Prime EducationPrime Education

By Sera Sekerci

A Web of Learning

It is election time in the States and Americans now focus their highly distractible intellects on the great race and
numerous rhetorical debates on who should wear the crown of president. The rest of the world – particularly the Middle East – shares an even more enthusiastic fascination with the drama and the occasional scandal percolating the soap opera of it.

Being the lone American among several Canadians and a number of Brits, I am invariably asked my opinion. Usually the Canadians are a little more than casually aware of the players (politicians) while the young Brits appear to be a little more acquainted than the Arabs (outside some who try to impress me with a brief chit-chat to show how worldly and sophisticated they are with short sentences regarding who’s running), but consider it none of their concern. The questions I am asked often focus on ‘who do you think will win?’ or more often, “who will you vote for?”

I always get the feeling they don’t really care — the Brits being obsessed with being polite even in the wake of the most bovine offense while the Canadians, feeling some geographic affinity to Americans, appear to be just better at not showing it.

“None of them,” I said once to a group of my students at the university sarcastically.

“Oh why teacher?” they respond — especially if we are in class and work is not as interesting as it should be. This is to get me to waste away the rest of our time in a pompous reminiscence that might be more amusing than writing essays.

“Why should I?” I asked; “more importantly, why do you care?”

“Don’t you care who will be president?”

“No, not really.”

“Why not?”

“The American people no more elect the president than you do.”

This brings the ‘excuse me’ looks to the surface.

“But teacher, why are they voting?”

“I think it just to make people feel better about not being able to choose,” I said indifferently.

“Teacher, I think you are joking with us,” the Ahmed who always sits in the back said with a chuckle. Though Ahmed spoke English pretty well, arguably was one of my best students, he had an uncanny resemblance to a Mexican or two I used to know in the States. He even wore a flannel shirt; had a Pancho Villa mustache and a really bad haircut (sort of what Pancho Villa should have looked like). Although he insisted he was Bengali (which made his claim seem credible since they were everywhere and some mixed with every race you could imagine), I still could not help but think that a large sombrero would complete his picture.

“Maybe I am and maybe I’m not,” I said. “You Arab guys like to bet, right?” A few nodded in acknowledgement. “Prove me wrong and I’ll give you a free pass on the next quiz — but if I am right, tell me why and I’ll give you an extra credit grade of an ‘A’ that you can replace a lower quiz grade. First one that sends me an answer by email before tomorrow wins. Make sure you tell me where you got it.”

Hence, one of my techniques to breech the subject of research to Gulf Arab students.

Picture 1 (Andy Clarke) & 3 courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Picture 2 courtesy of Abu Muhammed.

Abu Muhammed is an American freelance journalist and technical writer who lives and works in the Middle East. He teaches at a private college in Saudi Arabia and is a contributing blogger for the Mideast Posts. To read more of Abu Muhammed’s writing please visit Here

By admin

Performance-related pay: the debate

‘Performance-related pay (PRP) is a method of remuneration that links pay progression to an assessment of individual performance, usually measured against pre-agreed objectives (‘classic’ PRP, also known as individual PRP or merit pay). Pay increases awarded through PRP as defined here are normally consolidated into basic pay although sometimes they involve the payment of non-consolidated cash lump sums.’ (From here)

Or in other words, teachers will be paid on the results that their students return post-exam on top of a basic salary. So the more that students exceed their personal targets, the more the teacher gets paid.

There are lots of divisions within the debate and rather than repeat the points again here, I’m just going to draw together  a few sources who will explain some different positions that can be agreed or disagreed with.

For supporters of performance-related pay (PRP), look here.

For (passionate!) arguments against, look here.

And for something more objective, look here.

Leave comments on your opinions on the matter or visit our Facebook or LinkedIn pages to get involved with the other discussions!

By admin

How to Make Friends and (Not) Alienate People

Picture of Simon Pegg in How to Lose Friends and Alienate People

This blog post is going to sound like a self-help article, there is no way to avoid it. (Light humour will be sprinkled generously to nullify any boredom.) When you go away to University, it’s a new chapter in the story of your life. That chapter needs and will have characters in the form of your new friends and peers and will mostly be brilliant, cherished connections that you’ll have for a long time.

However… as you can tell by my subtle qualifier – ‘mostly’ – it is not always the case that everything will go swimmingly. Lots of really stupid, insignificant things can breakdown healthy friendships over time given the chance. The little niggles like ‘they are always using the washing machine!’ can become ‘they are so selfish!’ and eventually into ‘I don’t like them because they are selfish’. It does depend on the situation on what is the right course of action, but here are a few suggestions:

1) Try again – It’s not going to work out if you’re both not going to try, is it? Burying your head in the sand and ignoring it or getting on your high horse of superiority, are not going to get you anywhere. So if you are doing either of these things stop and think ‘I am being a muppet’ and go and sort it out. It’s not worth it most of the time, it really isn’t.

2) Avoid them – If you really don’t get along and you’ve tried to work things out but can’t, why bother being around them? Just keep your distance, if you aren’t near each other how can there be conflict? Or alternatively, if somebody has upset you or annoyed you, avoiding them gives you some time to cool down and have a good think about things. Then return to step 1.


3) Have a rant and a moan – Go find a confidant whether it be a friend, a lecturer of yours, a counsellor, a cat or even a stranger on the bus (the last two are probably less effective in helping you talk out your problems. Cats will cuddle you though; strangers on the bus probably won’t.). When you’ve found that confidant, just have a rant about what’s causing you to be upset and it’ll make you feel better by getting it off your chest. Then return to step 1 or 2 accordingly.

4) Confront them! Late teens/early twenties is an awkward age. Most people are desperate for acceptance and there will let some things slide that later in life they’ll look back on and think ‘Why didn’t I do something about that?’ Confrontation is something people don’t like but it’s healthy and can solve your problems quite easily. It doesn’t have to be a shouting match, full of tears or you marching on the warpath, you just need to let them know where you stand. And if you are quite easy going, (like all stereotypical students) if you show they’re getting to you, they’ll take it seriously. They crave acceptance too so they’ll probably be bringing you cups of tea and biscuits in way of apology in no time. Then return to step 1.

So it’s all pretty simple. You’ve got no excuses. Good jobs don’t look after you when you are old and sick, friends and family do. So get your priorities right and straighten everything out, otherwise you’ll end up regretting not doing it.