I love it when journalists send me questions for interview, however the below questions were well thought out and very philosophical, this to-be journalist is going to be a world leader.
Hope you will like what i said:
1/ Please tell us about yourself and your background ( Education, work experiences) well my aspiration here is to have a PHD in education, but I had to stop at the masters level and continued to study various subjects on my own to accumulate more knowledge about the field. Coming out of the finance and accounting was not easy, and building my career at the age of 45 to become a real educationalist took a lot of work.
2/ What incentives encouraged you to become an entrepreneur? In actual fact I don’t consider myself an entrepreneurs, I consider myself a person with an idea to help kids figure out their future path, and help them find what they like to do in life, and guide through to place them at a university or a college that matches their potential and their budget. However, to do this I have to invest, and that took a lot of courage, as it was not easy to find the money, even though I had some but it was not that great to start a business, so I had to borrow, and being great in the finance field I was able to stretch that money until we started to earn from our idea. But doing the idea was for a reason, I didn’t want to work as an employee for the rest of my life, I was at an age where I wanted to travel and see places, meet more people and have a great time, also I wanted to be a writer, and all of this could not have happened if I stayed working for others.
3/ Please introduce the company you established few years ago and let us know your global activities ? as I mentioned above, the company was the fruits of being an eternal student, the mishaps that happened to me whenever I travelled to study, questions like where I am going, how to get there, who will do my visa, do I need a bank account, who will take me to the university, is it far? where will I live, will I find friends? Can I borrow to pay for my fees? Is the field of study good for me or not? These questions made me swear that I will not let any student that comes my way face these issues again. And because I was honest, people opened up to me and started to come for advise. My success is the success of my students, and because they succeeded, they brought their family, their friends and anyone that ask them on how to go to a university. of course when we started there was no google, and no social media, nowadays, we do get many students, but I must confess, they are more advanced in their questions, and that gave us more depth and made our job that much more interesting.
4/ Why educating others about education is so important to you? to me going to a university is not just to study, but to have a personality, and to learn about the country and its people. The student needs to be a well-rounded individual, who should be going places, travelling, learning, and socialising. I am all for studying abroad, if one can afford it, as the amount of learning one can achieve is tremendous, no matter how much learning one does in one’s own country, the stuff he or she will learn about in another country will surpass the learning if done at home. Learning to be independent, shopping for groceries, paying bills, packing the suitcase and so on, knowing how to stay safe, avoiding dangerous places, cleaning the flat and so on; that will not happen if one stayed home. I enjoyed my studies abroad, and I think every parent should provide this opportunity to ones kids to do the same. Of course we have to equip them too, we should not think that a 16 year old is going to go abroad and succeed, we need to make sure that all the important stuff are covered.
5/ Tell us about the feed back you get from your clients after they achieve their goals in terms of education? The feedback is so great, and that is what encouraged us to stay in business and to grow, we just opened a branch in Bahrain, and that too is going well; we know that we succeeded when the same student that we helped to go for his or her bachelors, comes back to us and ask us to help in getting offers for the masters or the PHD. That by itself is proof that we are good, and that we are remembered. We never asked our students to provide testimonials, but we did that few months ago, and here is what one student had said (see attached email)
6/ How many exhibitions and conferences do you attend annually? Since we are in the education field, we need to ensure that we visit universities and colleges around the world and also see what is happening in the education field itself. In terms of exhibitions, we do 20-25 a year, and university visits of around 6 a year, also we attend 5 main conferences a year. this is not much, as we need to see more. We are members of important education associations such as ICEF, ALPHE, IALC, Study world, NAFSA, EAIE, and many others. Being part of these organisations keeps us on our toes and encourage us to re-evaluate our offerings.
7/ What is the main education destination for Middle Eastern students? Well, sadly its USA, then UK, followed by Canada and Australia. We opened up new destinations like New Zealand when we started our company, which no one had heard about, and then Europe, and Turkey. I feel we have to experiment and we have to diversify as students. However many students will not change their minds, and will continue to go to the place that they think will give them the highest quality. Now, all I need to do is suggest the country, mention its qualities and people will follow what I tell them. I am fortunate that I arrived to this level of trust in people’s mind, and the main reason is that I am not just trying to sell a product, it’s a life of four ears abroad that I am planning, so we have to be very careful.
8/ As we have seen many universities and colleges have opened branches in UAE and are pioneers in enhancing education system here. What is the reason behind their interest? This is correct, and someone told me that I will have to close the business since they all came here!! To begin with, many things are happening around the world as we speak, people started to feel uneasy about sending a daughter or a son away, also the countries themselves had made stringent visa rules. So the universities were smart, instead of “Mohammed going to the mountain, the mountain came to Mohammed” and this makes sense. However I feel the government should make stringent rules so the same high quality education provided in the home country is also maintained here, otherwise we will have problems in the evaluation of the students’ documents if they wanted to go abroad for their masters afterwards.
9/ What are the criteria for your students to be eligible for financial assistance? We have two types of students here, one type is the local students who will be eligible in any case for financial aid, as the government of the UAE, wants ever UAE student to avail of the “free education to all” concept, and then we have the other GCC students who are also recipients of scholarships from their own government. The third international students that will receive scholarships from the universities themselves, or from the charity organisations provided they show high potential and high grades. The last level is the students that we help because they do not fall under any category mentioned above. My team and I gather forces, and ask our friends, and relatives to chip in and we finance some students. Of course we are not able to do a lot, and are not able to generate funds to be sufficient for universities with high fees, so we look for places that are not that expensive but still high quality and send these students to them. but our favourite ones are those rich kids whose parents will pay anything just to get them educated.
10/ What is your advice for your students? My advice, is, don’t just study, live and enjoy, Work, and help others, and do not forget to get reference letters from your professors and colleagues. Make friends and take a cake to your neighbours, as one never know when we will need them.
11/ Who is your role model and why? I have to say its my dad (PBUH), if it wasn’t him, I will be just another person living in a village in Bahrain.
12/ How do you see future of education world wide in terms of integration with internet and e- education? I am not a pessimist, and I feel that with the increase in population there will be an increase in education seekers. I am sure teaching will be done in a blended way, with webinars, chat rooms, online studies and face-to face for case studies and group discussions. I cannot foresee that people are going to stay home and only study online, but I would think that online studies like Cursera and MOOC (and these are free courses too) will be a great help to mothers and fathers who are not able to go abroad but want to do some studies. That is why there are not many that is offering a full degree online, and even if a university did, a portion will be multi-modal. Our governments unfortunately are not approving studies by distance, but to me its alike a turtle drawing her head inside her shell to avoid discussing the reasons, and maintain that whatever is online is not high quality, which is not entirely true. Organisation spend billions to prepare the courses, and we cannot dismiss them just because some people had purchased few certificates online from rogue universities. I would say people must beware, but I will not advise anyone against studying by distance, I feel a category of people can benefit of it.
13/ What is your opinion about social media? Look at me, I am a big fan of social media, I use them all, and I would be on social media for few hours every day, its part of my job. However like everything else, it can be a great thing and it can be something that we may regret having. Kids must be careful, as their future employers are watching. Be there, but be sensible is my advice to kids. I use it to tell the students about the new stuff, but I hate to use as a sales mechanism. I feel that it defeats the purpose. We can use the normal advertisement to sell our services, but the social media can be kept for interaction with students and helping them when they are in difficulty.
14/ When is the cap where utilizing social media is too much to handle? If you tell me that you can only go on facebook, twitter, Instagram, pinterest, google plus, snachat and so on, for an hour a day, I may get a heart attack. There should not be a cap. Its like going on a diet, it’s a personal thing. Too much food will make you fat, too much social media will make you a nervous wreck.
15/ Do you believe education formats need modifications? Tell me about it. of course I believe that the format should change. We are not following the advancement in technology in our teaching, and that is so sad. The educators around the world are working so hard to introduce new methods of teaching, all we do in the middle east is to ignore and continue to hide behind the old methods of teaching.
16/ As we know more and more people are seeking further education to enhance their knowledge as well as learning skills. With all the hard working and too many competition in the work force , they often are over qualified in the job they are hired. Does that discourage young generation? I don’t think the young generations are actually thinking of this, but most of them are also trying to work on the skills needed for the job, which are communication skills, presentation skills, team work and working outside the box. Lets face it, the companies will never reject a person because of over qualification, this is said to obscure the real reasons which are the basic skills for working that people do not have.
17/ How do you link education and gratification? I don’t see that there is a link, there is no limit to education, and I am a great believer in studies for life.
18/ What are the lessons you have learned from your colleagues in Education field and what are the lessons you have passed on? How long does this interview need to be? I cannot count how much I had learning from my colleagues, the field is as large as the world itself.
19/ What are the complementary steps to take if one wishes to enter educational field? Perseverance, perseverance and perseverance. But if one wants a rewarding field, there isn’t one field that equates to it. one needs an open mind, and ability to accept new methodologies.
20/ How is reading outside academic institute valuable? I am a sucker for reading, anything that comes under my eyes will be read. It increases our horizon, and makes us open minded. We must encourage people to read. It doesn’t have to be a novel or a magazine, it can be a blog, a flier, a non fiction and for me the best is autobiographies.
21/ Are the governments in the west taking education as their priority agenda? What are they doing to keep students in schools and universities? In most western countries the education budget is the biggest, some go as far as making studies free for all (local and international students like Europe and brazil) we must follow suit to stay afloat.
22/ Many successful entrepreneurs have dropped out of school and are running multi million dollars businesses? Does that discourage education? No it doesn’t, tell me how many did that? Everyone mentions Steve Jobs, and Bill gates, who didn’t drop out of school, but they didn’t graduate as they took the subjects that they liked in university but combined didn’t give them a full degree in one subject, which is a weakness in the education field that we must address. Also in the early eighties we used to listen to a song which was popular at that time “we don’t need no education” and everyone interpreted the song as rebelling against education, when it was actually saying “we need education” when you remove the negative words from it “don’t” and “no”. Education (whether formal or informal) is a way of life, and many people pursue it for the wrong reason, however we must encourage the positive side of it.
23/ Are the enhanced technologies providing better environments for education? I agree, technology and education go hand by hand. If you think about it, today we are learning more things a day than we ever did, I envy the new generation, as they will reach to my position in less time, it took me years to reach to where I am, and kids of 27 years old are doing much better than me as they had everything sandwiched for them. for example I used to spend a month to look for references in the library, now all I need to do is to write what I want and in a flick of a second I find it on google. Think how technology have changed the way we do things. Marvellous really.
24/ Are students in schools because of their interests or they are forced by their guardians? One scholar had said before that human beings are lazy by nature, I don’t agree with that, but he was able to prove it by doing some studies. I think parents need to push their children to start, and give them incentives, but at the end the love to learn must come from within, and educators should find ways to keep the students motivated.
25/ What is your dream to achieve in education platform? My dream is to teach everything that is needed for a job in each major, the world needs people that know a bit of everything, so a doctor for example has to also learn finance, accounting, business, management, computing and communication studies. I would also teach the doctors how to write well, as many times a prescription was misread and patients where given the wrong medicine. I would love to have them do some art or sculpturing, not that we need more artists in this world, but art has the magic of making the person unwind.