Category Archives: Authors

GEMS Threaten To Close Down Schools in Dubai

According to The National Newspaper, Sunny Varkey has written a letter to the Knowledge and Human Development Authority mentioning the possibility of shutting down schools if they go ahead with the school fee freeze.

We have refrained from sensationalising the issue by using the verb threaten. Mr. Varkey is certainly stating a concern. He believes that the freeze on the school fees would not allow the schools to function within the quality standards set by GEMS and/or KHDA for that matter. However, there certainly is a very loud “or else” in there.

This move is not in any way a shock to this publication nor to anyone in the circle of education in Dubai. It has been lurking since the first confrontation between GEMS and KHDA which stemmed from the freeze on fee hikes of Dubai Modern School as it moved from an old location to new, purpose built facilities. Sunny Varkey is a seasoned strategist and would not lay down conditions that were not thought through. So why now ?

KHDA is still formulating their reply. Both have been thinking about this turn of events long before it happened. These are the scenarios as we see them:

1-KHDA stays firm on its decision. This will force GEMS to proceed with the timely closures of the schools in question. From Mr. Varkey’s letter, one can derive the possibility of closing down the schools and re-opening them under a new fee structure. This would require new licenses. Those are issued by the KHDA. If they proceed with issuing the new licenses, then the schools would have had a freeze on fees for two years and everything is “back to normal.” If KHDA does not issue these licenses, GEMS would have to accept that their growth in Dubai has now been capped. Abu Dhabi has a substantial need for “Indian Schools,” Could GEMS be thinking of moving the expansion there? What would Dubai need to do to fill the need for the students left behind? There are two years in which plans may be made to have other schools open, maybe even in the same locations, by another group. Pause for thought.

2-KHDA accepts to allow certain schools to raise their fees. What will those exceptions include? Where will the lines be drawn? This is the KHDA’s first major confrontation, backing down will have its repercussions. Holding firm will mean either a victory for two years, or the loss of a major school operator and a large employer.

3-GEMS backs down. This is highly unlikely. As we mentioned before, Mr. Varkey has not built a large company by being prone to quick, emotional decisions. Rather, his history brings forth an image of a very meticulously calculating and strategy-planning individual. He would not launch an ultimatum that he is not willing to uphold.

Since KHDA is planning a response soon, we shall hold some of the analysis until the official rebuttal. This is certainly an issue requiring a close watch.

Leave a comment

Filed under Dubai, School Operators, Staff, UAE

ADEC and AdvancED

There is no doubt that the Abu Dhabi Education Council is hard at work trying to improve the level of education in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. The adoption of the Public Private Partnership where the public schools are run by private companies is one example of the Council’s willingness to bring in bona fide experience to help out with the reform being undertaken.

Whereas we totally believe in the experience of all the operators selected for the PPP project, we have always wondered on the marriage of the different schools of thought and attitudes that exist in such cooperations. When ADEC introduced the school inspections, a little later than the Knowledge and Human Development Authority, the authority overseeing education in the Emirate of Dubai, they decided to keep the results private. Contrary to the the KHDA’s choice to make those results public.

But the reason for this article is not the comparison between the two councils. The reason for this article is the recent signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between ADEC and Advanced Education Inc. for the accreditation of schools in Abu Dhabi. It is not very clear what the MoU plans to achieve. Are AdvancED going to play an advisory role to help ADEC set accreditation criteria? or are they going to be the accreditation authority for the schools?

With goodwill and a good budget, there is a lot you can do. ADEC has both. AdvancED will be offered the location and all the supplies they need. Their experience is unchallenged. But here’s a thought:

The United States is currently in a whirlwind of assessment and criticism of its own educational system. we have no doubt that AdvancED will not be strangers to the discussions and suggestions and will certainly have a role in the outcome of this storm. It would certainly be very interesting to compare the ideas they will share in the US and in the UAE as to the standards and requirements needed for, what they believe, is quality education. It would be interesting to learn their views on segregated education, on religious studies, on professional development. it will be very interesting to learn how they will view the differences in a teacher from Wisconsin and a teacher from Roueiss.

The blond and blue-eyed consultant still carries an added advantage to many people in the region, but the time has long been here for the locals to learn, adapt, and implement according to the needs that they alone are extremely aware of.

We believe that it would have been a much better use of funds to set up a group of young, energetic Emiratis to be sent to work at different accreditation authorities around the globe. They would be able to learn the different processes involved in setting accreditation criteria and they would have been able to design an accreditation process born and bred in Abu Dhabi.

Leave a comment

Filed under Abu Dhabi, School Reform, Staff, UAE

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.

1 Comment

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?

Leave a comment

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 skoool.ie which was originally customized for the Irish education system. A collaboration between Intel Ireland, Allied Irish Bank and The Irish Times, skoool.ie 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. “www.skoool.ie 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, http://www.intel.com/arabic/education, 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 INFO

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Educational Projects, Hadi Khatib, Issue 3

Do You Speak English ?

The message is clear. English is the right vehicle for education and the passport for entry into a competitive global economy. Teaching it is undergoing change. Embracing change is a tough challenge. Are you up to it?

 Albert Einstein once said: “Technological change is like an axe in the hands of a pathological criminal.” So much has changed in the way learning occurs. Nowadays we can learn a new language over the Internet. Teachers could go inside a virtual world where they attend live seminars and conferences and network with their peers or other industry leaders. Children are increasingly using interactive whiteboards and tablets to communicate information with their peers and teachers. Even parents are learning about their children’s scholastic performance by accessing portals where information about grades, attendance, participation and various other indicators are systematically downloaded by teachers and administrators. But just as candles are not obsolete, it is unlikely that teachers will be sidelined. However, they will either need to harness the change or remain in the past, living a present that has no future.

The Abu Dhabi conference on “Managing Change in English Language Teaching (ELT)” held last January 27- 28 aimed at tackling, among other issues, how learning occurs, how teachers become better teachers, how students become better learners, and how to make change happen. Teachers and managers were learning together, under the same roof. These are times of change,” said Jeremy Harmer, an experienced methodology writer and the author of Practice of English Language Teaching. “How do we respond to change like that? Do we embrace it or do we stay in the comfort zone?”

The conference, a combined effort between Abu Dhabi University, The British Council and the International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language (IATEFL) certainly sent the message that change in English language teaching is underway and unless teachers, managers and governments embrace it, they risk being left behind. “We have to start training teachers. We can’t just assume that because we have teachers, they will necessarily have the practice and correct methodology to teach students,” says Sandra Zaher, director of the English Language Institute (ELI) at Abu Dhabi University. Since 1985, Zaher has seen the UAE’s meteoric rise as a country and nation and watched education grow and develop with it. “All education systems in the world go through peaks and valleys, but this country’s leaders have put tremendous emphasis on English language learning not just with teachers but also with the administration and where it counts most, with students who are the future leaders and decision makers,” Zaher said.

But Zaher also indicated that in 2015, the majority of the world will be speaking English. Also, most will not be native speakers; so again, there is a great demand for the UAE and the region to move forward. “There is an international need to speak English proficiently and in this country that’s what it’s going to take or we will fall behind and that’s not what ADU or the government wants,” Zaher said. The conference brought together over 40 speakers who addressed how to reconstruct education, how to reconstruct English and how to make a country and its people more marketable. Zaher said that fitting in the global community isn’t just about learning English, but rather about learning, in general. “We need the same strategies across the board in Arabic, math, science and other areas,” Zaher said.

Salam Affouneh, the Curriculum Coordinator at ADU’s ELI and IATEFL’s ELT Special Interest Group (SIG) was the person behind the idea of the conference. Seeing that IATEFL had no representation in this region despite the organization’s 99 affiliates and 3500 members worldwide, Affouneh was able to convince the conference organizers of the need to hold such an event at a time when the UAE was spending close to 30% of its budget on education. “At this point we need to prepare people for the change taking place with the creation of Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC) and Abu Dhabi Education Zone (ADEZ), public private partnerships (PPP) and resulting restructuring of curricula and teaching methods,” Affouneh said. For those students and teachers not accustomed to modern ways, the change has, as expected, been difficult to manage. “At ADU, we get students who learned the traditional way. These students are used to memorization. Our teachers are now implementing student-centered techniques, introducing collaborative learning, problem-solving and critical thinking as a learning platform, but it’s a tough process for both teachers and students,” Affouneh remarked.

IATEFL ELT Management SIG Coordinator George Pickering said the event came about because the association’s mission is to link, develop and support teachers throughout the world. In collaboration with the British Council, IATEFL helps promote and develop English Language teachers through teacher associations. “What we found pleasing about this conference is that it does actually build a bridge between managers and teachers; a rarity since you often find that they each follow a different path towards their professional development,” Pickering said. He added that teachers have to embrace technology and have to want and be able to make changes in the way they teach, such as to make teaching as student-centered as possible. “We are all aware today that education is results-driven. We need to demonstrate that the method used by teachers is an effective one,” Pickering said. Teachers can develop professionally by attending seminars and conferences, observing their peers in the classroom and producing reflective journals and portfolios of the work they have done. The process is best monitored when schools and institutions have professional development review sessions.

Three things are for sure. One is that traditional ways of teaching and learning are increasingly questioned and beginning to look very ineffective in today’s hi-tech environment. Second, people are taking more interest in learning English. “I notice tremendous changes communicating with people on the street,” said Peter Williams, BC’s Branch Manager at Abu Dhabi’s training center. He explained that people’s needs are changing from wanting to attend a traditional English class to being increasingly interested in professional writing, advancing their careers or supporting their academic careers. IELTS, the International English Language Testing System, measures one’s ability to communicate in English across all four language skills – listening, reading, writing and speaking. The test is for people who intend to study or work where English is the language of communication. “IELTS is becoming huge. People are measuring their English Language skills against international standards and doing well,” Williams asserted. Lastly, the UK will continue backing English learning initiatives as the country has a vested interest in attracting foreign students to its campuses. “The UK government is interested in foreign students studying in the country’s tertiary system of education. That’s why you see the universities there becoming more internationalist in their curriculum and more international,” Pickering said.

The British Council has also initiated a program to link UAE schools with UK schools in a joint curriculum program, particularly ELT. Ultimately, the project will link 600 schools in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, Iraq, Yemen and the UK representing a student community of 400,000 pupils. “There is a lot of expertise in the GCC countries and very similar problems, so pooling expertise makes a lot of sense; this is a sign of how serious this region is on straddling the global stage in terms of education,” Williams said.

IATEFL & the British Council-Partners in EL Learning

The International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language (IATEFL) was founded in 1967 with a mission to link, develop and support English Language Teaching professionals throughout the world. They do this through:

• a range of regular publications including their own Voices magazine

• holding an Annual International Conference with an extensive program of talks and workshops attracting over 1,400 delegates;

• offering members the chance to join any number of 14 Special Interest Groups (SIGs);

• linking with associated organizations in other countries;

• providing help to others in forming a local teachers’ organization.

Founded in 1934, the British Council is the UK’s public diplomacy and cultural organization, working in 109 countries, in arts, education, governance, and science. Fiscal year 2005—06 achievements:

• Worked in 233 towns and cities in 109 countries;

• Employed over 2000 teachers who taught 1.1 million class hours of English to 325,000 learners in 53 countries;

• Delivered 1.3 million UK exams to 925,000 candidates worldwide;

• Supported a production of Love’s Labours Lost; the first performance of a Shakespeare play in Afghanistan for over 17 years;

• Awarded Communications and Humanity 2005 prize by the prestigious Principe de Asturias Foundation, in acknowledgement of their int’l work in communications and humanitarianism.

IATEFL & the British Council-Partners in EL learning

 

ADU-A legacy in the making

ADU is a forward-thinking private university that created an opportunity for English language learning to grow with the demands of the UAE. The conference which was spearheaded by ADU received the support of the university board and the go-ahead despite the sizable cost estimated at AED 450,000. “Everyone needs learning so we thought why not bring the first international conference to Abu Dhabi and we did thanks to a wonderful university leadership that looked at this and said: yes this is where we want to go!” Sandra Zaher, director of the English Language Institute (ELI) at Abu Dhabi University said. The event was originally planned to be held at ADU’s newest campus. “We have a large contract with the government for teaching English Proficiency to 1500 Department of Civil Service students and in February we host a job seekers program attracting 2000 students from the UAE, so we had to move the venue to a hotel,” said Zaher. More than 26 new English Language classrooms will be built to accommodate these studies. “By May 2007, ADU will be the largest English Language institute in the UAE; we will have 95 English Language TESOL instructors working for us,” Zaher said. When all 4 phases of the new AED 500 million campus is complete, ADU will have a capacity of 10,000 students. “One hundred years from now, people will say they remember their grandmother or grandfather as being the first graduates here and it all comes back to globalization, Emiratization and PPP initiatives,” Zaher said.

2 Comments

Filed under Abu Dhabi, British Council, Conferences, ELT, Hadi Khatib, Issue 3

PPP in Abu Dhabi

In September 2006, the PPP pilot project was officially launched in 30 K-5 Schools of which 12 are located in Al Ain, 12 in Abu Dhabi and 6 in Al Gharbiya. “How do we fulfill our objectives? Is it by privatizing schools? Do we create independent schools or do we partner with private international education companies? The decision was to partner with private operators who had proven their competency in other countries,” Mubarak Al-Shamesi, Director General of ADEC said. Of the many that had applied, four operators were chosen: CfBT, Intered/Sabis, Mosaica and Nord Anglia. ADEC’s media office informed the Middle East Educator that two different operators will operate 30 new schools for grades 6 to 9 for a period of 3 years beginning September 2007. These school locations and their distribution among the new providers are yet to be determined. “We are trying to give operators the chance to start before the end of the current year, so as to familiarize themselves with the environment, principals and students, while leaving the summer for preparation in terms of staff, equipment, etcetera,” Al Shamesi said.

All operators are required to abide by curriculum standards designed by Tafe Global, the New South Wales Department of Education and Training, which put together a curriculum based on international best practices. For the first time, the standards were not just made for subject matters like Math, Science, English, and Social Studies, but also for Music, Sports, PE, Health and Safety. The bidders also had to answer detailed questions about organizational capacity, increasing student achievement, increasing parent and community involvement in public education, strengthening the quality and quantity of Abu Dhabi national instructors and administrators, and preserving and promoting heritage and culture. As for the actual curriculum to be taught in those schools, Dr. Hanif Hassan, Minister of education for the UAE said: “The students will learn English, Science and Math — all in the English language. Students will also be taught Arabic, Islamic Studies and National Studies, according to the ministry’s curricula using new methods for teaching and learning.”

According to Al Shamesi, education providers may use their own curriculum, textbooks and professional development (PD) techniques with teachers. “Provider “X” might decide to use 6 books, but he realizes that one of his schools is weaker than another, so he may add extra staffing, use different educational resources or choose to concentrate on PD. ADEC does not interfere here,” Al Shamesi said. ADEC assists by helping the operator understand the system better and make the necessary adjustments. “We do check the books to see if they are suitable for students in terms of culture or religion. But today, learning is not dependent on books, so we need resources and a staff professionally developed to deliver in English,” Al Shamesi said. However, what role does ADEC play in the PPP project implementation and who is in control of it? “In order for the council to make sure that the operator meets its requirements, we had to take several steps beginning with the development of the curriculum standards which all operators have to abide by,” Al Shamesi said. ADEC then hired a monitoring agency, Penta International, to evaluate partnership schools in the emirate.

Penta International undertakes the evaluation of the needs of the partnership schools as well as tests the academic performance of the students in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and the western region. “Rather than the operator coming to me and saying this school is not functioning, or this principal is not meeting our expectations, I have a monitoring agency that will give me a second opinion,” Al Shamesi said. Penta, which conducts both scheduled and unscheduled visits, also assists the staff for both operators and schools. “We don’t want to wait until the end of the contract or the end of the year to measure progress. We find out where the gaps are early on and we fix them,” Al Shamesi said. On the strength of their international education record, Nord Anglia, a UKbased education provider, won a contract to operate six primary schools in the emirate for three years with a contract estimated at $5.7 million per annum. The company already offers advice and management services to schools, colleges and governments in a number of countries including Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. It actually generates more income outside the UK, such as in Eastern Europe, the Far East and now in the Gulf. “Around $134 million of our $230 million in turnover will come from overseas operations,” said David Singleton, Principal Education Advisor with Nord Anglia. The company, for example, is now developing a curriculum for Chinese children based on an English curriculum but very much within the values and beliefs of the Chinese. “They are very sensitive to cultural issues. There is strong commonality in China, Korea, Scandinavia and the UK, with emphasis on learning through play, role play and engaging the children,” said Ann Yeonus, Education Advisor for Nord Anglia. She added that wherever Nord Anglia operates, the idea is always to create continuity after their contract ends. “Like the old saying ‘Give a man a fish and you will feed him for a day; teach him how to fish and you will feed him for a lifetime’,” Yeonus said.

For Abu Dhabi’s PPP project, Singleton said that the Australian curriculum standards offered primary school students a modern practice with two strong elements: a core curriculum taught entirely in English and the removal of textbooks where teachers dominate the learning environment. Like the International Baccalaureate program, the curriculum is engaging and takes advantage of the fact that children learn first through play by exploring their environment. “It was obvious from the start that our biggest role was actually training and educating the teachers, especially when a significant aspect of the project is to have a high proportion of national teachers,” Singleton said.

Nord Anglia has 30 advisory teachers who model best practices and 24 teacher assistants who support national teachers and advise them in the classroom. “The two keywords in this project are Sustainability, i.e. to develop a functioning model when we leave and the second is Capacity Building, where performance management plays a role in succession and promotion,” Singleton added. Nord Anglia’s project director Helen Kavanagh said teachers of Arabic are now requesting to share in the pedagogies of training and teaching for English teachers. “English is the first big mountain, then a new curriculum and new pedagogies. We have textbooks, but not for page by page and day by day usage and we now have assessment reporting instead of tests,” Kavanagh said. With principals being mostly Emirati women, Nord Anglia has also created a support group around them, gaining their trust and confidence and easing any fears they might have. “This is their school; we are here to help and not take it away from them.”

The challenge was also to gain the confidence of all stakeholders i.e. the government, teachers, students, parents and the community as a whole. “Parents really care about their kids’ education and it shows in their 80 percent attendance during school meetings,” Kavanagh said. The new project is activity-based with the assessment matched to the child’s level, as compared to everyday homework using textbooks. “That’s the big shift. A lot of the PPP project work is about matching the level of difficulty in the classroom. Before you added to 10 and then 20 and took homework to solve math problems. Now, depending on their level, kids might be sent home with varying hands-on tasks,” Yeonus said. She gave the example of a teacher who was teaching students to jump on numbers 4, 6 or 9 spread on the ground. “Here’s a great example of a visual, physical and oral application of a new teaching method which works miracles compared to traditional learning,” Yeonus said. In this system, catering to individual needs and levels helps retain slow learners in the same class as high achievers, where as before weak students were kept back a year. Building on its experience as the contractor for the British government to carry out school and quality inspections, and with Singleton being an ex-deputy director of Ofsted (the Office for Standards in Education), Nord Anglia has also developed an inspection framework for Abu Dhabi that starts with an evaluation project for Adult Education Centers (literacy and acquisition of English). These are centers for students who left school early and did not complete their education. “When ADEC rolls out all 300 schools, it will be very demanding to keep this high quality education,” Yeonus said.

The Emirate will need to have an inspection body to check if every student is doing well enough and if the teaching supports the curriculum or whether teachers have the proper mechanics. “We hope to devise a model similar to the UK, which is based on schools’ self- evaluation, enabling them to know and manage themselves.” CfBT (Centre for British Teachers for Education ), which won a contract to take over the management of eight schools and four kindergartens in four clusters located in Abu Dhabi, Shahama, Al Ain and Madinat Zayed, began teacher training workshops for about 400 teachers, principals and senior management as a first step towards facilitating school improvement last June. “Quite a number of teachers could speak English to some extent. Children don’t need the confidence to try but teachers do as they have some sensitivity towards making mistakes,” said Jan Reid, director of the PPP program. Teachers with CfBT undergo 2 to 3 professional development sessions per week, attending training workshops on teaching methodology, behaviors, strategies and curriculum development. “The teachers in the schools are working so hard, they are the ones who are making the change,” Reid said. CfBT is also inviting principals to a big conference in the UK in June. “Although not part of the contract, it is an opportunity for the principals to go visit some UK schools and head teachers, share ideas, look at certain areas of teaching practice and hopefully enjoy themselves,” Reid added. Within their Learning Resource Center, CfBT is training teachers on how to use interactive whiteboards and introducing English resources and English reading books. “One of the problems in introducing English books is that you have to get the right level and density. If English is your second language and you opened a math book with far too many instructions in English, you wouldn’t know where to start,” Reid said.

Introducing Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is part of the project requirements. Interestingly enough, some schools under CfBT had more than a dozen interactive whiteboards which were being used cosmetically. “We are installing networks, ICT equipment and lots of other technology which we’re training the staff on, including the principals,” Reid said. CfBT’s 12 schools are currently connected via Intranet, enabling teachers to share lessons and best practices, while students are wirelessly connected to the internet but access is controlled to prevent misuse. Andrew Herriot, the regional director of CfBT said that the organization had done a PPP project with Qatar and is already seeking similar opportunities with other governments. “Qatar was our first project with PPP in 2002. Under the auspices of Sheikha Mozah, we helped the Supreme Education Council develop the new curriculum standards for teachers of math and sciences from KG to grade 12,” Herriot said. As a result of that, CfBT was invited to train a cadre of teachers with a Postgraduate Degree in Education- a British teacher qualification. “In the first year we worked with the University of Southampton to develop a course for about 17 teachers who, after graduation, would be able to teach in the so-called independent schools using the curriculum we devised,” Herriot said.

CfBT also helped develop programs that all providers involved in running independent schools would be able to use. The center also headed training sessions held for senior leaders, principals, middle managers, heads of departments, subject leaders and others. “On the strength of our expertise, we bid for all 30 schools in the UAE PPP when we arrived in 2006. This, for us, demonstrates commitment,” said Herriot. So what is the role of the UAE’s ministry of education in all this? An essential one it seems, as both H.E. Dr. Hanif Hassan, Minister of Education and Mohammed Salem Dhahiri, head of the Abu Dhabi Education Zone are board members of ADEC. “There is also close cooperation between ADEC’s employees and MoE employees, to discuss PPP evaluation, share studies that are conducted by ADEC or the ministry, and exchange expertise,” Al-Shamesi said.

That leaves the question of when the rollout phase of the 300 schools will begin. “I cannot say that I can proceed with the rollout until we look at each project in ADEC and study it before we proceed. I am satisfied with the progress being made with the partnership, but will I be 100% convinced once the school year is over? This is hard to say,” Al-Shamesi said. As for grades 10-12, Al-Shamesi indicated that ADEC is planning to launch the program in 2008. “Some people might say that since we started with these operators then we need to give them the next contract, but I say no. We will say that any operator in the PPP will continue using the standards until his contract ends in three years,” Al-Shamesi indicated. Are three years enough? “I don’t know,” said Reid, “ All operators are working to have a sustainable model, but I would hate to think that teachers who are now working very hard may find that at the end of three years they are unable to sustain their efforts.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Abu Dhabi, Hadi Khatib, Issue 4, Public Private Partnership, School Operators, School Reform