are the stereotypes that are engrained in American society and the kids here have the opportunity to see American students who are different from what they see on TV shows and movies. It is really a chance to break down those misconceptions,” Butt said.

During the last videocast, a few Lebanese students answered a question about the effects of Lebanon’s ‘July War’ on education. Amer Dabbous from Hariri II answered “I believe that war is never a solution to any problem. On the contrary it’s the source of our problems… Moreover, when it comes to education, we started a month later and the war made it difficult for us to study and focus on our daily lives.” Wadad Itani, from the same school, said that she feels more scared after the war “because there is tension going on between the Lebanese people, making the occurrence of a civil war more probable.” Meanwhile, students in Lebanon learned from a student in Long Beach that she doesn’t agree with a US nationwide survey showing 70% of US students hating going to school and wishing they could quit. “I don’t agree with how those people feel. There are many things I like about school, such as the sports program, seeing my friends and being in the Peace Academy. I feel like the worst part of US education is that there isn’t enough money for books and classrooms,” the Long Beach student said. During the conferencing, students not only ask questions but also give cultural performances. In June 2006, Empower peace connected Broumana High School in Lebanon with a school in Boston and the students in Broumana first did a traditional dance and then went into a hip-hop routine, a sort of cross cultural representation of what Lebanon is. “After seeing that, the students in America wouldn’t stop cheering for a good 3-4 minutes. All you heard was clapping,” Butt said.

During the latest link, Hariri II students sang the Lebanese national anthem. “Every time we talked to these students they would say ‘we love it, we can’t wait to do that again, we want to talk to them some more’. It’s really the first chance for many of these students to connect with anybody outside of their country.”

Empower Peace also keeps these students connected via email addresses of those children who want to communicate with others abroad. But the organization goes the extra mile. Following every broadcast, Empower Peace organizers create 30-minute documentaries and then try to air them on various TV networks in the countries that they operate in, such as GEO TV in Pakistan or Al Hurra TV. These include interviews with the students on their views about the broadcast.

Throughout the year, Empower Peace also engages in many activities that promote leadership and peace. It recently launched a new program named ‘Women2Women’ aimed at empowering future young women leaders from the Middle East, Near East, and the United States. While in Boston for two-weeks, these young women attend leadership conferences at Harvard University, TUFTS University and others and learn first-hand from established professional women leaders from the Government, Business, Media and Entertainment sectors. In September 2005, when the Jyllands-Posten Prophet Muhammad cartoons controversy was going around, Empower Peace sponsored an international contest for art work promoting peace and harmony called ‘drawing the right impressions’. “We got students from all around the world to produce art work that promoted that. We decided that Iran’s president’s sponsoring of his own cartoon contest of the holocaust was the wrong way to go about it,” Butt said.

World leaders’ support for the organization has been growing. “Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf taped a one or two minutes speech about the program saying this was a great program and exactly what the world needs, while former US President Jimmy Carter and current US Senators Kerry and Kennedy also cast their support for the work that we do,” Butt said.

Empower Peace was born following the repercussions of September 11. “We hear about discrimination and racial profiling and I, as a Muslim, have been discriminated against but these times will pass and Empower Peace is one effort towards eliminating the misconceptions on both sides, ” Butt said. Nader Kobrosli from Hariri II included in his discourse about his views on Arab-Americans that they must work on improving the image of Arabs and Muslims in America by being more proactive in their communities. Another ACS student actually said “Let’s not badmouth the religion of Islam because one bad ass blew up two towers.” Lana from ACS said “we are not Anti-American. Most of us live and think like you do…we are not different.”

Butt says Empower Peace is aiming to connect the world through high school students. “We feel they are the leaders of tomorrow. The more students are exposed to different cultures, ethnicities, backgrounds, religions, the better the world will be.” In the end, whether we’re Arabs, Asians, Americans, African or European, we are faces of the same coin. Is it worth flipping over it?

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Filed under Educational Projects, Issue 3, Lebanon, Staff

Intel Insight

Investing more than $1 billion on education, Intel, the world’s leading manufacturer of microprocessors is developing 21st century learning and teaching skills in the hope of generating future technology leaders. The IT private sector which is on the receiving end of acquired know-how is now delivering educational solutions of its own.

Before any microprocessors were ever invented, the human brain was the sole Central Processing Unit, holding within it the world’s computing records. Arguably, it still does. But in our haste to develop ever faster chips to manage information, mankind may have neglected its own gray matter’s capacity to calculate and process, voluntarily delegating these functions to sophisticated, yet man-made hardware. Using ICT (Information and Communications Technology) as a tool, Intel – the world’s leading manufacturer of microprocessors – has reinstated the brain’s rightful place in the computing world as both a processor of information into pioneering ideas and the dream weaver of the world’s innovative solutions.

With a truly global outreach program, Intel has since inception set out on a mission to make a difference, spending more than $1 billion on an ambitious education agenda that integrates ICT in the classroom and works on the professional development of teachers and students. While philanthropy and social corporate responsibility are the main drivers behind many of Intel’s initiatives, the company has a vested interest in developing a technologically savvy society. “Intel is aiming towards a knowledge based economy by helping educators and governments develop 21st century skills for teaching and learning, enabling us to generate future technology leaders and hire out reliable engineers within our organization,” said Samir Al Shamma, General Manager of Intel in the Gulf Countries.

Having reached three million teachers worldwide and aiming for 10 million teachers by 2010, Intel’s biggest initiative is ‘Intel Teach to the Future’ which by this year’s end would have benefited some 300,000 teachers regionally. “Our research has shown that many of the schools had computer labs which were just collecting dust. We also discovered that the kids were not afraid of the technology but the teachers were not properly exposed to it,” Al Shamma said. Basic computing such as using PowerPoint, Word and Excel programs are offered by many technology providers such as Microsoft and certifying agencies such as the International Computer Driving License (ICDL) -a global initiative with the objective of certifying essential Information Technology (IT) skills and promoting lifelong e-learning. Intel’s focus is to actually build on this knowledge. “We go beyond the basics and show the educators how to teach children to be project-oriented using technology as a tool and gear it in their everyday lives,” Al Shamma said.

Khaled Adas, Intel’s Education manager in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries said that Intel is very unique at this level of professional development, where the integration of ICT comes in. “I don’t think there is a program in the market that comes close to what we do. It targets teachers who already have basic skills no matter where they learnt them from, and so we don’t teach technology per se, but rather how to plan, solve problems, think critically and collaborate,” Adas says. As part of acquiring 21st century skills, Intel is also applying a new educational strategy with students which consists of transferring project-based learning models using what the company calls “Thinking Tools”. These are resources for educators to support collaborative student- centered learning and are active learning places where students engage in robust discussions, pursue investigations, analyze complex information, and solve problems. “We help teachers play a facilitating learning activities and pose questions that take student thinking deeper,” Adas says. According to Al Shamma, if you are trying to bring students to be IT savvy while influencing teachers to become more project oriented, “the homework needs to be replaced by lots of projects. The same child’s horizons are expanded and he/she learns the same things we learned, without all the hassles of memorizing all that stuff,” Al Shamma says. But he warns that teachers have to change their ways of teaching. “Yes, I do believe that the teacher of the future will be very different from the teacher of bygone days. Instead of memorization, now they have to give us a challenge and let us go and find a solution to it.”

However, in reaching those goals, Intel still faces obstacles. According to Adas, the biggest of these are infrastructure and Internet connectivity, “hence part of our effort is to try to influence governments to integrate WiMAX (World Interoperability for Microwave Access).” WIMAX enables true broadband speeds over wireless networks through fixedapplications as in point-to-multipoint enabling broadband access to homes and businesses. WiMAX is also a key component of Intel’s broadband wireless strategy to deliver innovative mobile platforms for broadband Internet connectivity anytime, anywhere. “WiMAX is the Wi-Fi for a city block; you have an antenna and you can beam data up to 70 megabits and as far as 50 kilometers away, thus schools can have high broadband connectivity rather quickly especially those within 15-20 kilometers,” Al Shamma says. Intel visits several ministries of education in different regional countries to explain how effective WiMAX is and begins the process of helping these governments tackle key issues such as trying to leverage the investment in hardware and effectively use it.

Adas says the challenges boil down to:

1 Providing ICT access and connectivity to the students

2 Developing the right policies for the effective use of ICT

3 Developing goals and objectives of ICT use in education

4 Providing for professional development and evaluation


Professional development is providing teachers with the latest strategies in teaching. Intel has an entire team of PhD holders in many areas of specializations in education. “Intel is the largest micro processing manufacturer in the world and not an educational company, yet we use education to make a difference in society through technology,” Al Shamma says. Intel’s long-term strategy is to help an economy develop, which would indirectly help it and other IT companies in the field. Al Shamma claims though that visits to ministries are not aimed at having them buy more PCs. Adas says that e-learning is the highest level to achieve in educational strategy. “E-learning is one of the tools we think people need to have in their hands, but it’s not the goal of Intel. E-learning is a big trend and we hope that ministries would want to get there. It is in fact their goal.”

Intel® Learn Program is another initiative benefiting students. “We have a great curricula that can help students after hours and that’s through Intel Learn,” Adas says. Intel Computer Clubhouse Network offers after-school, technology-based teaching programs for youth. Incorporating the use of professional software and coupled with the support of a community of learners – including mentors and staff – an Intel Computer Clubhouse allows the creativity and expression of the students’ own ideas and interests to be channeled into computer-based projects. Students could go into computer clubs and learn about finding information quickly and efficiently through research. Students apply this newly-found information into new areas of problem solving, enabling them to think professionally and become decision makers. Intel Learn encourages students to collaborate and communicate results with each other allowing them to publish their results online. The Intel Teach Program and Intel Learn Program are part of Intel’s Digital Transformation Initiative which is a comprehensive, multi-year program that will expand Intel’s economic, educational and technology-related support throughout the Middle East.

In all their endeavors, Intel works with local partners showing them how technology can support education. One local success story is a company in Saudi Arabia called Semanoor, which has developed software that took the complete K-12 curriculum and digitized it. “Anybody can digitize books, but then Semanoor developed software that allows teachers to actually add notes to that digital information,” Al Shamma says. Using multimedia, teachers are able to enrich the educational content, and then post it on the website for themselves. Other teachers and students could then interpret that lesson and add to it animation, etc. “It is very clear from the point of view of broadening one’s educational horizon through technology, one needs to have broadband access in addition to educational content,” Al Shamma added. Intel is also Arabizing an award winning portal called which was originally customized for the Irish education system. A collaboration between Intel Ireland, Allied Irish Bank and The Irish Times, was launched in February 2002 by Ireland’s Prime Minister, Bertie Ahern and has so far attracted 44,000 individual users. The portal which focuses on the second level school curricula provides valuable resources to help students prepare for their exams and also enables them to explore the wider world of education with their PC. “ is creating courseware that compliments what kids learn in school and customizing it to other regions and aims to provide students, teachers and parents with highly innovative, interactive and exciting learning content and supporting materials,” Al Shamma says. Intel has also launched the new Arabic portal,, providing extensive information about Intel’s Education Excellence initiatives, success stories and news releases. “The website plays host to a forum where readers can get involved in Intel’s vast education initiatives and provides an interactive platform for teachers and students to exchange ideas on the latest education tools, curricula and teaching methods,” Intel education manager for Middle East Turkey and Africa Ferruh Gurtas says.

Intel was the first company to make programming intelligence into inanimate objects possible. By now giving brainpower processing back to humanity and allowing for integrated intelligence to be tested, decoded and shared, our learning potential is being unleashed with a little help from our technology friends.


Intel® Teach To The Future to bolster UAE Curriculum

 Intel® Corporation and the Abu Dhabi Education Zone (ADEZ) have signed in May 2006 a Memorandum of Understanding to collaborate on implementing ‘Intel® Teach To The Future’ across all Abu Dhabi schools. This professional development training program is seen as an important step to provide teachers with 21st century teaching and learning skills and to integrate appropriate information and communication technology, teacher training, relevant content, and connectivity in the UAE curriculum.

Intel takes education initiative to Lebanon

Intel® Corporation has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Lebanese Ministry of Education and the Hariri Foundation in June 2006 to develop its worldwide Intel Teach to the Future program in Lebanon. The three-year program, part of the Intel® Education initiative, aims to train 10,000 in-service teachers to enable them to develop higher level thinking skills and enhanced learning in their students through the integration of technology into day-to-day lessons.

Intel to set up its first state-of-the-art technology lab in Saudi Arabia

 Intel Corporation announced in March 2006 it will open an innovative research facility in Saudi Arabia. As part of its Digital Transformation Initiative for the Middle East, the company will inaugurate the Intel Energy Competency Laboratory at the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM) in Dhahran in May this year.

Intel launches multi-year- “Intel Digital Transformation Initiative for the Middle East

 Intel announced in October 2005 the launch of the “Intel Digital Transformation Initiative for the Middle East,” a comprehensive, multi-year program that will expand Intel’s economic, educational and technology-related support throughout the region. Under this program, Intel will increase its investment in four key areas – local entrepreneurship, education, digital accessibility and specialized technical competencies – to help promote technology skills, knowledge transfer and jobs creation in the Middle East, Turkey and North Africa.

Three million teachers help students learn to develop 21st century skills

 Intel announced in November 2005 a major milestone today in its worldwide effort to help students and teachers develop 21st century learning skills. Three million teachers have now completed training through Intel® Teach to the Future, a professional development program designed to help teachers effectively integrate technology with learning. Armed with strategies to develop digital literacy, creativity, higher-order thinking, communication and collaboration, these teachers are reaching tens of millions of students daily across the globe. Intel also announced expansion of the program into Nigeria through the New Partnership for African Development initiative, and to South Korea where the program will serve as the main component of the government’s professional development plans.

• Intel Teach to the Future in Jordan, Egypt and Turkey

This program trains teachers to integrate IT into their classroom teaching. It made its regional debut in 2003 (in Jordan and Turkey) and was launched in Egypt in 2004. Intel is currently in negotiations with the governments of Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and the United Arab Emirates to develop programs there.

• Intel Teach to the Future in Morocco

In March 2006, Intel and the Moroccan Ministry of National Education and Scientific Research and the National Telecommunication Regulatory Agency announced the launch of the Intel ® Teach to the Future program in Morocco, thus extending the program to the North African region.

• Intel Teach to the Future in Nigeria

Following the opening of its office in Lagos in April 2006, Intel is currently finalizing the details of the “Intel Teach to the Future” program in Nigeria. The opening of the office in Nigeria came as a testimony to Intel’s growing focus on West Africa. Other digital transformation initiatives in Nigeria include Intel’s work with the Ministry of Education in promoting the cause of integrating modern information and communication technologies into the country’s education strategies.

• Intel Learn in Egypt

Intel launched its Intel Learn program in Egypt in 2005. Intel Learn is an after-school, community-based program designed to teach technological literacy, problem solving and collaboration skills— essential skills for success in today’s knowledge economy. Created in collaboration with governments and non-governmental agencies, the program uses trained staff to guide learners 8 to 16-years-old through its engaging, structured curriculum. It is designed to meet the unique needs of emerging markets by delivering high quality, technology based education opportunities.

• WiMAX Connected School in Ghana

In April 2006, Intel announced the development and implementation of Africa’s first WiMAX connected school, to be located in Ghana, West Africa. The selected school for the pilot project, the Accra Girls Secondary School, will be set up as a full eLearning centre, with hardware, software, Internet connectivity and teacher training. WiMAX technology will be used to provide high-speed Internet access to the school.

Intel and Saudi MOE sign training agreement

Intel and the Saudi Ministry of Education said they will train more than 50,000 of the Kingdom’s teachers on the application of technology to improve classroom learning. Approximately 1.5 million students will benefit from the Intel® Teach Essentials program over the next 3 years.

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Filed under Educational Projects, Hadi Khatib, Issue 3