Monday, January 19, 2009

Doha Debates & Other Motions

This week has been one of change - I visited the Preparatory School that is behind Mohammed Ben Abdul Wahab to scout out the programmes and developments in the teaching of English there as well as sounding out the Academic Vice Principal and HoD English to share assessment data on their students moving up to Grade 10 later this year. The visit indicated that the Education Reforms are beginning to pay dividends as the students there were far more fluent and confident in using English to converse than many of those we are dealing with at senior school.

I’ve persuaded the staff at school to invite the Preparatory School staff across for a breakfast and a chance to talk about their programmes and future inter-school cooperation and resource development early next semester. If they can carry the connection on it can only help to benefit the students once they enter the senior school system.

On the home front we have moved apartments from 1 to 12 - from the ground floor to the first floor which now means that Joy has more light and room to paint in as our new apartment is larger and roomier than our old one.
The move took us a full day - of moving our clothes and other bits and pieces up a floor while assisting the team member who was vacating 12 to move back to NZ to move her cases down stairs to take temporary possession of apartment 1. Then re-organising our new apartment to suit our activities and interests.
We don’t know ourselves now that we can relax and spread ourselves.

Last week saw the students stressing out over examinations. They sat the papers in the morning then were meant to have revision classes in the afternoon. This was not met with great enthusiasm by the boys who had to be persuaded that doing guided revision was a good idea, especially when faced with doing tests they knew they’d have difficulty with.
This was especially true for the Grade 12 English paper in which the boys struggled with the vocabulary and reading requirements let alone writing passages of some appreciable length.

On Sunday I got to spend the day at the Qatar Academy - an international school that has been set up under the auspices of the Qatar Foundation as an example of the future of education in the Gulf.

The course was aimed at encouraging the Independent schools to develop and promote their libraries and, hopefully, encourage their students to read and develop their literacy skills. We were treated to examinations of the three libraries on the campus - Elementary School (ECE) , Primary - Intermediate and Secondary. Each library had been designed to cater for the target group of students with attractive displays, a huge range of books at all levels of interest and topic. I discovered that all the libraries had copies of Margaret Mahy’s stories and, in the Intermediate and Secondary Libraries novels by David Hill. Both authors were raved over by the respective Librarians who reckoned that the N.Z. novels they had purchased were great reads for the students especially as they spoke to the students without being patronising.

The facilities at the Qatar Academy are such that none of my colleagues would be reluctant about accepting a position there. The resources and programmes offered would make the experience one to be enjoyed. I sat and listened to a little 6 year old read a story about field mice fluently and with solid comprehension and then watched a class of 8-9 year olds utilise the library database to locate books in their library with confidence and ease. I must remember to take my camera with me the next time we are asked to attend a course as the Academy does reflect the direction the Emir wants his country to go in.

On Sunday night Dave and I went to the Doha Debate, at the Qatar Foundation HQ in Education City. The debate series are televised by the BBC World Service and screened the weekend after the debate.
The topic, “That this House Believes that Political Islam is a threat to the West” was certainly controversial and, with the calibre of the debaters, Yahya Pallavicini, Maajid Nawaz, Shadi Hamid and Sarah Joseph, guaranteed to be fiery.

Although the debaters failed to sufficiently define the term “political Islam” the debate opened up some interesting insights into the beliefs that underpin Islam as well as demonstrating the tensions that exist within the religion as the different societies and groups struggle to come to grips with the demands of modern social and political movements while keeping faith with the conservative social and legal frameworks that underpin the faith. This was particularly pointed up from the tone and direction of the comments and questions from the floor. In the end the decision was a narrow 51 - 49% victory for the negative.

School is winding down in readiness for the end of the semester. Next week we’re off to Egypt.

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