Sherif Osman

Pedagogue at American University in Cairo

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Revolutionize your revolution

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While I am regularly vocal about my vision for reform in Egypt, in the sense that I firmly believe a revolutionary change has to take place for the educational system to be truly reformed. This, in contrast to the norm of systematic bottom-up or top-down approaches - both which seem to get lost or diluted along the way. I even use a little joke to describe this to my class – the elevator is always broken (it never seems to reach where its supposed to). I have to be explicit here and clarify that when I say revolutionary change here, I mean change that stems from necessity, one that requires brave and crude decisions, which may not initially be popular with the masses. I do not mean a change of regime or change of system. I know this maybe obvious to some readers but in the current climate in Egypt, this type of terminology is thrown around haphazardly and at times is infuriating that

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Substituted out of your comfort zone

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“Your comfort zone, where the magic happens” by Oklanica is licensed under CC BY 2.0

While I believe that reflecting on your teaching and learning experiences are crucial to every modern day teacher, specially those that believe in student-centered learning. I regularly reflect on my experiences as a teacher and as a student to help me better my methods and hopefully enhance the learning taking place.

During the final stages of completing my Masters in Education, I decided to take up a role in supply (or substitute teaching). While initially it was to make some extra cash next to my role as a research assistant, it turned out to be one of the turning points of my teaching career.

For those that are unaware, the supply teacher system in the UK usually operates through centers that school are comfortable with. Those centers employ a fleet of teachers and coordinate every morning

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Top down or bottom up?

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Thats’s the million dollar question for reform, in my opinion anyway. I am coming up to the end of the semester for a course I am co-teaching about education and reform in Egypt. As with any new course I teach, I find myself reflecting … a lot.

One of the dimensions we tried to cover in class was the role of other active participants in the education ecosystem, the civil society, the corporates, the entrepreneurs for example. Which perpetuated the question of impact, where was it?

If the national strategies; compiled through think tanks of academics, practitioners, policy makers and stakeholders, are saying all the right things. The practitioners; through individual stories and personal achievements, negate the notion that they are a stereotype of negligence, inefficiency and rigidity. The civil society, in large numbers, take on individual success stories that claim to have

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Can inflating grades, deflate learning?

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I was recently engaged in an interesting conversation with a colleague at work that inspired me to write this post. We were discussing students’ and parents’ obsession with grades, how it occurred? Why it occurred? And how it has impacted students’ learning.

I draw upon my own experiences for this comparison, having attended an American University, both as an undergraduate (briefly) and as an instructor, I also attended Undergraduate and postgraduate courses in the UK. Reflecting on those experiences helped form some of my opinions on the notion of grade inflation.

During my time as an undergraduate in a liberal arts American University, the grading system was as follows:

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If we look at these grading ranges in an abstract manner, it literally translates to “any student receiving an A” is almost flawless in that subject area. Which follows the ‘norm’ that students would have

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Technology may not be the solution, but is it the cause?

While sifting and skimming through a range of different readings preparing for a class I am currently teaching on education and reform in Egypt, I came across some thought provoking theories, stories and experiences and that got those rusty cogs in my brain moving.

The course itself aims to help students answer four driving questions:

  1. How do people learn?
  2. Why do people learn?
  3. Where do we stand?
  4. What can we do about it?

A small section under question four talks about technology and its current role in education and how it maybe a force to drive educational enhancement forward. This is a hot topic that, as a faculty developer, I debate frequently with faculty members and colleagues. I am a believer in the cliche “do not use technology for the sake of technology” but I do believe technology has a huge part to play going forward (more on that in a follow-up post).

Having discussed

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Learning how to play!

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In the past few months, I have worked closely with a colleague of mine on designing an undergraduate interdisciplinary course on Education and reform in Egypt. Our aim in the course was to answer four pressing questions for education (in our humble opinions) that we believe can help look at reform in Egypt through a different lens. One of the foundational areas of the course is to cover the major learning theories in an attempt to help the students answer the question; How do people learn?

As this is an area that my colleague has taught extensively and had a great depth of understanding for the subject matter, we decided to be a little bit creative and to think of a game, simulation or fun activity to simulate or help the students gain an understanding of each learning theory we covered. There will be a follow-up post that we will co-write in the near future once the course is over

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# If Malala was my student …

I was watching the Jon Stewart show yesterday and he was interviewing Malala, interestingly enough we were just talking about her at work that morning. It got me thinking, what if Malala was a girl in my class? Would I realise her potential? Would I encourage her? Would I be intimidated? Would I differentiate for her? Would I modify my teaching?

A better way to think about this, if one of your students was a Nobel peace laureate and has an international fund raising organisation dedicated to education access and educational reform. Would you feel you had to up your game? If so, does that mean that teachers need students that will challenge them in order to excel? What does that mean for ‘low ability’ group settings? Is that beneficial for students or teachers if that’s the case? Hmm…

As I continued to watch the show, I was intrigued. Her knowledge and vocab were excellent for a

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The Learning Game

My career in education, although limited in time, has been quite diverse and has allowed me to experience the educational process from multiple perspectives. I have been a teacher, a lecturer and a faculty developer and during each of these spells I have grown more and more fond of creative pedagogies and their impact on education. Most recently, I have been enamoured by the concept of gamification and have decided to take my first venture into gamifying my syllabus.

I decided to start small and only gamify a part of my syllabus to see how that would go. I was initially apprehensive as I was teaching full time in-service teachers and was not sure if gamification would be too childish for them. I quickly ditched any concerns the minute I started researching the topic, mainly due to the fact that most gamification that has been taking place has been for enterprises and businesses to

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Can fixing education save the world?

The Value of Education: The View of a Devil’s Advocate

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My passion for educational development and education in general is fueled by living in a country like Egypt, especially over a significant period like the past four years have been. While for the majority of the population there has been an epic focus on the ‘deep state’ or ‘corruption’ or ‘social security’, these times have done nothing but amplify the alarm bells going off in my head on the current and future state of education. My premise, as I am sure that most pedagogues in Egypt will concur, is that a large proportion of the issues facing Egypt, in particular your average Egyptian today, are down to the poor levels of education they have experienced over the past thirty years. A premise that seems so logical … yet is it?

I have recently been watching the TV show ‘Game of Thrones’ and aside from the gripping action and

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The must-have degree

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I recently came across an article titled ‘Higher Education in Egypt’ written in the the Daily News Egypt identifying the cultural problem of the must-have degree that has been predominant in Egypt for a fair few years now. The article raises some genuine concerns, I however, disagree with their rationale.

Firstly, I believe the root to this problem is not the initiative of 'free education for all’, its in the mismanagement and poor delivery of this free educational system! I feel there are a few factors, if appropriately addressed can achieve a significant and noticeable improvement. I disagree with the notion that people all feel the necessity to have degrees stems from the fact there is free education available. I believe that this occurs due to the frowned upon notion of the blue-collar job, a direct by-product of the government mismanagement. Had the minimum wage law come in years

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