I Want More Nationals Taking Up Teaching

Khaleej Times brings you an interview with Dr. Christine Coombe, Assessment Leader for the Higher Colleges of Technology and English Faculty at the Dubai Men’s College, who has become the first teacher from the Middle East to be elected President of TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages), the largest organisation of English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers in the world.

By Afshan Ahmed (EDUCATION)

Published: Tue 23 Feb 2010, 9:14 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 3:07 AM

Dr Christine Coombe, first teacher from the region to be elected President of TESOL, shares her visionKT photo by Shihab

She shares her vision for teachers of English in the Gulf and her plans on how to create a local talent pool of such teachers in the UAE.

What is Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages International?

It is a not-for-profit organisation based in North America and has members in 140 countries and affiliates in over a 100 countries. TESOL Arabia, headquartered in the UAE is an affiliate of TESOL International.

What is the aim of these organisations?

They aid professional development of members through educational workshops and annual conventions. Members also have access to TESOL’s resources and publications.

For TESOL Arabia to maintain its status, members here have to prepare reports, organise events with renowned speakers and take out publications.

Members of TESOL Arabia, though not directly members of TESOL International are certainly within its affiliate. They can attend events that are conducted within the region.

When did you join TESOL?

I went to my first TESOL International conference in 1988. I got my first job at a TESOL conference. I went on to give presentations and write books that were published by them. I joined TESOL Arabia in 1996.

How long is your tenure as President?

TESOL calls itself a global organisation. Despite that, I am only the fourth president to be elected from outside North America. I start in March as a president elect. It’s a three-year term. I will be President from 2010-2012 and then past president for another year.

What will be your goals as President?

I want to establish a volunteer outreach programme for English teachers. We will try visiting developing countries and provide professional development to teachers in need and who cannot afford to come to our conventions. My dream is also to encourage more participation of UAE nationals in both the organisations.

I will also strive for more benefits and representation of expatriate members at TESOL International.

There is a global shortage of teachers. Why are young people not taking up the profession?

Teaching is not a cushy five-hour job. It’s real work and it does not stop once you leave the classroom because you have to plan lessons for the next day. Teachers are not paid well and have to manage large class sizes and maintain tedious records, which adds to the work stress. It is one of the five professions that are linked to high levels of burnout.

The big challenge of TESOL is that because young people are not interested in the profession, the organisation may not survive unless we reignite the passion for teaching.

How do you reignite this passion?

A successful strategy to avoid burnout and cut down on stress is to focus on the people who are most important stake holders in our field — students — so that one becomes a better classroom teacher. Look for leadership in volunteering organisations such as TESOL and Toastmasters.

What are the challenges TESOL Arabia aims to address this year?

Most of the themes at this year’s conference, which will be held in March at Zayed University in Dubai, will look at transformations in TESOL and how to make changes and respond to be really effective faculty members at our institutions. Some of the others will be on motivation, burnout and how to deal with stress.

How many UAE teachers are members of TESOL or its affiliate?

We have more than 2,500 TESOL Arabia members and the interest is growing. Many of the members are also associated with TESOL International, like me.

Have the initiatives of TESOL Arabia and International entered into the classroom in the UAE?

Yes! When I first came to the UAE, there was a very traditional high stakes assessment scheme in most higher education institutions and now I see most of them embracing alternative assessments. The whole idea is to get students involved in projects, creating portfolios and presentations to assess performance.

Dr Coombe has a PhD in Foreign/Second Language Education and Testing from the Ohio State University. She has lived and worked in the Gulf region for a number of years and served as President of TESOL Arabia and as the founder and co-chair of the TESOL Arabia Testing, Assessment and Evaluation Special Interest Group.


BITS, Emirates National Top Maths Event

DUBAI - BITS Pilani, Dubai Campus and Emirates National School emerged at the top in the university and schools categories of the first-ever mathematics competition here — ‘Mathalone 2010’ — at University of Wollongong in Dubai (UOWD).

Podium finishers received crystal trophies and attractive prizes, including laptops, IPods and mobile phones.

Maths exponents from 11 universities and seven high schools displayed their skills using ‘Activote’ wireless electronic devices that are used in TV shows like Who Wants to be a Millionaire.

The 34 teams competed answering a mixed bag of questions, in a charged atmosphere.

“Worldwide, we have seen a declining interest in mathematics.,” said, Professor Rob Whelan, President, UOWD. “We believe that maths is an important fundamental skill that underpins all academic subjects.

“We hope ‘Mathalone’ will help rekindle the interest in this critical area,” said Prof Rob Whelan. The event was organised by the Computer Science and Engineering Department of UOWD in collaboration with the Mathematics Department of the American University of Sharjah (AUS).

Dr Mohamed Khalil Watfa, Assistant Professor, College of Informatics and Computer Science, UOWD said the potential displayed by the high school students was particularly impressive.


Love to be in front of the camera or behind it?

Study at the Murdoch University in Dubai for a BMedia degree

The Screen Production degree at this Australian University based in Dubai International Academic City seeks to teach practical elements of film and TV production. Students are taken through the grind of filming, editing, writing and producing scripts in an in-house TV production studio and on field. The media teaching space is equipped with the latest in TV and film technology, including SLR digital cameras and green screen.

The degree will help UAE students understand the nitty-gritty of the local, Australian and global screen industry.

They will be taught the operational and technical skills with standard industry training across all aspects of film, TV and digital screen process.

Screen Production students can combine their programme with other disciplines, such as Communication and Media Studies, Online Communication and Production or Journalism. The three-year course can be taken with a double major where students take core units from another major in place of their general elective units.

Enrolled candidates are expected to foster a creative and independent perspective and develop a comprehensive portfolio that showcases their skills at the end of the course.

Job opportunities will be available in new media, advertising, television, music, film, media management, administration, and research.

The cost of the course is approximately Dh60,000 per annum.


Transcripts of high school results. Minimum entry requirements apply and depend on the educational background.

English test score: IELTS/TOEFL.

To apply:

To download application forms and get details about the course, visit www.murdochdubai.ac.ae. Email: admissions@murdochdubai.ac.ae

Tel: 04- 4355700


Animal Farm

All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others. It’s the phrase that lingers long after you’ve put down George Orwell’s fable that is a window to his view of Soviet Communism.

The protest of animals on a farm against their totalitarian owner to create the Animal Farm with equal rights for all is an allegory told in simple words.

It was, chosen by Time Magazine as one of the 100 best English language novels, reflects events leading up to and during the Stalin era before World War II.


Collocations are known as recurrent word combinations. Words in English (as in any other language) have a natural tendency to co-occur with particular ‘partners’: do a favour, make an effort but commit a crime.Students who don’t notice and retain common word combinations often times find themselves unable to use language fluently despite the amount of hours they’ve put in learning English.What’s more, collocations may also be culture-specific. Think of Kleenex tissues. Kleenex is a brand, a generic trademark that has become colloquial or synonymous with particular products in North America. So when you say: “Give me a Kleenex, please”, how many students will understand you? The same applies to Ziploc bags or Velcro shoes.Combinations such as trail mix, snowbird (person who travels to a warmer climate country to spend winter), open house, pick-your-own farm, all-you-can-eat restaurant may have no equivalents in students’ first languages. These are rather new concepts that have to be explained.Food-related language is another example of knowledge shared by the native speakers of English that isn’t apparent to the second language learners. Think of Oreo cookie, Eggs Benedict, Graham crackers.Responding to particular social situations also suggests culture-specific knowledge, often expressed in fixed expressions:

õ Just looking, thanks.õ Are you being looked after?/Are you being helped?õ I’ll be with you in a minute.õ You’ll be answered in priority sequence.õ Five second rule! (when food is dropped on the floor)õ Give me (high) five!

School Teacher Olga Galperin blogs @Englishgateway

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