Here’s to a first perfect Virtually Connecting session

Okay so yesterday was my first time being the Virtual Buddy (VB) for a Virtually Connecting session, I’ve been mostly doing onsite buddying and virtual participating so far. Through no fault but my own because I did not have internet at home. Yes, you read that correctly, we are in the 21st century, 4G is in almost half the world’s countries…etc and I don’t have internet at home. That’s only because 4 years ago we moved a bit outside of the city to a quieter, more suburban place and they hadn’t installed the phone lines in that area yet. Yes, I’ve been living without Wifi or ADSL at home for the past 4 years. Thank God for 3G though haha. In any case, we’ve just installed wifi at home a couple of weeks ago, finally! so I should be set to be more involved with Virtually Connecting, hopefully 🙂

Anyway, yesterday we were connecting to the Association for Learning Technology Annual Conference #altc with Jose Fraser and Jane Secker, two really interesting keynote speakers (Josie had her keynote that morning and Jane’s keynote is on Thursday) and Sue Beckingham, our onsite buddy. The VC session was absolutely amazing, it went really smoothly, the conversation kept going for a little under an hour! well not at first. We had this really funny incident in the middle where Sue, our onsite buddy, wrapped up the conversation around the 30 minute mark (the average time set up for VC sessions anyway). Usually in VC sessions we go offline and stop broadcasting when the guests and onsite buddy leave and continue the conversation among us virtual participants for a little while longer. So we all said our goodbye’s and our thank you’s to the onsite folks and I was just getting ready to go offline and announced that we are hanging around online for a while to continue chatting. So Josie and Jane were like, “we’re good, we can stick around and carry on the conversation”! So I decided to keep the live session going and recorded the rest of the session. So the whole #byenotbye thing was pretty funny 🙂 Just an overall really enjoyable experience and I’m looking forward to buddying again this afternoon with Lorna Campbell and Fiona Harvey.

Here’s the recorded session

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Educational Policy Analysis – Journal #14

We had the social gathering last night and it was absolutely amazing! I enjoyed every minute of it. The food was brilliant, and just as I expected, the peanut butter chicken that I had been waiting for was to die for! (note: the recipe is in my possession and I play to replicate the delicious experience repeatedly)

José invited a fellow MA student who is a musician so he brought his guitar and sang for us. I really enjoyed that. He plays and sings very well! Also, José wrote a poem that he performed with background guitar by Ahmed, so this was just … I don’t know, I don’t have words to express how beautiful the poem and the performance was. The poem itself was very well written and got me very emotional, which is unlike me because I don’t usually engage with poems. So overall it was a great evening.

I had to leave before it was over though, because my cousin is in town. I haven’t seen her in 8 years and she brought her two kids, whom I have only seen in pictures so I was dying to see these little munchkins!

as a whole this course has been very interesting for me, partly because I am intrigued by policy and partly because I have an educational background of international relations. So the content and the discussions I experience throughout this course spoke to me in more ways that one, and for that I am every grateful and appreciative. Like I always say, any experience that adds to my knowledge in any way is automatically a favorite of mine. And I proudly say that this course has been one of my very few favorite courses I have taken at AUC. Thank you José, you truly are one brilliant educator and your inspire me to think in ways I have not charted before. I know you are leaving in a week so I look forward to seeing you these few days and catching up!

Please stay in touch, I know I will because my social life has now pretty much shifted from face to face to online. I literally am closer to my online friends than my in-town friends, so I will be in touch 🙂

I am super ready for summer now, because I haven’t taken a break for about a year now. But I am also very much excited for the next semester courses on learning, teaching and development theories and practice.

Farewell Spring 2016, hello summer vacation- full of learning 🙂

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Educational Policy Analysis – Journal 13

I’m back in Cairo. I miss Rome and my friends. I miss the interesting discussions that I had with presenters and keynote speakers at the conference. But it’s not all bad because I get to have an interesting discussion in this week’s assignments for the course.

Ok, so I will include the questions and answers to the assignments here, and because this is a slightly less formal assignment, in the sense that it is not formulated as a research paper or essay, it’s pretty conversational and written in a familiar manner.

Demonstrate your knowledge about the content of this course by answering the following questions. Each answer must be within the range of 400 and 500 words, i.e., no more than one page per answer.

Question 1

Fischer and Forester (1993) claim that policy analysts ought to engage in the duality of substantive analysis and cogent articulation, which reflect the challenge of political astuteness and rational soundness. Given the policy analysis documents that you have read (for class and for self-enrichment) thus far, how have you understood this relationship to manifest in real terms? Feel free to provide real-life examples to support your answer.


The challenge of engaging in this duality of substantive analysis and cogent articulation is one that faces both policy analysts and policy makers. There is a tricky relationship and it is difficult, yet crucial, to find the balance between political astuteness and rational soundness. This duality of practice however is at the very core of argumentation as Fischer and Forester address it. Language is at the heart of this relationship as it is the medium people use to express the content as well as the way they deliver that content. The reason why it could be problematic if this balance is lacking is because if policy makers focus only on using language (without strong substance) to convey their message, there will be negative public feedback that there is absence of transparency. In addition, if they focus merely on conveying the situation as it is with absolute clarity, they will be faced with more anger and be accused of being heartless or inconsiderate. So it’s a tricky balance to achieve, yet it is crucial because as Fisher and Forester portray, one simply needs to exist in congruity with the other to achieve proper argumentation. Therefore, finding the language that would deliver a message accurately and at the same time not stir negative public opinion (or ideally stir positive opinion) is an important exercise policy analysts and policy makers face. I’ve understood this relationship, or the lack of it for that matter, to manifest in real terms with relevance to euphemisms used in political speeches and in societies. Real life examples of euphemisms used in political speeches are repeatedly found in Obama’s and the US Government’s public statements. An example, found in this article, that Obama constantly avoids using the word ‘war’ when addressing the US attacks on ISIS. He repeatedly refers to these violent attacks as ‘process’, ‘mission’, ‘unrest’, ‘fight’, ‘campaign’ or the most ironic, ‘a moment of American leadership.’ Another example of is Hillary Clinton’s speech on ‘business with Iraq.’ She said that Iraq has one of the largest oil reserves in the world so that makes it a potential business partner. A tweet by Jeanette Sandernista that includes a snippet of the speech said “#Hillary 2016’s “mistake” sent 67 sons & daughters of #Kentucky to their deaths in Iraq. But it was good business.” This portrays how politicians engage in political astuteness and use, or in this case I should say abuse, euphemisms when addressing the public in order to avoid saying the truth transparently. This example also shows the public’s reaction to this speech. This therefore highlights the lack of presence of this duality of rational soundness and political astuteness because they express the content in a sugar coated way without conveying the content, with its magnitude in a way fathomable to the public. That’s not to say that this is necessarily incorrect behavior, however it is to highlight the struggle of making both elements present upon addressing the public. The problem is they need to choose the language that will get the message across without offending, dismissing or negatively impacting anyone, while simultaneously choosing what to say so that it includes the important substance. In some ways this resonates with me as ‘political literacy’. I will end with a quote by the comedian George Carlin, who has a YouTube videoin which he talks about how politicians and consequently the society fall in the trap of using euphemisms as part of language nowadays and he said it perfectly; “You can’t be afraid of words that speak the truth, even if it’s an unpleasant truth….I don’t like words that hide the truth.” ~ George Carlin


Question 2

Rein and Schön (1993) differentiate between disagreements and controversies. How does this relate to frames? Provide a brief policy scenario to illustrate this difference.


Frames are essentially the eyeglasses through which people see and understand the world they live in and the circumstances that surround them. As a result, things cannot be separately and objectively analyzed and interpreted without the careful consideration of the individual frames that people possess or ‘look through’. The simplest way to identify the main difference between disagreements and controversies, with regards to Rein and Shön’s argument is this:

Disagreements occur within the same frame, meaning that there is no relativism to deal with because there is a standard common ground, while controversies occur between frames, which makes them complicated to mediate or resolve because there is no standard or common ground so this sets the bar of epistemological relativism. This is why, according to the authors, policy controversies are stubborn, immune to resolution and are rarely permanently resolved. Frames are the lenses through which individuals decide on and interpret evidence for problem solving and because the dynamics that trigger the resurfacing of policy are closely knit with individual frames, this leads to the lack of controversy resolutions. A policy scenario that would illustrate this difference is the case study of Peru’s educational reform outlined in Haddad’s Educational Policy-Planning Process: an Applied Framework. There was a coup d’etat in 1968 where a group of military officers, led by Velasco, overthrew the democratically elected government of Fernando Belaunde Terry. The military government then implemented a policy to reform the educational system, which was radical in that it proposed a complete reformation of the educational system and synoptic in that it was a) to be carried over the entire system in one sweeping motion and b) that it did not involve any interaction between governmental bodies; rather it was a decision taken by the governing military entity at the time. The reason I use this policy of reforming the Peruvian education system to illustrate my point is that there was a clear difference in frames (between the military government (Velasco) and the elected – then re-elected- (Belaunde) government) and also a difference within the frame (between the different interest groups under the military government). The policy was to provide universal diversified secondary schools (ESEPs) to all, so the general frame was that there should be an educational reform to take place as the current educational system was not satisfactory to both the government and the public. The disagreement was within the frame between the interest groups and the military government as all parties agreed that educational reform should take place, but they had different visions for the reform. The controversy was between the military government and elected government. Belaunde was keeping the educational system as is while Velasco, when he came to power, decided to carry out the reform. The proof of this major difference between frames is that shortly after Belaunde was re-elected and was back in power, he changed the educational system back to exactly what it was before he was overthrown. Moreover, proving the fact that it was a controversy, it was not resolved and it resurfaced more than just a decade after Velasco had supposedly resolved it. This matter of controversies and disagreements and their relation to frames deals with the concept of epistemological relativism that Rein and Schön discuss in their paper, which we also discussed in one of our class meetings. However, that would be a subject of another more elaborate discussion of the information and knowledge that set the basis for the reform as there is criticism of the research the military conducted saying that it was biased, relative and interpreted in a way to fit their revolutionary goals at the time.

We have our final class tomorrow, which José (my professor who is now a good friend of mine) has set up in a really cool and fun way. We are going to have a social gathering in the form of a dish party where everyone brings something to the table. I am mostly really excited for José’s peanut butter chicken, which he made last semester and I pretty much hovered, lol. Delicious!

More on the social gathering tomorrow 🙂

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Educational Policy Analysis – Journal #12

this week I was in Rome for the AMICAL annual conference. It was an amazing experience for me because it was my first AMICAL conference to attend, and because I got to meet my online friends and spend a really nice time with them. I also made new friends, which was beautiful!

So this week I missed class because I was in Italy but I worked a lot of the course material. We had an online blackboard discussion board assignment. We were asked to write our answers to a question and respond to a peer’s answer to the other question. I actually started working on this assignment in the Cairo airport at 3 am, at which point I emailed José a question about the assignment and actually came up with the examples I will use, so apparently late nights and airports inspire me 🙂 I’m not usually a night owl, but it looks like I will be a good one if I decide to be.

I also worked on the other assignment, which I will blog about when I am done with : )

I found these particular assignments really interesting because they were designed in a way that would help us relate all the content and readings of the course to each other and to discuss them as educational policy analysis; the goal of the course. So for the discussion board I chose to answer the following question:

Kaplan (1993) argues in favor of narrative as a useful tool in the argumentative approach. How would you explain this relationship?

I know that upon reading this question a lot of people might not get it at first, but by reading my answer hopefully things will come into perspective.

Answer: Using narrative or stories as a tool in argumentation is not only an approach that leads to the argument being more enjoyable, but is also a strategic one. The reason I say this is because stories have the power to provide logical as well as emotional reasoning and allow listeners to follow the argument in a manner conducive to the particular point the speaker is making or leading to. After reading Fisher and Forester, one cannot understand this relationship between narrative as an approach to argumentation without also thinking of the duality of substantive analysis and cogent articulation. Powerful stories used in policy are not there just to entertain or inform people (‘infotainment’ as advertisers would call it) about an incident they didn’t previously know about, rather they would ideally contain this duality of delivering a substantive message using language strategically and intelligently. While powerful narratives or stories sound appealing, are easily understandable and enjoyable, they also usually have a powerful and impactful message, which leads to the argument being both politically astute as well as rationally sound. However, we need to be very careful with this approach to argumentation and be able to distinguish between stories and plots. According to Kaplan, stories are meant as the “organized discourse” that has a beginning, middle and an end. In other words, it’s a series of events that start somewhere, have a climax or a main message, and lastly has an ending point. Plots commonly contain specific interpretations that are tightly interwoven in the story, which oftentimes makes it challenging to distinguish between facts and the interpretation of these facts. As much as these interpretations can help people better understand complex policy scenarios and stories, they could also be biased and misleading, which is a popular criticism of interpretation. Thus, as policy analysts, we need to exercise caution in both using and analyzing the narrative approach in argumentation.

I don’t think I want to blog about my colleague’s answer and talk about my response to her, but she raised some very interesting and important points about Evidence Based Policy Making (EBPM) so I enjoyed reading as well as responding to her answer.

I need to run to attend the keynote session now but I will be back soon to reflect on next week’s assignments, which I am very excited to work on because they touch on controversy, disagreement, cogent articulation and substantive analysis.

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Educational Policy Analysis – Journal #4

In this class we are continuing our discussion of Framing because last week we stopped after 3-4 pages from the beginning.

A question came up about how difficult it is to understand frames or operate between or different frames. This is essentially what makes it difficult to study frames. Because frames are “part of the natural, taken-for-granted world, we are often unaware of their role in organizing our perceptions” (Rein & Shön, p. 151). This reminded me of the role of language and how, as we grow up, we learn a language but we don’t know if we are saying something correctly or not. I had the question about frames, if we grow up and someone says, you know what, the way that you are looking at the world is wrong, or should be changed, do we then change our frames or is something that we can’t really reflect on and change, if we would like to? My professor then replied saying that depends on the person’s position in life; if you are positivist or relativist. If you go along with the view that there is a right or wrong answer to everything, then maybe, but if your view is based on relativism then that might not happen. I found this very interesting and absolutely accurate when I thought about it for a while (and by a while I mean the rest of the evening that day). The entire discussion about frames actually lingered in my mind, and still does. It’s funny how things we discuss in class carry on and I find myself applying them to different parts of my life – whether professional or personal. I began to see things differently and intentionally reflect on my own frames and the way I see or interpret life and the situations that happen around me. I also found myself analyzing people’s frames, especially when it came to educational and political policy. When I think deeper about, and analyze the cogent articulation as well as the substance of, policy it widens my scope to include a lot of angles I hadn’t preciously thought about. I think this is by far one of the greatest benefits of that course on my life.

I’ll come back next week with more thoughts 🙂


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Educational Policy Analysis – Journal #11

In today’s class we presented our second policy brief in terms of what it’s about, what the issue we are focusing on is, what our implications and recommendations are. We are three groups (of 3 students each) in total.

I really liked my peers’ mini brief topic about education for sustainable development. The angle they looked at it and the implications they had in their brief were interesting and I found them relevant to the idea of lifelong learning, which I am a fan of as you can quite infer from my journal so far. They made the link between theory and practice in terms of how to implement and integrate education for sustainable development in the curriculum and in teacher training.

The other group talked about the Thanaweya Amma exam, or the “exiting secondary school certificate” exam as they referred to it. This is in fact a nation-wide concern because these exams focus on memorization of students and do not test their skills or their potentials. This is the exam that determines which university students enroll in and which university program they go into (based on their test scores). This, according to the research they conducted, leads to students going into disciplines they might not be qualified for in terms of skills because they focus all their efforts on memorizing and passing that exam. They were suggesting to implement the AP Program that is adopted in the US to go hand in hand with the Thanaweya Amma but that would be the detriment in the students entering higher education institutions and would give the students a choice of undergraduate program. My reflection on this, and the one I relayed to them in class, is if it’s a substitution to Thanaweya Amma then that might have some chance of working, but if it’s an addition it would not be very feasible. I speak from personal experience because my school changed the educational system two years before I graduate. They changed the program from American Diploma (which I was already a year in) to the International Baccalaureate Program (an inherently 5 year program). So what ended up happening for the remaining two years was that I took both the American Diploma portion (the SATs) and the subjects of the International Baccalaureate curriculum in school. Granted, it was mainly my SAT score that got me into AUC but it was also my school GPA, which was based on the school subjects and the tests. The fact that I had to study for both programs and Ace both programs’ exams was very stressful and I found it unfair, since I could have got into university equally as well by following only one of the programs. Note: I received an American Diploma Certificate when I graduated. I know. Anyway.

When we presented our policy brief about the internationalization of teacher development the professor gave us really valuable feedback that we will surely integrate in our policy brief. Our issue, that we based our policy brief on, is:
Many international educational reform initiatives aimed at teacher development have taken place in the last 15 years in Europe and around the world (Zaalouk, 2015). However, the approach to educational development cooperation between the North and the South has been one of knowledge borrowing rather than knowledge sharing in which the South is positioned as receivers of knowledge created by the North. This is especially true in teacher development initiatives, where the South or ‘developing countries’ are considered clients or receivers of knowledge and experience from the more ‘developed’ North countries.
Our researched implication is:
Adopting a non-eurocentric internationalization approach to faculty professional development in higher education institutions in the fashion of The Capacity Development of Facilities of Education (CDFE) – a project conducted that used this model- realm of faculty professional development could reduce the inequalities of knowledge production and research globally.

One of the major takeaways from this class is that I learned how to analyze policy briefs in the sense that there needs to be a clear issue outlined and explained, there needs to be a statement of implication (what could happen if the policy option being suggested gets implemented) and a few recommendations in the form of concrete statements (what it is you want the policy to do and what it should conduct). I like how the professor explained the triadic relationship between these three elements of a policy brief.

Next week I’ll be at the Annual AMICAL Conference in Rome so I will have to miss class – sadly – but I am planning on reflecting on the course activities I will do next week because we have a couple of assignments coming up and I’m actually pretty excited about them because they are online discussions, one of my favorite type of assignments, about the class discussions based on the readings we did on argumentation, narrative, cogent articulation, political astuteness, rational soundness and policy analysis.

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Educational Policy Analysis – Journal #10

Today’s class is two days before José’s birthday so we decided to get cake and celebrate with him in class. Now I know that, and have heard superstition about this before, celebrating a birthday with cake before the actual birthday is bad luck. But we were thinking that it would be better to do that instead of waiting two weeks to do that, since next week is Spring break and our next class meeting is 2 weeks from today. In any case, he was surprised, which was the point so that was nice.

For this class we were, in pairs, to read a case study about a reform project in a country and present it to the rest of the class. So Mona and I worked on the Peru case study Haddad outlines in chapters 2 and 3.

It was a pretty interesting policy scenario. In brief, here’s the case study;

The reform aim was to integrate practical and academic subjects in the education system in order to provide the country with the intellectual power and range of skills to achieve sustained economic and social development. It aimed equally at resolving issues of equity and external efficiency. The model of reform implementation was a synoptic comprehensive model, which meant that the whole education sector was targeted.

The socio-politico-economic context is as follows:

It was a 1968 coup d’etat. A group of military officers, led by Velasco, had overthrown the democratically elected government of Fernando Belaunde Terry. The country had issues with deep income inequality, unbalanced rural-urban migration, high birth rates, poor health care, unemployment, inflation and overall a failing educational system. The challenges facing education specifically were equity and quality issues, mismatch between education and labor market needs. So both  the military and the interest groups agreed that reform should take place, but they had very different visions for the reform. Also, the ministry of education did nothing to help and was ill-equipped so this was an obstacle.

The analysis is that these conditions mean that this country was not ready for comprehensive approach to educational reform. Also, a possible reason for failure of the reform project is that the policy options were about which objectives were best suited to fit the military’s revolutionary goals. This meant that they only looked at what educational policies should be adopted and how best to effect these policies. So they started with their revolutionary goals and looked for objectives that suited these goals; so it was not based on context or what the public needed, it was all a political agenda to suit their goals.

In 1970 the civilian educational reform commission generated a report that said: “the response to the education system being inequitable, inefficient, outmoded and rigid and lacking a Peruvian spirit is to: provide education that creates ‘the new Peruvian man in a new Peruvian society’. The solution to this issue in practical  terms was to provide universal diversified secondary schooling (ESEPs) to all. This was supported by international discourse at the time. The Desirability, feasibility and affordability for adopting this reform were:

    • Desirability was driven by military ideologies, which was irrelevant to society so this reform was not relevant to the socio-economic needs and conditions of the people.
    • Affordability: The general report said that the reform is affordable and would be self-financing. After the reform started taking place the Ministry of Finance did another study and found that the general report was hazy.
    • The feasibility was inadequately evaluated due to the lack of cohesive analysis about necessary human resources and not following the reform schedule.

So they had the intention to go according to the model Haddad outlines in his chapter, but in reality we can say that their point of view was biased because if the policy reform really was feasible, desirable and affordable then it would not have failed as it did. We were using the conceptual framework of Haddad to analyze the success/failure of the reform project. This is not to say that this is the framework the Peruvian government used to implement the reform, we are just explaining the failure through the lens of Haddad’s conceptual framework.

The characteristics of the policy implemented are: synoptic, radical change (not modification to existing system, but an entire transformation), it was consistent with other sectorial reforms, which were fashioned around one overall development plan.

Here’s the 3 phase implementation schedule:

  • institutional and administrative changes
  • mobilization of financial, human, physical, technical
  • political resources

The Turning point that lead to it being a failed policy was when there was a deficiency in human capital and financial resources. There was also public dissatisfaction with the military government that started arising. This lead to time lines being severely modified and the objective of immediate overall reform was discarded and replaced with experimental piloting group of ESEPs. Also, the reform was associated with the unpopular and resisted military regime. The result of that was low enrollment in the ESEPs pilot program, ESEPs graduates were refused enrollment in universities, the quality of teachers in rural areas was lower than urban schools and the ESEPs training did not promise to match Peru’s market needs. These were pretty much the same conditions as before the reform. Add to that the fact that ESEPs was more expensive than traditional schools, which directly contradicts with the affordability claims done by the General Report.

“In sum, though not explicitly evaluated against these criteria, the reform was implicitly found to be undesirable, unaffordable and infeasible” (Haddad, 1995, p. 46).

The newly re-elected Belaunde government (which ousted the military government in 1980 elections) entered into a new policy cycle, but skipped directly to the policy decision stage. There was no formal assessment, no evaluation of alternative policy options, therefore skipping to the decision. They didn’t try to look at the stage of: is the policy at fault…etc. They decided to neglect the reform and they went back to the traditional system because it was more feasible and there was no need to confront those interest groups that were in favor of the military reform. I really liked this concept of silence is less confrontational than overt rejection of the reform.

In 1983 passed a law that changed officially the structure that the ESEPs had done. The ESEPs became Higher Technical Institutes.

In general I really liked reading this case study and in many ways it’s reminding me about a lot of what’s happening in Egypt, but I will not get into politics now. I absolutely enjoyed working with Mona on this. We work really well together and our chemistry as a pair is just right. We co-authored a paper in the winter course and it turned out to be a brilliant paper that I am very proud of. So it was pretty cool to get the chance to work with her on this presentation 🙂


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