Now Under New Management!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

As clear as the noonday sun

I am more than happy to present for my readers' approbation another 'recommendation' from HCT faculty in Abu Dhabi. This particular writer has since collected his/her gratuity and wisely moved on, but he/she seems keen that others do not make the same mistake of believing the HCT Bullshit Machine that inhabits the HR and Recruitment Department!

Well, what can I possibly say about the three years of my life that I have wasted working for HCT in Abu Dhabi? I suppose I should start with the positives, so this section will be very short. And my conclusion might raise a few objections too.

My colleagues were, in the main part, the best thing about my time there. They were generally professional, nearly always helpful, and cared about their students. My department was not filled with divas and prima donnas, and only featured a couple of ‘nasties’ and boot-lickers. Moreover, the students could be really great at times, although in general they were not greatly different from most typical Gulf Arab students. However, the negatives far outweighed the positives.

Many of my colleagues appeared to live in genuine fear of the upper management, as it was impossible to know what to expect from them. The senior managers used the fear of being fired as a whip to keep control, and this was backed up by seemingly random sackings. Our department head was generally regarded as a careerist bootlicker, a yes-person, and was treated (and quietly ignored) accordingly. In my department every single teacher was expected to teach way beyond the contracted 20 hours per week, and with so many different sections to teach, it was impossible to maintain the quality.

And regarding the subject of quality, I have to say that I noticed a deterioration in the calibre of the new teachers that arrived during my tenure. This was clearly related to the salary package, which actually underwent a noticeable decline, mostly in terms of reduced housing benefits and school fees allowances. No good teacher with a family would really want to work there now, as there are so many better offers available elsewhere. Now, any sane educator would ask themselves just why such a well-resourced and at one time well-respected college would take such an obviously willing dive southwards in terms of its salary offer. Wouldn’t HCT be keen to retain and recruit the best possible teachers for its students?

And then the answer hit me – like the Arab Spring! The powers that be in the UAE do NOT want top-notch westerners teaching its citizens anymore, as that sort of stuff only leads to the creation of false expectations amongst the people. Democracy? Forget it, Emirati – just stay in your overpaid job and do as you’re told. Enlightenment? That just causes problems, so let’s make sure you’re taught by docile Indians and Philipinos, who will be grateful to work for 10,000 dirhams a month. Yes, that was the reason behind it all the negative changes!

It’s all as clear as the noonday sun now. How sad that I wasted three whole years of my life at HCT in Abu Dhabi before I managed to see it for myself!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Look Back in Wonder


The following message dropped into my inbox a couple of weeks back. After a little light editing, I have decided to release it to the wider public, and for the benefit of the global education fraternity.

I would like to write a brief story about my awful experience at HCT.  

In June 2012 I was given little more than two weeks' notice to close down my working life, sell everything I had accumulated over many years, and leave the country. This was because HCT, in their ultimate wisdom, had decided to eliminate my position.  

OK, let's fast forward two years now.  I apply for the same position, and HCT initially start dragging their feet; then they tell me that I have three weeks to get there. Let's keep in mind here that I had applied in June 2013, that they had interviewed me eight months later, and then did not even offer me the position until the third week of March. Yet they wanted me there in April!  

OK, if that was not bad enough,  the salary stated in the letter of offer did not match the salary that was stated in the email!  Ok, please allow me to repeat; the salary mentioned in the offer letter and the email were different!  The email salary was 20% higher than the one in the letter of offer, and guess which one they stated was the correct one?  Yep, it was the lower offer!

When I questioned this with the HR person, SR, she stated that the higher rate was for someone with a PhD. This was of course a lie, and we both knew it. The offer was in fact LESS than I had been making before I'd had to leave, it included no housing, and you could not rent an apartment for what they were giving as housing allowance.  It was MUCH worse, in other words.

Although I sometimes kick myself for not having taken the job, most all of my former colleagues are gone, no doubt having been replaced by lower salaried teachers. In fact, my former director assured me that he would be gone by the end of this semester, as he was being replaced by an Emirati (who may or may not have an education degree).

In closing, reading your blog has kept me strong in my decision to not return to the UAE.  I met many lovely people there, expats and locals that have made my life better, but thank you for your words of encouragement about not working for this organization.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

“Run AWAY! AWAY!!!!!!!!!!!!”

The following glowing report on HCT came from the following source:
 http://www.glassdoor.com/Reviews/HCT-Reviews-E384204.htm
You can find many similar reports there!
 
Administration (Current Employee)
 Dubai (United Arab Emirates) 

I have been working at HCT full-time for more than 3 years
ProsA lot of money for new technology.
ConsIf you want to be treated like a human being with employee rights then this is not the place for you.

They do not respect expertise, education, contributions, ethics or hard work. They do not care how important you think you are. They do not care how many publications you have. If you say one wrong thing, to one wrong person, you are out. Period. And you have NO employee rights and no recourse.

They are actually now cutting employee benefits. The new housing allowance isn't enough to get a shady dump in the wrong part of town for your family.

They lie about how great HCT is doing. It is all propaganda. In reality teachers are on mandatory overtime (as much as 25 hours face-to-face contact time per week). Nobody is allowed any money for professional development opportunities externally. Students are allowed to skip classes or turn in work at such low quality the teacher does not even know how to grade it. Students cheat on papers and exams and teachers are not allowed to fail them. Students do 10% of the work that would be required in the equivalent course in the UK or Canada. HCT shows the accrediting committees all the fancy course outlines and technology. The accrediting committee needs to just test graduates and they will then see the truth: students do not actually learn anything.

Technology implementation is done contrary to every single project management guide on the planet. There are no usability studies. No pilots. Stakeholders are not included in key decisions. Stakeholders do not receive any communication. And teachers must implement the latest technology change quickly or risk losing their job. They change technology on teachers every year or two. Today it is this device. Then tomorrow another one. Teachers are stressed as they keep having to revise all their curriculum for the latest technology change they are required to use.

There are NO chances for advancement. The job you come for is all you will have. You will never get promoted. They will dump more and more responsibility and duties on you but never give you a new title or pay raise. There are no pay raises. Ever. Never. Right now they are firing people and hiring them back for a lower salary and with less benefits (Yes. Really. Remember: no employee rights). The social disparities and racism are rampant on top of that.

It is a culture of fear and negative morale. I would not let my dog work here. This place is toxic. The second I can leave I will. Everyone is madly searching for jobs elsewhere.

No, I would not recommend this company to a friend – I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company
 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

In defense of HCT - that teacher finally writes!

My stance on working at HCT? Well, it’s a pretty good doss, provided you don’t take it at all seriously. So, in contrast to all the whingers on this blog, I would like to offer a positive voice on teaching at HCT, and reveal a hidden opportunity.

Firstly, if you really want to make a difference to the system of education at HCT, you can start just by introducing a few of the elementary features of what is normally believed to be ‘good teaching practice’. Although many of the students behave like naughty school kids, with their typical disruptive and disrespectful behaviour, this actually offers immense scope for professional development. For example, many of my students enjoyed asking stupid questions, scraping their chairs loudly on the floor, and falling into exaggerated fits of coughing whenever I opened my mouth to speak. Addressing these issues means that I can write a paper about the application of a wide range of motivational techniques – often when I am supposed to be teaching!

Another example of the students' exemplary application was the fact that they were often keen to sit there doing nothing, except chatting with their friends and toying with their mobiles. This general reluctance to write anything, except on the desk, sometimes meant that the class was carried out in the traditional oral manner that the students felt most comfortable with. Again, this problem offered another opportunity for activating  the theory-practice dichotomy, and especially for the advocacy of not imposing text-based Western approaches to learning. Moreover, as many of my male students would constantly leave the classroom to chat with their friends, and others would randomly enter the classroom whenever they felt the need to speak with a classmate, this underlined the fact that they assigned an inverted sense of importance to formal Western notions of discipline, clearly prioritising the local culture. In most cases, the students failed even to bring along their course books and pens, again illustrating their attachment to the traditional oral methods of the transferral of knowledge.

Even the fact that many HCT teachers live in fear of complaints from students, together with the sure knowledge that the college management will not support them, means that a professional development opportunity presents itself once more. In fact, I am currently considering writing a paper regarding the crucial aspect of how teachers can preserve their integrity in a Gulf teaching environment without having to assert any of the approved attendance, discipline and homework policies, out of the very real fear that the students will complain and the teacher’s employment be terminated. However, this one might be a little more difficult than I first envisaged!

So, the moral here is: if you’re prepared to come and work at HCT, come prepared to do some research!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

HCT Pay Out in Full - Blog to Close!

Yes, I am extremely happy to report that HCT have paid out the sum of almost $40,000 to secure the closure of this blog. This sum represents the gratuities that were denied to three former employees who were dismissed on false charges.

As a result of the above settlement, this blog will be closing down very soon, in accordance with the promise made to the HCT senior management. Certain postings will also be removed from the Dave's ESL Cafe website.

I would like to give my thanks to all the supporters of this blog - and its detractors - for their time and attention over the past years. Together, we have managed to prove that persistence does indeed work, and that the choking fumes of negative (but true) publicity can be used to positive effect.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

A recent HCT departure spills all...

I went to HCT with a plan to stay there for about 10 years. After my first week in classes I abandoned that plan, and after a month there I questioned whether I'd make it through the initial 3-year contract.

I found the daily stress there to be untenable. Not only was I on mandatory overtime (22 contact periods per week - ridiculous in a "collegiate" environment – though some colleagues were working up to 25), but they emphasize paperwork/professional development/meetings at the expense of doing a quality job in the classroom.

There were mandatory office hours - 8-5 Sunday to Thursday. In fact, when I arrived the mandatory hours were 8-4, but then we got a new director and assistant director. The ‘Supervisors’ would roam the massive faculty room to ensure all their teachers were at their desks until 5.

All faculty (approx. 70 at FWC) are relegated to one huge room in which they are assigned a workstation with absolutely no privacy. It was noisy as well. Administration insisted that such an environment promoted communication, collaboration, and coordination (the infamous 3 C's of HCT). They push "teamwork" ad nauseam.

Some students were OK, while many others were nightmares in abayas. Basically, HCT focuses on increasing the student population (thus bringing in more money from the government), resulting in "students" who shouldn't be there, young ladies who view college as a means of providing a social network. Often classes were out of control - several teachers walked out of their classes during my last semester there, including me (twice).

The curriculum went from bad the first year I was there to ludicrous the second year. They switched from an integrated skills curriculum to strands, requiring us to teach language skills in separate classes. That curriculum proved to be a debacle.

If you like meetings, then HCT is the place for you. As a rule, I hate them. I believe that, with few exceptions, meetings are a waste of time. At a previous college in Saudi Arabia we had one mandatory meeting per month, and I found that marginally acceptable. At HCT I had two mandatory meetings per week. That was simply insane.

And the conferences - mandatory, mandatory, mandatory. And they would punish you if you didn't attend them.

They pushed professional development ad nauseam as well - PEP, goals, meetings, seminars, etc. They even went so far as to hire a PD company from the USA to impose PD activities on us. At the first staff meeting for the new year we found ourselves playing in "teams" with pieces of rope for about 30 minutes. Again, it was insane, and a colossal waste of time considering the formidable teaching schedule and new curriculum for which we needed to prepare our lessons.

My first week in the classroom I was observed by my supervisor - and get this, it was also my first time with one of the classes. Insanity again!

I got little relief from the stress as work when I went home to my apartment. An Emirati family with two small children lived directly above me, and the noise would extend into the early morning hours. I complained to them, the apartment manager, and HCT for nine months with NO relief.

When you arrive they "give" you 30,000 dirhams and one week to buy all the stuff for your dwelling. You have to buy everything, including kitchen appliances, washer, etc. Keep in mind that this is a LOAN, and it's amortized over the course of your 3-year contract. If you resign early, you pay back part of that loan. It's not so easy to sell your stuff, either, unless you happen to be there when new teachers arrive.

I will give them credit for paying me on time every month and for providing me with a decent annual travel allowance (for me about $2800). They were also generous with the gratuity when I left. But that's all the credit I can give them.

Basically, HCT was a major disappointment for me. I don't consider them a college. The environment there, especially the behaviour of many of the students, reminded me of a middle school setting. With HCT it's all about window dressing, smoke, and mirrors.

Don’t go there.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Site Stats

The past month's site stats for HCT Sucks are quite revealing. It appears that the 'Three Uniteds' - States, Kingdom, and Emirates - have the most interest in this site, notching up more than 1500 hits together. What's strange here is that, despite this blog being blocked in the UAE, more than 300 people are finding a way round it every month. Strange, perhaps, but not entirely surprising.


Entry                         Page Views
United States              791
United Kingdom         589
United Arab Emirates 329
Canada                      202
Australia                      97
Germany                     94
Thailand                      60
Kazakhstan                 48
Russia                         41
France                        40
South Africa                33
Phillipines                    25
Other countries           96

As can be seen from the above figures, the great majority of this blog's visitors come from English-speaking countries (not too surprising, as it's written in English!), which probably indicates that prospective employees are checking out the truth of the situation before making a decision to apply for a position. And maybe there are a few past HCT faculty there too, gleefully catching up on the demise of a past nemesis.

Anyway, with in excess of 2000 hits per month, this blog is going stronger than ever - now in its third year - despits its apparent 'banning' in the UAE itself. This fact itself is a testimony to this blog's status as an accurate measure of the state of things in King Kamali's rotten empire. On this blog, you will always get the unvarnished truth about HCT, and this information acts as a crucial counterbalance to all the bullshit and half-truths peddled by HCT's marketing and recruitment stooges.

So once again, we would like to repeat our pledge to remove this blog as soon as the gratuities that were illegally denied us are paid in full. And that could be the most effective 300k that HCT pays out next year!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

HCT Job Alert!

Looking for a teaching position at HCT? If so, you may well have seen the following advertisement.


Teachers needed: Khalifa Bin Zayed Air College in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates
Posted By: Higher Colleges of Technology
Date: Thursday, 11 October 2012, at 12:47 p.m.

English Faculty
The Higher Colleges of Technology is a key component of the United Arab Emirates’ strategy to be part of the global marketplace, to develop and diversify its economy, and to maintain a unique cultural heritage. Established in 1988, the HCT is the UAE’s largest Higher Education Institution with more than 19,000 students enrolled at its 17 men’s and women’s colleges across the country. It is helping to shape the future by preparing young Emiratis for productive, satisfying roles in the local workforce and the global economy.
It is an exciting organization that has employees from over 60 different countries, including the UAE, USA, UK, India, South Africa, Lebanon, Australia, the Philippines, Canada and Pakistan. These employees are drawn by the adventure, travel and excitement of living in one of the youngest, fastest developing countries in the world, a country of rich diversity, of great tolerance and of progress.
Faculty members are responsible for providing effective instruction in English Foreign Language (EFL) at all levels, from beginner to advanced. Curriculum is taught to second language learners within a student-centric learning environment that fosters respect for students, their culture, and traditions. Emphasis is placed on Aviation industry specific vocabulary terms, speaking and listening are emphasized as that is the mode of communication mostly utilized by pilots.
The position is for the Khalifa Bin Zayed Air College in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates.

However, you really need to be aware of the following item of information too:

Anybody thinking about applying for one these HCT jobs at Khalifa Air College is seriously advised to think again.

The long and the short of it is that the department has been in an increasing state of disarray ever since a certain Amy Subaey took over as Supervisor of the HCT Military Languages Programme in Aug 2011. Within a few weeks of her appointment, she had totally antagonised her whole teaching team - an antagonism which from the word go was intense, instantaneous and uniform across the whole teaching team. As the year progressed, the feeling went from bad to worse: she brooked no opposition, and by the end of the year (June 2012) she terminated the contracts of SIX long standing teachers with good track records at HCT (i.e. half the teaching team).

The department has been short staffed for the last six months, with the result that classes get doubled up, or just don't get taught, and two teachers have been absent for substantial periods over the past term, undergoing treatment for clinical depression. Most of those who have been recruited on casual contracts are getting out as fast as they can go, and those who are there on regular HCT contracts are mostly trying to get transfers to other HCT departments.

The chances of any improvement in the situation are pretty slim as student numbers are set to rise again in March, but they haven't even got enough teachers to cover the existing classes.


Well done, Amy Subaey - another candidate for punchinthefacebook.com!