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15 June, 2005

Sheikhing up the school system

Hats - or rather keffiyahs - off to UAE education minister Sheikh Nahyan, who is systematically overturning every lunatic ruling made by his predecessor.

Earlier this month he re-appointed female teachers who were barred for being pregnant after a witless decision last year:

The Ministry of Education had last year issued a very controversial decision forbidding pregnant female teachers (candidates) from being appointed to teaching staff vacancies in spite of them having passed the relevant qualifying exams. And this despite the fact that the affected female teachers gave an undertaking that they would not take full maternity leave and that they would report for duty after just 45 days’ leave.

Now Sheikh Nahyan is dropping a tonne of ministerial bricks on the massively deficient local examination system. Educational sources revealed last year that they had been instructed never to fail any child a school year: regardless of whether the child was unintelligent, lazy, needed further tuition at a basic level, or just didn't show up for class. Nahyan shares their vexation:

"Exam papers are poor and do not evaluate students' achievement. The entire teaching and evaluation systems are appalling. They allow every student to pass whether he or she studied or not," Shaikh Nahyan said after a tour of a number of secondary school exam centres early this week.

Most importantly, he wants to abolish the current system of rote-memorisation, and introduce proper learning. University staff frequently lament the lack of constructive and independent thought among many local undergraduates: hopefully Sheikh Nayhan will change this for the better.



Blogger Keef said...

This is wonderful news. Having had a child in education here, I have had various dealings with MinEd in the past. Almost everyting they did was off the wall, the most bizarre declaration being that 'since the UAE Government has decided on Thursday and Friday as the weekend, schools must also folow the same pattern; how can a school operate when the Ministry is closed?' (Answer - probably a lot better!).

This was applied to public and private schools alike, forcing them to ignore the needs of parents whose work involves contact with the rest of the world.

And when we have mourning days for ex-sheikhs, I'm sorry, the Ministry can take as much time off as they want, but the kids have to complete their studies. There are only so many days in a year. Forcing the poor sods to take inappropriate time off and then have to come in for a bunch of Thursdays for the rest of the year is just plain stupid.

15 June, 2005 17:17  
Blogger Emirati said...

In the case of Sheikh Zayed, which you are probably referring to, I think his unfortunate passing away warranted a week or two of national mourning, this is something that happens every 30 or so years, and that there is nothing wrong with making the kids come on a thursday.

15 June, 2005 23:37  
Blogger Keef said...

Sorry Emirati, I'm referring to the private sector (education and work). Remember that kids have parents, and most of these parents had maybe three days off when Sheikh Zayed passed away, so it becomes problematic looking after the kids when they should have been at school.

But that's not the main issue - I'm talking about children who are following international curricula, where the learning process is timetabled with great precision leading up to exams. Losing two weeks out of the school year puts them at a considerable disadvantage. Scrabbling to make up for the lost time (meaning effectively that everyone involved in education, kids and teachers alike, had an enforced two-week break, but then had to do six days a week for the rest of the year), was very stressful for all concerned. And this was purely due to the attitude of the previous Minister, who insisted that all schools, including private ones, had to follow the Ministry's timings. Didn't make sense then, doesn't now. Never will.

Private sector schools should be treated as what they are - private sector businesses.

I know that extended mourning periods are traditional in this region, but really I think it shows more respect for the aspirations of the Rulers to try to carry on as normal.

16 June, 2005 01:23  
Blogger Keef said...

I should add that my wife is a teacher, and the pressure she was under to get the students back up to speed in time for the exams was ridiculous.

16 June, 2005 01:33  
Blogger Emirati said...

1- I dont see your point. These things happen once in every 30 years or more, and the damage done is minimal if any. If it was a yearly or bi yearly thing, then this would be up for discussion, but a once in a lifetime thing like this being complained about, im really not sure what point youre trying to make here.

2- I think many of you westerners here are payed well enough to afford to put your child in some sort of daycare or bring them a babysitter for a week or so.

3- Since that event took place on november/december, the students still had time to make up for it and some schools extended their school year as a result. It was tiring, but in the end, the result was that despite some extra pressure, the school years were conducted more or less as usual. (I can show you some worse systems, like the Russian State School system that has 6 days a year as standard in some districts).

4- Complaining about something entirely co-incidential (His death happened a week or so before the end of ramadan and the one or two week eid vacation hence why the students were given extra time off) really does not make any sense.

5- Schools affected by this thing, most likely have a rigid school system which is not adaptive to changes in the timing or the date. Such a system is not advisable, and has been abolished in some parts in US which are regularly affected by Snow-ins and Tornados. A school whose system falls into chaos because of an extra week or two off really shows the rigidity and lack of adaptiveness of that school.

16 June, 2005 14:31  
Blogger Emirati said...

Now, i believe that the ministry is disfunctional and over centralized. But it is unfair to blame someone for something so sudden and unexpected.

16 June, 2005 14:45  
Blogger Keef said...

The real point is that the private sector had 3 days off, while the government had 2 weeks. Because the MinEd insists that even private schools behave as though they are a part of the government, a lot of time was lost unnecessarily.

There is no flexibility in international examination processes. These things are timetabled months or years ahead, and locally-based schools cannot change these dates.

And it may be something that happens every 30 years or so, except it isn't. There was a major shutdown when Dubai's Sheikh Rashid passed away. There have been 3-day shutdowns to mourn leaders of other GCC and Arab states.

And I wasn't just talking about westerners - all expat nationalities faced the same problems.

16 June, 2005 19:35  
Blogger Hence the Blogger said...

Education in the UAE,

Funny that the curriculum is decided and vetted by people who have no idea what they are talking about, much like the theory of evolution is decided upon in some of the schools in deep America. I think that this is where the battle of civilisation lies and if the UAE move in the right direction they can with time achieve what others have failed at a generally well rounded educated fworkforce, the future will tell us...

22 July, 2005 13:58  

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