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!