Category Archives: Leadership

Thoughts on the Higher Education Ecosystem in Lebanon

يعاني المجتمع اللبناني من غياب الموضوعيّة والتحليل العلمي في تناول المواضيع المطروحة للبحث بشكلٍ عام، بغياب حركة ثقافية معرفية قادرة على تمييز النّقد الجادّ، المتأتّي من تمحيص وتدقيق- و هُما أساس البحث المتجرِّد- من النّقد اللاذع، الشّعبوي، التبسيطيّ السّهل. ولا يسلم قطاع التعليم العالي من هذه الغوغائية في التقييم، إذ يَدرُج أن يطال النّقد أو المدح ما يُعرَف ب”الجامعات القديمة” (أغلب الظنّ أنّ المقصود هنا هو “العريقة”)، و”الجامعات الجديدة” بشكلٍ تسطيحي. وكأنّ كلّ من هاتين المجموعتين تشتمل على مؤسسات تربوية متشابهة الأهداف والرؤى، موحَّدة الجسم التعليمي والاداري، متساوية الإنجازات والنّجاحات، أم الفشل والتحدّيات. ولا يخفى أحداً أنّ قطاع التعليم حول العالم قد عرف تطورات محورية في طرائق التعليم وأهدافه، والجسم الطلّابي الذي يخدم. إِلَّا أنّنا، وكما تعوّدنا في بلادنا، نفضّل الوقوف على الاطلال والتّعامي عن الدّور الحيوي الذي تلعبه بعض الجامعات الحديثة-النشأة، ونغضّ الطرف عن المشاكل الجمّة التي تعانيها بعض الجامعات الأقدم. لذلك، وللمساهمة الإيجابية في هذا النّقاش لا بد من الإضاءة على بعض المعطيات:

١- إنّ الدّور الإيجابي الذي تلعبه بعض الجامعات الخاصة العريقة (وأنا أحد خرّيجيها) والتي ميّزت لبنان وجعلته منارة الشرق، يترافق مع تكلفةٍ ماليّة باهظة تتخطّى قدرة المواطن متوسّط الدخل وتمنعه من ارتيادها، وهي أساساً (أي تلك الجامعات) لا تتساوى بمستواها التعليمي والأكاديمي.

٢- حقّقت بعض الجامعات الحديثة-النشأة إنجازات مميَّزة وطليعيّة لم تنل ما تستحقّه من الاهتمام والإضاءة لغياب القدرة التسويقية والإهتمام الإعلامي. بعض هذه الإنجازات على سبيل المثال لا الحصر تتمثَّل بالبرامج المشترَكة مع أرقى الجامعات والمراكز العالميّة. وآخر هذه الاتفاقيات ستُطلِق صفوفاً مُشترَكة بين الجامعة الحديثة للإدارة والعلوم وكلّيّة الطبّ بجامعة ستانفورد المصنّفة أولى عالميّاً في مجالاتٍ عديدة (أبرزها علوم الحياة والكومبيوتر والإدارة..).

٣- تتعاون الجامعات اللبنانية، قديمها وجديدها، في مشاريع بحثيّة مُشْتَركة مع جامعاتٍ أوروبيّة وأميركيّة رائدة، حيث يعمل اساتذة جامعيين لبنانيين واجانب جنباً الى جنب، وهو دليل أنّ في الجامعات المُخْتَلِفةِ، اساتذة وطلّاب لبنانيين ذوي قدرة علميّة واكاديميّة عالية لا تقتصِر على مجموعة واحدة من مؤسسات التعليم العالي. فمراكز الأبحاث العالمية لا تبدي أهميّة لتاريخ تأسيس الجامعات اللبنانيّة بقدر اهتمامها بمستواها التعليمي ومشاريعها، ما أدّى إلى نجاحاتٍ وبرامج تبادل متقدمة لجامعات لبنانية حديثة-النشأة.

٤- أدّت (وتؤدّي) بعض الجامعات “الجديدة” دوراً مركزيّاً في خدمة جيل من ذوي الدّخل المحدود الذين تخرّجوا الى سوق العمل أو اكملوا دراساتهم وأبحاثهم في ابرز جامعات العالم. فكانت هذه الجامعات اللبنانية باب عبورٍ وتواصل ثقافي وعلمي الى عالمٍ أرحب وأوسع، في سبيل بناء وطنٍ أكثر ازدهاراً، غنىً، وتنوُّعاً.

٥- تبقى الجامعة اللبنانية مسؤوليّةً مشترَكة لكافة قطاعات المجتمع وعلى رأسها القطاع التربوي الذي يشكِّل التعاون والتكامل الأكاديمي احد ركائزه وأرقى ميِّزاته.

ختاماً، خلقت العولمة فضاء جديدا للتعليم العالي ، وأنتجت الثورة التكنولوجية نماذج جديدة اختصرت المسافات الزمنية وشكلت فرصة استثنائية للتطور اذا ما وجدت الأسس المؤسساتية الثابتة. من الضروري اعتبار المؤسسات العريقة مرجعية لتوفير قاعدة للتطور وتوفير المؤشرات والمقاييس لاصدار احكام موضوعية بشأن واقع الجامعات وموقعها .
فموضوع العلاقة بين الجامعة والمجتمع يشكل قضية محورية ، والامر مرتبط بسياق متعدد الأبعاد على صلة بحالة المجتمع المدني والإعلام.

عسى أن تُشكّل هذه الأفكار يوماً ما أساساً لنِقاشٍ علمي، منهجي وشفّاف حول التعليم الجامعي في لبنان بعيداً عن الغوغائيّة والتّسطيح السّائدين

A New Era of Innovation & Creativity: Design Thinking & Growth Mindset

Inspired by H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s plans to “make the UAE among the best countries in the world” by the year 2021 (Golden Jubilee of the Union; UAE Vision2021), MECAT announces its programs in Design Thinking and Growth Mindset, targeting the region’s educational institutions.

Vision 2021 places innovation, research, science and technology as the cornerstones of a knowledge-based, highly productive and competitive economy, driven by entrepreneurs in a healthy environment where public and private sectors form effective partnerships. In a similar vein, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia announced its own version of this plan, dubbed Vision 2030, aiming at creating a modern economy that is less dependent on oil production. For decades, the Arab World has struggled to find a strategy that invigorates and stimulates creativity among its youth, an asset that is largely untapped or under-rated. The balance between rigid discipline and creativity has always been tilted towards the former, stifling originality and critical thinking among our youth. As the UAE leads the way in finding a new path towards modernization, our hope is that MECAT will be a pioneering institution in this venture. As a multi-national, multi-disciplinary, and science-rooted organization, MECAT is well positioned in this effort.

Design Thinking
Design Thinking introduces an innovative way of approaching challenges that we face on a daily basis, in schools, in the workplace and in our personal lives. It is a human-centric, interdisciplinary approach that surpasses traditional mindsets, employing visual, creative, and empathetic thinking to find new solutions to problems. Design Thinking questions old assumptions and what we think we already know. It disrupts the status quo in all disciplines, from education, health care, government, business management, engineering, media, tech industry, or services.

In other words, Design Thinking is synonymous with innovation; it offers a pathway towards innovating and discarding preconceptions, tired and tried ideas.

Growth Mindset
Mindsets are beliefs that we hold about ourselves and our abilities and natural components like personality or intelligence. Some people hold a fixed mindset while others hold a growth mindset. A fixed mindset assumes that qualities of human character are innate and cannot be changed. People with a growth mindset, on the other hand, think of human characters as malleable and adaptable. Neuroscientific evidence has revealed significant differences in the brains of people with a fixed mindset and those with a growth mindset. Our training in this field leads to improvements in academic, social, and professional achievement, and results in increased resilience and motivation.

Our Role
MECAT is the only training center that offers workshops in Design Thinking and Growth Mindset in the Middle East. We aim to introduce these two concepts into the lives of our youth in order to harness their creative abilities, and improve their resilience and motivation. Introducing these two processes into our professional lives also leads to demonstrable increase in creative thinking and productivity.

Our experts and trainers are educators who are keen on changing the world. As the region embarks on a new age of fostering innovation and creative thinking, MECAT training and workshops will be at the forefront of education and innovation in the region.

For further details on our workshops and training, contact us via e-mail: info@mecat.net or by phone: +971 4 458 1326. You can always find us on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube): @MecatAcademy or visit our website: http://www.mecat.net

A Groundbreaking Virtual Exchange Program with Stanford and other American Universities at MUBS

In recent years, so much has been made on the role of globalization in bridging cultural distances and educational disparities among countries and across borders. The tools for such lofty goals have mostly focused on online learning and the ability of faculty and students to communicate and benefit from each others’ expertise and research. In Lebanon, and despite the hype, we have generally lagged behind in utilizing all available routes to promote active exchange of knowledge and information. Institutions that have taken the lead in this exchange and movement towards globalization were either resorting to very limited face-to-face exchange, or passive online learning. The former method is complicated by the political instability in the country, and the former has been proven by research to be of limited long-term benefit as it lacks student engagement and face-to-face interaction.

At MUBS, we have always valued active, participatory, and interactive learning environments. We aspired to bring that same philosophy to our exchange programs. As a result, we have embarked on a pioneering program with Stanford University in California, USA to start the MUBS Virtual Exchange Program that allows MUBS and Stanford University students and faculty to study and work together on a daily basis in select courses and utilizing world-class educational platforms created by Harvard, MIT, and developed by Stanford (Stanford EdX Lagunita Platform).

The benefits of student exchange are vast and multi-layered. Beyond interactive learning in classrooms of 25 students or less, across borders to exchange information and discuss academic material that culminates in a common project presented by groups of four students (each group contains 2 American and 2 Lebanese working on a daily basis through videoconferencing and common course work), the benefits of this exchange are cultural and long-lasting.

Human beings tend to form positive stereotypes of those they resemble, and negative stereotypes of those who are different, creating in-groups and out-groups. Stereotypes are then used to explain behaviors not only of groups, but also of individuals. Such attitudes reduce complex realities, simplifying the multiple causes of human behavior to a single factor. Furthermore, stereotypes can be difficult to suspend because they are also typically linked to strong positive or negative emotions—depending on the nature of the stereotype. When such stereotypes are used to explain behavior, to evaluate performance, or to predict the potential of individuals and groups, conclusions that are reached using such flawed categories will also be flawed.

Unfortunately, we can detect the negative repercussions of stereotypes in our national and international communities. As educators and professionals from MUBS and Stanford, we will try to make our students cognizant of the explanatory frameworks used to judge others, especially out-group members, when working with individuals. Such cognizance is necessary for an objective and realistic understanding of specific communities.

For many decades, educational institutions have set up face-to-face student exchanges to help counter stereotypes and broaden perspectives. In spite of its benefits, though, face-to-face exchange is a difficult and expensive form of educational experience, one that is more often available to students from rich nations, and requires these students to have the means and flexibility to live far away from home for an extended period of time. As a result, we have developed this exchange because our experience suggests that cultural trait stereotypes held about life in the Middle East and the United States can be altered to become more differentiated and objective by engaging students at MUBS and American universities in a cooperative, group educational activity, mediated by technology.

In every field, today’s professionals routinely collaborate with counterparts across multiple borders and oceans, sometimes meeting face-to-face and sometimes meeting through the intermediary of technology. Ease and fluency in these settings is an important professional asset. As a foundation, the exchange will use a form of problem-based learning to help prepare students for this kind of professional collaboration. Developed by faculty and researchers in both the U.S. and Lebanon, the exchange will also emphasize cross-cultural learning, and through new media and technologies it will promote collaborative learning. Working in cross-national teams and empowered with digital tools, students will be tasked to solve the same kinds of problems that they will soon be tasked to solve as professionals, with counterparts they may continue to know long after their common course has ended.

As students at MUBS, the Virtual Exchange Program with Stanford will help prepare students to join this century’s global workforce. This innovative and pioneering program is a testament to our university’s impeccable record in academic circles on the international stage. We are currently planning on expanding our courses to include common courses with Georgetown and George Washington University, which sends a signal on what MUBS is striving to achieve and the standing we hope to realize among the top-ranking universities in the world.

Finding a Purpose & Defining Oneself: On What’s Needed for Success

In his writings exploring moments of greatness that separate exhilarating success from monotonous hours of mere competence, Robert E Quinn, University of Michigan’s Professor of Management and Organization, defines two “states of being”. The Normal State refers to the comfort-centered (sticking with what we know), self-focused (placing our interests above those of the group), externally-directed (complying with others’ wishes to avoid conflict), and internally-closed (avoiding risk-taking) set of behaviors that direct our day-to-day lives on the professional and personal levels. Quinn suggests that while the normal state of being is comfortable and safe, it leaves us with a feeling of languishing and emptiness. The second state Quinn describes is the Fundamental State of Leadership, which he suggests is critical to creating moments of glory and accomplishment. In a nutshell, the Fundamental State is everything that the Normal State is not. Rather than being consumed with self-promotion and personal interest, driven by pleasing others, worrying about their perceptions of you, and following the easier path, the Fundamental State prompts you to focus on one goal that trumps all else: delivering results. This state is usually attained under duress, time crunch, and exceptional circumstances where project completion becomes of existential importance for the organization/ team.

Under such circumstances, leaders become results-oriented,  fixated on the issues that matter the most and ignoring distractions because there is no other way forward. The result? Moments of brilliance and extreme productivity. When dissected, the foundations of the Fundamental State could be utilized to attain enduring, rather than fleeting, times of glory and triumph. According to Quinn, these foundations are: 1. Being results-centered, 2. Being internally-directed, 3. Becoming team-focused, 4. Opening up for feedback and adaptability.

An essential step towards implementing those foundations is defining your core principles. You cannot be relentlessly results-oriented without asking the core question: “What results do I truly care about?”. Neurologist and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl similarly postulates that our ability to thrive lies in finding a greater meaning to our existence (Man’s Search for Meaning, where he defined logotherapy, a form of existential analysis, explores this concept in more detail).

Maya Angelou once said that success is “liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it”. It is impossible to imagine success in those terms if one has not defined their purpose and their passion in life, then striving to achieve it on a daily basis. For leaders, it is becoming clearer that the essence of excellence is dedication to benefit the collective, rather than one’s self. A lesson that could not be stressed enough in a world that appears to glorify hostility in the business world.