Saudi Gazette, Saturday, February 25, 2017
L. Ramnarayan Iyerriyer@saudigazette.com.sa
Managing Editor (National)
Managing Editor (International)
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Innovative strategies to raise the
level of education in Saudi schools
ROMINENT British edu-
cationist and writer Tony
Swainston spoke about de-
veloping a culture of growth
mindsets and highlighted the possi-
bilities of success in schools, during
the Leaders Meet event organized by
the British Council on Feb. 23 at the
Mövenpick hotel in Jeddah. Prepar-
ing students for life beyond school
was also the subject of discussion
among over 100 school owners,
principals, vice principals and board
members of schools in Saudi Arabia
who attended the event.
A panel discussion focused on
three major areas: curriculum devel-
opment, building skills for the job
market and higher education advance-
ment. The school principals and edu-
cational experts discussed strategies
to revamp the structure and quality of
the current educational system. They
debated innovative solutions to spur
academic excellence in schools and
to reach the objective of creating con-
The event was an excellent op-
portunity for many of the international
school principals to share their con-
cerns and highlight the challenges that
they face in their schools.
Indeed, learning from the ex-
perience of experts in the field and
adopting best practices from aca-
demic institutions can help our edu-
cationists raise the level of schools.
Collaboration with international
academic institutions can also help
schools apply international stan-
dards and upgrade the level of aca-
demic qualifications of graduates.
Reforming the educational sys-
tem in Saudi Arabia continues to be
a topic of hot debate. It is quite evi-
dent that we cannot continue to teach
our students in the traditional way.
Schools need to emphasize analyti-
cal and critical thinking and develop a
curriculum that teaches children skills
on many levels, building confidence
and boosting the capabilities of stu-
dents at a young age.
Experts in the field urge schools
to adopt technology in classrooms to
facilitate faculty-student interaction.
Educational software companies to-
day aim at promoting interactive edu-
cational experiences, and stress the
urgency of adopting new methods of
education to catch up with our chil-
dren’s high-tech abilities. They are the
Internet and Facebook generations,
who have easy access to knowledge
and immediate communication with
the whole world. Educators will not
be able to offer them the knowledge
they need through traditional text-
books. Teachers need to enhance their
teaching abilities by adopting the new
technologies in their classrooms and
by engaging in the interactive online
The educationists also stressed the
importance of developing the language
skills of students. Mastering the moth-
er tongue can develop the intelligence
of children at an early age. Therefore,
they urge the need to enhance the lan-
guage curriculum in elementary lev-
els—something that is currently lack-
ing in many schools. Students struggle
to write any official document and lack
eloquence when they speak their own
language, making them inefficient at
any job they take. It is time we take se-
rious measures to advance languages
and promote eloquence among our na-
The English language is impor-
tant. It is the window to the world
and the global language of science,
business and technology. Without
language skills, graduates lack the
proper qualifications for employment
in today’s world. Schools are required
to teach students to speak well, write
well, read well and work well with
numbers at an early age.
The passive approach to educa-
tion in some schools deprives kids of
the ability to be lifelong learners. Stu-
dents should want to learn and have the
curiosity to read and explore. Schools
should instill in students the motivation
and desire to learn and be creative.
A new strategy to bridge the gap
between the education output and the
requirements of the labor market can
ensure that students are making the
right professional choices. Outlining
suitable majors at an early age can
give students the confidence to choose
their career. There is an urgency to
encourage students to major in spe-
cializations that are in demand for the
labor market, engineering, health, ag-
riculture and information technology
specializations. It is the responsibility
of schools, to provide students with
the technical skills needed by the la-
Economists assert that most edu-
cational institutes need to work on
modifying and developing their cur-
ricula and focus on creating technical
workshops in order to produce gradu-
ates suitable for the industrial world.
The reason behind the failure of in-
dustrial companies to recruit young
graduates is their lack of adequate
training that can prepare them to work
as expert engineers, in the oil industry,
technicians and pharmacists who can
run factories that manufacture food
products, pharmaceuticals, textiles,
rubber and chemical products. There
is an urgency to encourage our stu-
dents to major in business, economics,
finance and computer science as well
as supporting an innovative environ-
ment and stimulating the spirit of en-
trepreneurship in order to realize the
goals of Saudi Vision 2030 and create
a knowledge-based economy.
The British Council event in-
spired many Saudi and expatriate
school principals and educationists
to look into best practices and adopt
new strategies to raise the level of
education in our schools. A Saudi
knowledge-based economy can only
be realized if we succeed in upgrading
our educational system.
The reach of the US Constitution at the border
HEN a 15-year-old boy
named Sergio Hernán-
dez Guereca was shot
to death by a United
States border agent in 2010, he was
crouching behind a concrete pillar a
few steps inside the Mexican border.
Had he been on American soil, there’s
no question constitutional principles
could be invoked in seeking justice
for his death. Should those principles
not apply because he was standing on
the other side of the border?
That was the question the Su-
preme Court considered on Tuesday,
during oral arguments in a lawsuit
brought by Sergio’s parents, who be-
lieve they should have a right to get
justice for his killing.
The court’s decision in this
case could have implications for
President Trump’s travel ban,
which targets noncitizens who are
outside the country.
On the day he was killed, Ser-
gio, a Mexican citizen, was playing
with friends in the culvert sepa-
rating El Paso, Tex., and Ciudad
Juárez, Mexico. The agent who
shot him, Jesus Mesa Jr., claimed
it was self-defense, but cellphone
videos of the shooting refuted that
account, showing that Sergio was
60 feet away, and unarmed, when
Mr. Mesa shot him in the head.
American prosecutors declined
to charge Mr. Mesa because his bul-
let hit Sergio in Mexico. Mexican
prosecutors charged Mr. Mesa with
murder, but the Obama administra-
tion refused to extradite him. Ser-
gio’s family filed a civil suit against
Mr. Mesa for violating Sergio’s
rights under the Fourth Amend-
ment, which prohibits the unrea-
sonable use of lethal force, and the
Fifth Amendment, which bars the
taking of life without due process.
In 2015, a federal appeals court
in Texas threw out those claims be-
cause, it said, Sergio was not an
American citizen, and didn’t have
enough “voluntary connections”
with the United States to be covered
by the Constitution. But core consti-
tutional rights aren’t so easily cor-
doned off — the Supreme Court said
so in 2008 when it ruled that nonciti-
zen prisoners held in Guantánamo
Bay, Cuba, had the right to challenge
the legality of their detention.
In that case, the court rejected
a rigid test for deciding when the
Constitution applies outside Amer-
ican borders, favoring instead a
The Hernández case clearly
would benefit from considering
context, like the fact that there was
no marked border in the area where
Sergio was shot. Nor is the Hernán-
dez killing unique in the border area;
one 2013 report found that border
agents and officers killed at least 42
people in the preceding eight years.
Justice Kennedy suggested during
oral argument that the issue of cross-
border shootings should be addressed
by the political branches. The problem
is that there is now no accountability
and no remedy. Currently an unarmed
boy standing just south of the border
can be killed with impunity by an
American border agent, but not if he
happens to be a few feet to the north.
The Constitution should be broad
enough to apply to people like Sergio,
and his family should be allowed to
sue in American courts.
– The New
York Times editorial
As China ups heat on N Korea, US faces questions
HINA’S surprising suspen-
sion of North Korean coal im-
ports puts pressure not only on
Pyongyang, but also on Presi-
dent Donald Trump. The question for
him: Should the US respond with new
North Korea negotiations?
Years of failed efforts to stem North
Korea’s nuclear and missile programs
have followed a usual pattern. The
United States seeks tougher action from
China, the North’s traditional ally. Bei-
jing urges US diplomatic engagement.
But China’s move appears to change
the dynamic, addressing the long-stand-
ing American demand, one Trump has
vociferously repeated. If enforced, the
loss of coal revenue could tighten the
screws on leader Kim Jong Un after his
government’s acceleration of nuclear
and missile tests this last year. China
rarely makes concessions for free, and
will want Trump to respond in kind.
“If China is squeezing North Ko-
rea, it is for one purpose and one
purpose only: to offer a cooperative
gesture to the incoming Trump admin-
istration in return for an initiative on
negotiations,” said Stephan Haggard, a
North Korea expert at the University of
California, San Diego. Beijing indicated
such a strategy was in play.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng
Shuang said the country wants parallel
negotiations on nuclear matters and a for-
mal peace treaty to replace the armistice
ending the 1950-53 Korean War - a long-
standing North Korean request. Washing-
ton has said the North’s nuclear weapons
program must be settled first.
Meanwhile, the newspaper of China’s
ruling Communist Party, Global Times,
published a pair of editorials Wednesday
calling for aid-for-disarmament talks to
restart. They’ve been on ice since 2009.
Any breakthrough would almost
surely require US-Chinese cooperation.
Kim has shown little interest in relin-
quishing his nation’s nuclear deterrent
as he closes in on a weapon capable of
targeting mainland America, and Sino-
American disputes over the best ap-
proach to dealing with the confounding
North Korean leader have hamstrung
international diplomatic efforts.
“We continue to urge China to exert
its unique leverage as North Korea’s larg-
est trading partner to convince Pyongyang
to return to serious talks on denucleariza-
tion,” State Department spokeswoman
Anna Richey-Allen said.
Trump has vowed to “deal with”
North Korea, without saying how. His ad-
ministration is conducting a broad-rang-
ing policy review, including how to make
sanctions bite. Negotiations haven’t been
ruled out, said a US official, who wasn’t
authorized to discuss internal delibera-
tions and demanded anonymity.
China’s decision on coal could
change the US calculus. A second ad-
ministration official described it as a
potentially hopeful sign, though the
US was still gauging the significance.
North Korea’s coal exports to China
totaled $1.2 billion last year, according to
Chinese customs, representing more than
a third of the North’s total export income.
Geng, the Chinese spokesman, ex-
plained China’s decision by saying the
coal imports this year already “approx-
imated” a $400 million annual cap set
by the UN Security Council.
But China has exploited loopholes in
the past, raising questions about alterna-
tive motivations. These could include
embarrassment over the apparent assas-
sination of Kim Jong Nam, the North Ko-
rean leader’s exiled, half-brother who was
spending much of his time in China. Or, a
pre-emptive effort to forestall a new US-
South Korean missile defense system.
Regardless of motive, “enforcement
will be the key,” said Joseph DeTho-
mas, a former US diplomat who advised
the Obama administration on sanctions.
DeThomas, now a professor at Pennsyl-
vania State University, said China’s sus-
pension could cost Pyongyang hundreds
of millions of dollars in much-needed
hard currency. But Troy Stangarone, se-
nior director at theWashington-based Ko-
rea Economic Institute, questioned how
significant the economic impact would
be. Official Chinese figures don’t account
for services and illicit border trade be-
tween the countries, he said.
China has long resisted applying se-
vere economic pressure on North Korea.
While it opposes the North’s pursuit of
nuclear weapons, Beijing fears any poli-
cies that might lead to an influx of North
Koreans into China or a US-allied, unified
Korea emerging on the Chinese border.
In any case, questions will now be
asked of the Trump administration.
As a presidential candidate, Trump
expressed a willingness to speak with
Kim - a politically risky move given
North Korea’s history of reneging on past
agreements. President Barack Obama re-
fused to re-engage without a commitment
from the North to pursue denucleariza-
tion, cranking up sanctions while waiting.
The approach failed to stop Pyongyang’s
rapid advances in weapons development.
Trump will need to come up with
a strategy soon. A high-profile North
Korean defector reported that Kim
wants to finish an intercontinental
ballistic missile capable of hitting the
US mainland in the next year.
It’s unclear what, if anything, Trump
can offer Kim to bargain over a nuclear
program he likely sees as essential to the
survival of his totalitarian regime.
Stangarone said the question for Kim
becomes this: “Can he weather whatever
storm is coming and finish the program
and make this fait accompli?”
18 months for
HERE has just been a mockery
and a miscarriage of justice in
Israel. The Israeli soldier who
killed a Palestinian assailant
was supposed to have been
charged with first-degree
murder because the attacker
was injured and incapacitated.
Instead, the charge became
manslaughter. He was then
supposed to get 20 years behind bars because this
was an extrajudicial assassination. But the Israeli
court thought that sentence was too tough. The
prosecution believed he should get at least three to
five years for shooting to death a man who posed
no discernable danger to the soldier. But the court
decided the soldier should only really get 18 months.
And for good measure, the soldier will be allowed
to appeal so that even this ridiculous one-and-a-half
year sentence could be reduced even further.
The March 2016 shooting in the occupied West
Bank city of Hebron was caught on video by a
rights group and spread widely online. If anyone
still needed evidence of Israel’s army using blind
force against Palestinians, this video was it.
Eleven months ago, Sergeant Elor Azaria was
serving as an army medic in Hebron when two
Palestinians stabbed and wounded another soldier.
One of the assailants was shot dead by troops. The
other was shot and wounded. Eleven minutes later,
as the wounded man, Abdel Fattah Al-Sharif, 21, lay
on the ground unable to move, Azaria, then 19, took
aim with his rifle and put a bullet through his head.
It was a cold-blooded murder, a state-
sanctioned execution. Azaria should have received
at least life in prison. Even the three-member court
said Azaria had “taken upon himself to be both
judge and executioner” and had not expressed
regret for his crime. “He deserves to die,” Azaria
was quoted in the verdict as telling another soldier
after pulling the trigger.
But Azaria has become a big hero in the eyes
of an Israeli public that has shifted to the right in
how it views the Palestinians. A poll by one Israeli
newspaper found that around 70 percent of Israelis
favored a pardon for Azaria. In another poll, nearly
half of Israelis said any Palestinian attacker should
be killed on the spot. Azaria, the killer with the
newfound fame, entered the court the way he left
it: all smiles and waving to his beloved supporters.
This was shoot-to-kill when there was no
imminent threat of death. This week’s sentence is less
than what many Palestinians receive for belonging
to an organization banned by Israel. If a Palestinian
throws a rock, he gets a two-year sentence.
Despite the court ruling that he did not open
fire out of danger — but rather to harm the
assailant — and despite what the court called a
“needless” shooting, it is possible that Azaria could
walk free after serving 12 months of his sentence,
and there have been several high-profile calls for
the recruit to be pardoned altogether.
The verdict shows how much discrimination
Israeli courts practice against Palestinians.
Palestinians harbored few expectations that Azaria
would be held seriously accountable. No member
of the IDF has been prosecuted for actions carried
out in uniform in over 12 years. The Azaria ruling
will give Israeli soldiers a green light to kill without
fear of punishment.
This was a show trial that exposed one
standard of justice for Israelis and another for
Palestinians. The story of Azaria and Al-Sharif
is a microcosm of the entire Palestinian-Israeli
problem, for this is a problem of the occupation,
not of one specific soldier or civilian.
Azaria unlawfully took the life of another
person but his sentence was the next best thing
to walking scot-free. In light of the severity of
the crime, the verdict is a joke, and Israel gets
the last laugh.