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Monday, January 23, 2012

Teachers’ e-help

Online forums play platforms for jobs and joy

Dr Gloria Malagon, a Spaniard working now as the head of the Science department at Kuwait Bilingual School, Jahra had zero idea about how teaching life in Kuwait would look like. After she was recruited she immediately searched on the net for ‘information that can really give a taste of a teacher’s life in Kuwait’. What came to her help was the web forums at various sites that discussed opinions and counter opinions from people of different tastes, toes and temperaments. Dr Malagon, now six months in Kuwait, says she has made it a habit to browse through web forums to get feedback from various voices and to check if the opinions hold true with her Jahra experience. She also consults forums back home for environmental problems, animal health and interactive science experiments. “The problem may be local but the solution is global”.

Web forums, more than ever, are playing the role of brochure, guideline and a platform for give and take opinions. The private educational sector in Kuwait is evolving so much so that the schools have openings for teachers from any man’s land. but how do the torchbearers of education see the path to and about Kuwait remains a question. Can web forums help?

“More teachers from Canada, South Africa and the Philippines are expected in Kuwait in the coming years” is a recent comment posted on an online forum. To a question posted on a forum like 'I'm moving to Kuwait to work as a teacher, how's life there?' answers appear within minutes with multiple choices. Comments, wise or otherwise, like 'Age no bar, many foreign schools in Kuwait offer good package'; 'Kuwait is the best place for teachers to make money' and 'Life in Kuwait is great with an array of food, frolic and fun' pop up from nowhere, but in most probability from teachers’ clan who are frequenters of these web-offered forums.

Discouraging observations like 'think twice before you land in Kuwait, discipline can pose a problem'; 'Nothing ever gets done by the management' and 'the demanding parents can frustrate you more than the naughtiest kid' also have their place on the forum that grows its pages by counter and anti-counter arguments from personal to peripheral notes. From finding a friend to tutoring possibilities, these forums, operated mostly by individuals, can be second home for expat teachers.

True, online forums can be opinionated and too personalized. But they are quickest, easiest and simplest information-desk for the aspirers who seek advice, or just want to get the ABCs of the place where they are in. For those wannabe teachers who want to work in Kuwait or who want a change of place within Kuwait, no agony aunts can be helpful as the online forums. ExpatExchange, an online forum for example, discuss topics as varied as apartments in Kuwait, to desert camps and cheap furniture ads. More than 50 page to its credit the ‘reviews of international schools in Kuwait page’ says about a famous American school in Hawalli: ‘There’s no creativity from the teachers’ side. They say you’re on your own, it’s a college prep school’. The comment beneath says, ‘That’s a little bit unfair’.
Justlanded.com, another site has an open forum that discusses advises on teaching in Kuwait (http://community.justlanded.com/en/Kuwait/forum/teaching). To a 49-year old British woman’s question on age restriction in teaching in Kuwait, answers were soothing and seething. Age is not a problem. Some foreign schools like (name mentioned) constantly need teachers. Nationality, more than the degree, is an issue.

What happens when a student asks you to pass him by bribing you or threatening with his wasta. Would you be frustrated or just get used to it, asks a teacher (name withheld) working at a bilingual school. These forums, she said, diminish problems teachers face when they come to know that someone else also is going through similar experience. Problems shared, problems gone.

School managements’ greed, deterioration in the quality of education and schools as show business centers as well as career development courses, new openings and counseling facilities are discussed on these forums. Worldtravels.com has a comment posted on its forum (http://www.wordtravels.com/forum/comments.php?DiscussionID=7142) to a post that worried about a first teaching assignment in Kuwait. The response read: ‘Tourism is what uniting cultures and people in our modern world. Learning and understanding other cultures brings people together.’

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