From statements 30 to 38, most lecturers felt that their only reward was financial in nature, on the surface the salary was substantial. The salary structure was peculiar, in that all western teachers would get the same salary regardless of qualifications, experience or family situations. TSI lecturers’ were on the whole either young, at the beginning of their career, or single older men at the end of their career.
Middle aged, married men were few and far between, probably due to the expensive educational costs for children, relatively small housing allowances and a lack of professional development. One of the biggest issues that foreign Arab lecturers’ came across was the discrepancy in their salaries, they earned about 65% less in comparison to their western colleagues. Many of them were educated in western universities and carry out exactly the same duties as the western lecturers, many as competently, if not more so.
Initially I thought that this sub-group was formed for this reason alone, but on questioning the foreign Arab staff, it became clear that even though they felt the situation was unfair and that their salaries should be higher, nearly all of them had a strong belief in God, and believed that the amount of money that they will earn in their lifetime is pre-destined, so there was little point in making such an issue out of what was a relatively trivial point. A sub-culture was formed based on language and religion amongst the foreign lecturers where the Muslim Arab lecturers shared a bond through their language.
The Christian and Muslim lecturers form the western world that didn’t speak Arabic felt they couldn’t wholly be part of this group. Sometimes the western staff would be a little suspicious of conversations with the local Arab officers, primarily because they were not sure of what was being said, or what behind the scenes tactics were taking place. This balkanised culture that was the TSI had sub-groups that often competed with each other for influence over rapidly promoted local Arabs, who in the near future would weald a lot of influence and power due to new connections.
The controlling function of management seemed to be ignored by the management, and when designing the questionnaire, it was interesting that lecturers spent so little time discussing this area. Lecturers felt that management didn’t get involved until a problem/complaint arose, they went further saying it was possible to go through an employment contract (2 years) not knowing who their officer in charge actually was, as long as you kept your head down and didn’t bring attention to yourself. The feeling of being autonomous in the classroom gave teachers a sense of freedom.
Often lecturers would complain about the job, but regularly say they enjoyed their time in the classroom. There were biannual classroom observations for each lecturer, but these were carried out to highlight only the severest problems, The officers that would carry out the process, knew very little about education, and definitely had no training in how to assess a lecturers performance. All students, officers, foreign Arabic speaking staff and about a quarter of the western staff were Muslim and had beliefs and values based on the Islamic religion. This became the underlying culture at the TSI.
Ceremonies and rituals always began and ended with Allah in mind. The working day would be broken for prayers, where students, lecturers and officers lined up together to face Allah in prayer. This was the only time that one felt that an officers position was equal to that of a poor-achieving student. It was here that strong relationships were thought to have formed. Some of the western non-Muslim staff felt excluded and managed to form their own relationships with those Muslims amongst the officers, lecturers and students that didn’t pray, or even went out drinking on the quiet (considered an act against the Islamic religion).
Noticeable shared Islamic traditions were washing rituals, prayer, men with beards, respect for non-Muslims, concern for others, friendly relationships more caring and nurturing in attitude perhaps at the cost of progress, avoiding conflict where possible (western staff really noticed that there were never any flared tempers, or arguments, the Muslim officers and students would always back down first) recognising and respecting a hierarchy in authority as is expected through the family structure that Arabs adhere to with their father being the boss.
The extended family structure allows Muslims to collaborate on many decisions, even though this is seen at TSI when decisions are made, only a restricted group of people would be welcomed in the discussion, often based on previously formed relationships rather than bringing in expertise. Closed meetings were kept quiet and communication was poor, probably to avoid upsetting other members of staff that were being excluded. Consequently decisions were made, rules and regulations formalised and often staff could not guess where these decisions were being made or why.
The non-Muslim staff often felt respected when meeting Muslim students, officers and lecturers, greetings could go on for 5-10 minutes. O’Neill’s (1994, p. 107) four independent elements of organisational activities are related to TSI in the following way. Purpose – Those official educational purposes of the organisation laid down by the mission statement have not been realised in practice, students are coming back once training is complete with a very academic background from universities, but little practical ability to operate and maintain the various equipment of the armed forces.
These students return to join the ranks and share similar roles with the current officers in TSI. Many lecturers hoped to see a change in TSI over the years as this educated cohort begin replacing their relatively poorly trained officers and start making effective decisions to improve the structure of TSI, hoping job security becomes related to ability rather than relationships with senior officers. Symbolism – western staff are well respected, but at the same time through management structures and styles, ceremonies and rituals, they are implicitly reminded they are not part of the whole process at TSI.
Some staff regard themselves as specialist experts given a unique status, other staff feel that they are ignored and just regarded as the hired help. Networks – People meet and greet each other very well, this seems to be the custom from Islamic teachings, working together is a little harder to achieve possibly due to the lack of reward (apart from financial), with many players attempting to keep their positional authority, keeping contacts in higher positions of authority impressed with their abilities. Officers in turn take more and more advice from these players, influencing superiors to get certain jobs done depending on personal agendas.
Communication seems to be restricted, maybe not only to prevent awareness in talented subordinates, but also maybe to highlight incompetence when it only exists due to a lack of information. Arabic culture is seen to avoid conflict, and if told by a trusted colleague of the incompetence of a member of staff, he will listen, but rarely confront the member of staff to get to the truth. Staff feel uncomfortable with this, as they rarely know what is being said about them, or for what reason, and then are often guessing why their contract for employment has not been renewed.
Integration – Different groups of people are rarely brought together, this only seems to emphasize the sub-cultures that exist in TSI, all foreign lecturers felt (statement 57) that there should be more team building exercises / social interactions between military officers and academic staff. Part of this I suspect is to network with relatively higher ranking officers, and part of this is to genuinely eradicate the small amount of suspicion that exists between lecturers themselves at the same time bringing officers together with staff creating a shared understanding of negotiated norms and meanings as said by Nias et al.
The current management style noticed at the Technical Studies Institute seems to be similar in nature to Bush (1995, p. 147) formal or bureaucratic theory of educational management. There is definitely a hierarchical authority structure with the commander at the top making decisions and policies, and being answerable to military headquarters / government. There are many rules and regulations in place, innovation and initiative are perceived to be discouraged or at best not rewarded.
There is a division of labour based on expertise, and the professional lecturers with their expert knowledge often come into conflict with the positional authority of UAE national officers, who don’t hold the same level of expertise when it came to management or educational issues. As one would expect in a military establishment, the management style is more formal / bureaucratic in nature, in order to understand why there were so many weaknesses in the management structure, our first port of call must be the commander. Unfortunately, examples of an inspiring, innovative visionary leader were not noticed by the lecturers.