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To the interest of those teaching in Oman
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globtetrotter



Joined: 26 Aug 2012
Posts: 1

PostPosted: Sun Sep 09, 2012 1:14 am    Post subject: To the interest of those teaching in Oman Reply with quote

Below is my letter of resignation to a college I taught at in Oman. While I understand that most of the issues mentioned below are familiar to individuals who have taught in the Middle East, my hope is that the bare minimum of these issues will be taken into account when evaluating colleges designated by the Ministry of Manpower to reach certain standards of performance. I thank anyone who reads this that has a bit of skepticism and hope regarding the betterment of higher education in Oman.




To Whom it May Concern,


The Dean and Assistant Dean of -------- requested feedback from teachers who resigned in ----------. I am one of those teachers and this notice is an honor to their request.

I understand that many of the following issues that I will address below will more than likely go unheeded, and in the end it probably really wonít matter because these complaints have been made before and are already very apparent with nothing being done about them. However as an educator I feel it is necessary to point out places of improvement to better facilitate teachers and students. Furthermore, I have spent a year and a half of my life pouring my resources into this institution and explaining these issues will offer me a bit of resolve for what feels to be useless effort.
To start, my experience here has shown that the administration is extremely disorganized with poor resources. Each of the five unevenly spanned semesters that I have worked here, the class timetable schedules changed on average 4-6 times in the first two months of the semester. In my final semester of ------, my timetable changed every week until the last three weeks of class and it looked completely different than it started. The different class schedules that are distributed show either class changes, time changes, room changes, teacher changes or all of the above. This inconsistency makes it difficult to teach effectively because students have already started with a different teacher who went at a different pace using different materials. By the time a teacher gets settled with one group and its schedule, it changes.
Substitutions are distributed haphazardly and often with very short notice. Often substitutions are given to teachers who are not teaching that given level or skill. As a result they have no materials for the class they are assigned to substitute. On top of that, they are quite often notified moments before the class begins. Substitutions appear to be distributed simply because the teacher has a substitution slot available on the (ever changing) timetable with no consideration of any of these factors. Again, this makes it difficult to teach effectively.
Teachers are given textbooks that are either completely marked in from previous years of usage or they are given Xeroxed copies of chapters of textbooks. During the first two to four weeks of the semester, regularly, there is often a frenzy in the copy room to get all of the material printed inevitably leaving a significant amount of students and teachers with out books until all copies are completed. It is understandable that teachers be expected to provide supplemental material created by themselves or others, and many of the teachers here do. However this is because the primary material is often so unusable or insufficient that the supposed supplementary materials become the primary materials. And even this would not be so bad if the curriculum delivery plans created by the coordinators werenít organized by chapters of the (copied) book. Combine this copy room frenzy with the constant time table changes and what you have is not a respected institution of higher education but quite frankly, a mad house. Things like this do not take place at real colleges because texts books and class materials are prepared semesters in advance.
The handling of student issues is often backwards and ineffective. It is apparent that many of the students have little if any academic experience at the level of higher education at the college, so naturally many of them initially lack the rigor and motivation to excel at the beginning of their term. This is understandable. What is not understandable is why the administration not only allows this subpar behavior to continue but actually cultivates it. There are no substantial consequences for bad conduct or poor academic performance from students. I myself have had students who were repeatedly disruptive, blatantly obnoxious, and downright disrespectful, and after formally reporting these incidents, no disciplinary action other than a brief meeting with the students were taken. Instead of actual teaching much of my class time had to be taken up with disciplining students. I have had students use English profanities at me, refuse to leave the class room for disorderly behavior, and completely disregard any request to comply to proper classroom conduct with little if any repercussions for their actions by the college. While this is just my own personal experience, it is so common for students to behave this way without consequence that it is actually expected by teachers in this department. The countless stories of student misbehavior from teachers is evidence of this. The problem is that this is seen as normal. Since the administration will hardly do anything outside of ďtalking with studentsĒ, at most the only threat the teacher can give is to mark the student absent because the students know if they accumulate too many absent hours, the can be disbarred effectively losing their compensation for attending school. And even that threat is meaningless because students can simply go to a hospital and accumulate the number of needed certificates for their absent days to excuse them. (Iíve had students bring in as many as 29 hours worth of absent certificates). Once again, I know this is not knew information to any of you because itís not that this is simply tolerated, itís that it is the norm.
Rampant cheating on exams, quizzes and assignments is also the norm. Students are reported for doing this and again, little if anything happens to them. I've filled out exam misconduct forms only to see the same students in the next level. Not once was the matter addressed in an investigation. To make matters worse when a great majority of students perform poorly on their final exams (which is so often the case) there are no curriculum adjustments, but grading scale adjustments are made to rearrange the scoring criteria so that more students pass. The result is that they move up to a level and the accumulative knowledge that should have been grasped at the previous level is not there. This not only makes it difficult for higher level teachers to accommodate this deficiency, but it creates a demoralizing atmosphere over all in that respectful students who actually came to class, studied and understood the material receive the same treatment as disrespectful students who collected hospital certificates and did no work in class were treated the same. This is also demoralizing to teachers because evaluating and even taking to time to teach students who will pass to the next level regardless of their proficiency seems a bit pointless. But again, my experience has shown that that this norm for this college. Things like this simply don't happen at credible institutions of higher education.
This deficiency in education not only has to do with the quality of the students and the failure of the administration to act responsibly, but the quality of the over all department. The English Language Center has over sixty teachers, the majority of which are non-native speakers. This would not generally be a problem seeing that many of themóin particular the Omani and Arab speakingóhave a fluent grasp of the English language, however there are some language teachers who frankly do not. This refers to the Indian and Pakistani teachers. This is not to say all of them, because there are a number of teachers with years of experience and expertise at teaching English skills. However, it is not uncommon for students to be confused by quirky grammar usage and heavy accents in Listening and Speaking classes. The handful of native speakers in the department themselves can attest to the difficulty sometimes involved in understanding non-native speakers, and yet they teach English classes. . Any competent English language instructor can tell you that there is something fundamentally wrong when English teachers canít speak English. (This is not an exaggeration, I spoke to one teacher in this department in my final semester who could barely put together a sentence).
It is apparent that the college is attempting raise its credibility into being a qualified institution of higher education, however the steps that the administration takes to meet these quotas are superficial at best and outright laughable at worse. For example, the English language faculty is required to attend workshops, that, in name, are supposed to develop and improve our teaching skills. Yet, most of these workshops have no educational value whatsoever. They consist of power point presentations about simplistic topics that end with a silly video of still shots being shown to slow inspirational music. Some donít even have relevance to the job. (We had to go to a workshop on driving safety!). The staff groans with disinterest at the notification of a workshop and leaves them shaking their heads with laughter at how much of a pathetic waste of time it was. Itís apparent that a certain quota of workshops has to be met per semester for Quality Assurance, however this wouldnít be as excruciating to attend if the workshops actually lived up to their name as faculty development. Another example is the multimedia component of the curriculum. In the April 2012 semester Moodle was expected to be introduced to the students. Teachers were to create assignments for students to complete online yet the system was not even up and running half the semester while demands were being made for more curriculum implementation of it. This component was presented in a very reckless manner that confused coordinators and frustrated teachers. Reading assignments were to be assigned online to the students, not for the sake of the actual assignments (which they all profusely cheated on of course) but simply to say that the college offered an online component to their curriculums. It was a complete and utter disaster as teachers were actually expected to give marks for students simply because they went online downloaded the reading, copied the answers from their classmates and sent it to the teacher. (As a side note, just to show how accepted and normal cheating is, when I reprimanded students for using their cell phones in their multimedia classes, they actually assumed it was okay because they werenít texting anyone but were simply copying the reading question answers that they had taken a picture of on their classmateís computer screen!)
All of these factors and more make teaching at Nizwa College of Technology a miserable experience for anyone with a decent set of educational standards. And as I said, given the way this administration reacts in a superficial and disorganized way to issues, I highly doubt that bringing these things to light will actually do anything to change them because this is seen as normal and the bar for quality education here is pitifully low. I just hope future teachers that work here will demand more from their students, their administration and their fellow teachers. Below are a list of suggestion that I placed on the staff survey that was distributed near the end of the semester. Perhaps taking note to at least some of them will make the experience of teachers still working here in the coming semesters less insufferable.

1) Hire more Native English speaking teachers and less non-natives
2) Give the judgment of (qualified) teachers more weight in student assessment through out the semester (quizzes, homework, classroom assignments) to evaluate student performance for level elevation.
3) Use real textbooks for all skills instead of copying at the beginning of the semester to reduce disorder during the first two weeks of classes.
4) Discard texts books that have been marked in by students as they are obsolete since they are wither illegible or already have the answers written in them.
5) Do not allow students to mark in textbooks unless the college intends to order newer editions each semester.
6) Offer awards to students that show outstanding academic performance for better incentive.
7) Offer awards to students that show perfect attendance for better incentive.
Cool Either make MMC classes specifically for Moodle activities or alleviate them all together.
9) If Learning Skills classes are to continue, develop an official curriculum and evaluation standard for it and make that as well as the materials for it apparent and available to teachers.
10) Change the absence policy to restrict students from being able to accumulating massive amounts of absences then get medical certificates at the end of the semester for them all.
11) Enforce stricter anti - cheating policies on all student assignments and exams.
12) Enforce stricter disciplinary measures for students with inappropriate conduct
13) Make these disciplinary measures transparent to both students and teachers.
14) Make security measures available to teachers for disruptive students who refuse to leave the class so the teachers donít leave instead.
15) Have regular hall monitors to keep students clear of the hallways during class time and exams to curb disturbance.
16) Enforce penalties on students for loitering longer than a specified time in hallways after class and exam times.
17) Organize actual agendas for coordinators meetings and email them before the meeting dates to give participants time to prepare sufficient input on curriculum development.
1Cool Make generic lesson plan materials available for substitution (in particular if a teacher will be substituting for a level or a skill they donít normally teach).
19) Either ban mobile phones in the classrooms entirely or make official fines for unauthorized usage (similar to the 2 rial fine for students without IDís to exam recently implemented)
20) Either make the exam coordinator fully responsible for test material preparation during exam week or donít give level coordinators invigilation duties during exam week so they can properly prepare test materials for students.
21) Have only Native English speaking teachers teach Listening and Speaking classes
22) Have only Native English speaking teachers give oral exams.
23) Have Listening and Speaking teachers give oral exams only to the levels they have taught for that semester.
24) Make online communication between students and teachers (Moodle, email, college website, etc.) an essential component of student performance evaluation (grading and level elevation) if multimedia usage is to remain apart of the curriculum.
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The Steakinator



Joined: 13 Apr 2012
Posts: 71
Location: Oman

PostPosted: Sun Sep 09, 2012 1:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

After one academic year at Sur University College, I can't imagine going back to Oman unless the salary were doubled, possibly even tripled. Even in that case, I'd most likely have to actually see a small stack of cash equaling my salary and look at it for awhile before being able to bring myself to sign a contract...

Though the first week was tough, the first graders I teach in China are far easier to deal with and teach than the Omani "uni" students. Working with them is far more rewarding as well due to the fact that they actually learn something. China has it's quirks and it's failings, definitely the education system, but I'd take ten years in China before another year in Oman.
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FarGone



Joined: 02 Nov 2011
Posts: 97

PostPosted: Sun Sep 09, 2012 6:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Steakinator wrote:
After one academic year at Sur University College, I can't imagine going back to Oman unless the salary were doubled, possibly even tripled. Even in that case, I'd most likely have to actually see a small stack of cash equaling my salary and look at it for awhile before being able to bring myself to sign a contract...

Though the first week was tough, the first graders I teach in China are far easier to deal with and teach than the Omani "uni" students. Working with them is far more rewarding as well due to the fact that they actually learn something. China has it's quirks and it's failings, definitely the education system, but I'd take ten years in China before another year in Oman.


ding!-ding!: YOU WIN A PRIZE. Razz

(The only position I would ever return to Oman to undertake, is that of teaching corporate and ministerial-(departments) level humans, in Muscat, and it'd have to be for $4,000/monthly + furnished accommodations reasonably nearby (by skooter in 20min). 18hrs/weekly, max.
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FarGone



Joined: 02 Nov 2011
Posts: 97

PostPosted: Sun Sep 09, 2012 6:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

to original poster: Spot on, bruh. Cool

Improve teachers' conditions; stop catering to the whines of the students; an institution of higher learning needs to be capitalized on a basis that affords student sit-outs and mass calls for return of $$$, but the students must be taught respect for native-speakers and that we are not "like them," in that most of us come from Christian or Jewish households (or those of agnostic or atheist beliefs). Toss a philosophy lesson on the advanced classes (in eleven years in South Korea, I almost always contrasted the Confucian code with that of Aristotelian logic--got really into it, diagrams, et al., and presented the Western concept of: "Why?", which is born of Aristotle's logic. Students dug it, and I turned on a lot of minds; and when I moved to Oman, I found myself teaching: "Common pronouns: I, he/she/it, you, we, they"), and I'm like: "WTF?"

Koreans follow the leader, which is humorous but ultimately disastrous, as herd-like animals lack creativity and the capacity for dissent. (When Koreans do "go off," it's usually in protest of something the US just did or due to a real crackdown on freedoms and speech, as just after the assassination of strongman Park Jung-hee.)

I taught the essay and logic in South Korea, at the graduate school level, for a year as Visiting Professor in a Master's degree program in Translation. (& general and business English for another 17 years). So.

Getting to Oman, I was told by the private contractor for whom I was not even aware of my employment (I was told always "University of Buraimi"--never ELS, right up to the time I got off the plane in Muscat; recruiting behavior so foetid); then was placed by the private contractor functionary as a "Starter-level" teacher/Coordinator.

Yes, my classes changed attendees four (4) times in the seven weeks I taught there. A few quality minds amongst the students; disciplinary issues sucked you-know-what thru a straw; I don't think I ever had to kick a class member out, but I did have to get in the faces of quite a percentage of the young men in my classes--for stupidly late arrivals and being noisy and sloppy when arriving to class late; I did tear up a few exams, for cheating, and gave them one more shot--this time in my office, in the presence of at least two other teachers. (That is fun.)

A practical vocation is ok, kids. Use your local library or Internet cafe or a wise man's private bookshelf to learn basic English on your own; meantime, learn a trade, make money, move out of your parents' dwelling place and grow up.

Lesson to employers in Oman: Place your teachers according to their strengths; grant seniority to the learned and give challenges and opportunities to younger post-graduates. And don't f*cking lie to hirees. It's always going to haunt you. Surprised
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Expat101



Joined: 09 May 2012
Posts: 108

PostPosted: Sun Sep 09, 2012 3:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

'students must be taught respect for native-speakers'
Great idea, but I'm not sure that this can be taught. And let's face it, most of the world is highly xenophobic, racist, sexist and nationalistic.
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FarGone



Joined: 02 Nov 2011
Posts: 97

PostPosted: Sun Sep 09, 2012 4:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Expat101 wrote:
'students must be taught respect for native-speakers'
Great idea, but I'm not sure that this can be taught. And let's face it, most of the world is highly xenophobic, racist, sexist and nationalistic.


Of course it can (one doesn't mean slavish obedience; simply, awareness and general respect). Most Westerners have to learn the rules for living in Middle Eastern/Islamic nations, and must adjust to the norms. Folk in my classroom will [and do] learn quickly and behave decently.
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johnslat



Joined: 21 Jan 2003
Posts: 12341
Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

PostPosted: Sun Sep 09, 2012 4:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear Fargone,

Gaining "respect" depends mostly on the native-speaker teachers. You earn respect; it isn't (and shouldn't be) automatically given to any teacher just because he/she happens to be a "native speaker."

Regards,
John
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FarGone



Joined: 02 Nov 2011
Posts: 97

PostPosted: Sun Sep 09, 2012 4:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

We disagree. Respect can be lost, indeed; but teachers do not need to "earn the students' respect." Older + native-speaker + experienced teacher = respect from Day One.

I didn't "diss" my professors; and if I did--when young & dumb in high school or earlier--there would be consequences. Oman, especially these bogus private "universities" (where students can repeat ad infinitum, and the instructor is powerless to prevent some administrator from negating said marks and promoting the 'wasta'-boy or girl into the next level) ensure no consequences.

It's dumb and funny. Razz
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johnslat



Joined: 21 Jan 2003
Posts: 12341
Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

PostPosted: Sun Sep 09, 2012 5:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear FarGone,

Clearly, you haven't encountered some of the "Older + native-speaker + experienced teachers" that I have over three decades."

"Respect," given automatically and without foundation, is meaningless. Moreover, I very much doubt that any teachers in the Middle East have experienced many (if any) situations where such "respect" was automatic.


"Folk in my classroom will [and do] learn quickly and behave decently."

And that requires no effort on your part? And all the colleagues you've had there also experience the same?

Regards,
John
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FarGone



Joined: 02 Nov 2011
Posts: 97

PostPosted: Sun Sep 09, 2012 5:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If one sets a good example in front of one's class; focuses on improvement of students' skills; demonstrates proficiency in the teaching of pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary enhancement, syntax and paragraph/essay structure, and hones in on listening difficulties and establishes methods of improvement in all things aforementioned (which is what an English instructor at the "university" level must be able to do), then, jah: Respect is expected and deserved, and is usually rendered very quickly by class attendees.

Dunno about the jokers of the teaching world, 'cos I'm not among them.
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johnslat



Joined: 21 Jan 2003
Posts: 12341
Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

PostPosted: Sun Sep 09, 2012 5:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear FarGone,

Thank you for proving my point:

"If one sets a good example in front of one's class; focuses on improvement of students' skills; demonstrates proficiency in the teaching of pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary enhancement, syntax and paragraph/essay structure, and hones in on listening difficulties and establishes methods of improvement in all things aforementioned (which is what an English instructor at the "university" level must be able to do), then, jah: Respect is expected and deserved, and is usually rendered very quickly by class attendees."

You see, that's NOT "automatic respect" - it's been earned.

And may I congratulate you on your good fortune in never encountering any "jokers" - if I may ask, how long have you been teaching?

Regards,
John
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FarGone



Joined: 02 Nov 2011
Posts: 97

PostPosted: Sun Sep 09, 2012 6:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The paper delivery entrepreneur (in the olden days) has automatic respect until my paper doesn't show up or is thrown through the livingroom window. A teacher does what s/he's supposed to and class members behave accordingly (respect is automatic from my podium to the humans seated in the chairs in class, until such time as lateness, unnecessary noise/chatter or dishonest practices erupt of their doing).

18 years (six at universities in the US; the rest abroad). [I've encountered a lot of joker-teachers; I said that I am not among them.]
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johnslat



Joined: 21 Jan 2003
Posts: 12341
Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

PostPosted: Sun Sep 09, 2012 7:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear FarGone,

Thirty-five years myself - twelve at US universities, all the rest overseas.

I'm not going to pursue this anymore. I feel confident that anyone reading these posts will come to the correct conclusions.

Regards,
John
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Turbster



Joined: 09 May 2009
Posts: 67
Location: UK

PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2012 6:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Globetrotter,
I have no doubt many of your sentiments and observations are shared. However, our remit as teachers is to teach and not to reform the administration.
At the time of the renaisance 41 years ago, there were only a few miles of sealed road in the Sultanate. Now look how much roading is in place, but most of the driving is still abysmal.
Apply the same scenario to education/schools/students.
Cultural and social changes are necessary to allow significant education administration changes here, and that would require external assistance and ethics in implementation. Oman is not ready for that yet it seems.
I am sorry you have not enjoyed your time in Oman, and wish you better in your next employment, because of that.
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lizziebennet



Joined: 24 May 2009
Posts: 338

PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2012 4:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fargone you are certainly not a 'joker' teacher but I suspect that your attitude where you demand respect instead of expecting to work to earn it played a very big part in why you were let go from Buraimi University before 3 months and you didn't stay in Saudi long.
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