|How can Arab schools meet the challenges of the 21st century ?|
|Today's children need a modern educational system that calls for proactiveness and motivation, said participants at a three-day conference titled "Project of the Arab School in a Changing World," at Marriott Hotel.
"The Arab school of the third millennium aims at graduating international students characterized by different values, such as faith in god, love to the land, living among global differences, responsibility and individuality," said Elie Abdel Massih, general manager of Antonine schools.
Abdel Massih stressed the importance of an active and interactive classroom, where students and teachers constitute an integrated part.
"Today's children need teachers who care about students as much as they care about the program and the curriculum," he said, adding that teachers should be experts and advisers.
"Education is no longer confined to the infusion of information that becomes obsolete. We are responsible for shaping students' minds, so they become open to change and innovation," said Abdel Massih.
Education Minister Samir Jisr said that the educational field needs a new approach that matches the speed at which information is created and disseminated. This is why Jisr proposed that great care should go into the selection process of school principals, "who are the main reason behind the educational institution's success."
Moreover, Jisr noted that a 1997 curriculum decree compels schools to update their curricula every four years to keep up with innovations in the field.
Simon Faddoul, a lecturer at AUB said the workshop targeted school administrators, not teachers, who are being invited to shift their thinking and discover their beliefs and values as educators and to help teachers shift from managers to leaders.
"The teacher is asked to play many different roles: curriculum designer, instructional guru, parent, counselor, nurse, advisor, custodian, child development expert, organizational planner, classroom manager, spiritual advisor, mentor, and friend."
Faddoul called on leaders to stop thinking about students and teachers as objects to be managed, and educators as "just managers."
"Educational leaders (administrators and teachers) should invite teachers and students to be 'citizens' in their classroom rather than 'tourists' who simply pass through without involvement, commitment or belonging."
Leaders you admire most are those who match their actions with their values and beliefs, said Faddoul.
A three-phase leadership strategy for classroom management based on "Prevention, Intervention and Problem solving" should be encouraged.
The leadership principles of prevention are meant to nurture self-esteem, build supportive relationships, focus more on preventing than intervening, rely more on the positive than the negative, encourage intrinsic motivation and help one make decisions on the basis of values and beliefs rather than feelings.
Establishing a positive teacher-student relationship is "the single most important factor to consider when rethinking classroom management," he said.
Sabah Fneij, Rawdat al-Fayhaa school's director stressed that the school should provide its students with moral values through the schools' activities. "Families and schools are not the only ones involved in educating children," Fneij said, referring to the fact that concepts and values from other cultures could sometimes invade the local culture, adversely affecting students.
Beirut,07 19 2004
Maya Abou Nassr
The Daily Star