Monthly Archives: July 2008

Entering the Arab education market

Education companies, publishers, curriculum designers, teachers and many other companies and individuals involved in K-12 learning are salivating at the mouth for an opportunity to enter the Arab education market. Quite simply, education in the Arab region is witnessing a renaissance of sorts, as interest in providing high quality education is riding a wave that won’t crest for a long time, if ever.

There are several ways to enter this market where spending reaches $26 billion . A company might try direct mail, email and other marketing directed response to establish contact with schools, operators, universities and local publishers. It might try to establish synergy and cooperation agreements with local suppliers, or it might scope the territory for opportunities and try to establish key contacts in the field.

The Middle East though cannot be treated in the typical fashion companies do when trying to establish a presence in a new market. Understanding the cultural peculiarities is paramount before any trust is established as a prerequisite for business dealings. In that respect, traditional marketing strategies may or may not work, but one thing is for sure: they are both time consuming and costly with no guaranteed results.

The efficient thing to do is find an educational company that has key contacts, experience and insight into the workings of the market and its culture. This company should have marketing services offering to maintain client relations, collect data and coordinate the supply of educational material and services.

If you’re looking for a consultant with those specifications, kindly leave a comment and we will attempt to provide you with good leads.

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Arab school debate teams

Qatar is bidding to host the 2010 world schools’ debating championships after having successfully inaugurated the country’s first national school debate championship with 400 students in participation. QatarDebate, the national debating organization in Qatar, is currently training 1500 students and teachers from over 30 schools and universities to prepare for the world schools’ debating championships.

Despite the existence of some school debate teams in the UAE, Qatar’s strong interest in debating is a breath of fresh air for a part of the world not familiar with the process.

This region is not short of topic and issues to debate. Arab research and persuasion skills need honing to catch up with the advanced techniques developed by our western counterparts.

A major international educational conference is offering an interesting forum for debate between two major schools in the UAE. The TeachME conference will take place in Dubai, on January 14 and 15.

If you have debate ideas, or if your school wishes to partake in debates with other school debate teams, kindly post your comments for consideration.

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Teachers, advisors in the PPP school reforms- UAE/GCC

Attention teachers and advisors in the school reforms! We need your input on how the school reforms in the UAE and GCC area are progressing. How much say do you have in the changes being made? Are you satisfied with the progress as far as implementing new curriculum standards and new teaching methods? Are Arab teachers making the transition to student-centered teaching techniques? Are teachers receiving proper professional development to improve their classroom delivery and management? We know there is a major professional development conference in January. Are you taking part in it? How are parents reacting to the reforms and are they participants in it? Are you facing teacher shortages? How is Technology being introduced in the classroom? Are teachers and advisors being adequately compensated for the hike in living expenses? What are your major complaints??? What praise and achievements can you offer?

With permission, some comments will be published online and in upcoming issues of The Middle East Educator magazine.

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Breaking the teacher’s dress code

When mother used to ask me “What did you learn in school today?” I used to blush, especially on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays when we had science. It wasn’t enough that we were learning about human bodies and reproductive organs, our teacher, Mrs. Free Spirit (not her real name), made it a point that she be a living image of what our minds could only imagine at the time. Thank God she wasn’t aware of “hands on” approaches to learning at the time, but that brings up the issue of appropriate dress code for teachers.

For as much as I looked forward to science class, our teacher’s choice of garment left me distracted not only during science but for the duration of the day and often night. Teachers should not dress in a way that distracts students from learning. Teachers with tasteless color neckties, crumbled shirts, short pants, see -through T-shirts and funny hairdos are bound to divert attention from the intended lesson.

It’s time teachers join the students in wearing costumes, like doctors, judges and even clowns do when facing their audience. It would certainly help not to hire teachers who are crossed-eyed, suffering from bad breath or lax about hygiene. I call these close encounters of the fourth kind.

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School is killing me…slowly

The Middle East Educator is running a story about school insurance, looking for ways to educate schools about injury prevention to students and staff as a key step towards ensuring safety. Then again, we are also talking about asbestos walls, sick buildings, bad ventilation, poor sanitation and other factors that contribute to sickness, bad health and eventual injury.

We are looking for your input in terms of your recommendations and experiences with the topic. Some comments, when verified, will be published.

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Is student spanking making a comeback?

I recently read an article about US schools seeking parents’ approval to occasionally spank students who misbehave or are consistently perverse to learning. It led me to think that some schools are having difficulties managing problem-students without the old-fashioned, now unethical, butt spanking or hand slapping that teachers unilaterally adopted over the years.

I remember from high school having one or two “correctional officers” and pain inflicting sadists posing as teachers. All that these teachers’ actions generated were fears and fight or flight responses, but contributed nothing towards improving my or other students’ education. What led to abolishing this practice was that it was abused beyond the purpose it was originally allowed, which is to realign some attitudes and enforce discipline. Are today’s student so undisciplined to deserve the return of steel rimmed rulers, face and butt slapping or other class humiliating actions, like making a grade five student strip in class for failing to hand in homework- another weird story coming to us from India’s education sector.

If we don’t turn back the clock, how do we then discipline students? Suspend them all? Does that work?

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Take an oath then a bow

Ok, so school teachers are overworked and underpaid, but does that give them the right to complain or become complacent? They have chosen a profession that molds and shapes young lives and future leaders. Outside of parents, how many can claim that? But who can also guarantee that teachers are doing their jobs properly? The same can be asked of lawyers and doctors, who are unequivocally entrusted with our day to day social and physical well- being. The difference is that the latter have taken an oath to serve in the most ethical and professional matter or else be stripped of their rights to perform. Recently, two American University of Beirut College of education students received awards for outstanding work as student-teachers and on their graduation day they joined their peers in a pledge ceremony that has been taking place for over 10 years. The pledge reads:

“I pledge to lead the life of an educator, to promote moral and academic excellence. I pledge to advance a learning environment, to encourage students to venture, to seek and persevere. I pledge to be an instrument of inspiration to transmit integrity, respect and trust. I pledge to dedicate myself to the welfare of my profession, to nurture the aspirations of future generations.”

Before we recognize teachers for who they are and give them the respect they deserve, shouldn’t teachers everywhere be taking an oath before taking a bow?

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