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School counselors meet at UOWD to discuss two hot topics facing UAE educators

Thursday, 21 May, 2015

The University of Wollongong in Dubai (UOWD) recently welcomed school counselors from across the UAE to participate in two academic workshops which focused on hot topics in the world of education:  academic integrity and the integration of adolescent autistic students in the mainstream education system.

The first workshop was conducted by Ms Zeenath Khan, an expert in academic integrity from UOWD. It was organised as part of the University’s commitment to educating pupils, parents and counsellors about the realities and ethics surrounding plagiarism. 

The counsellors heard from Ms Khan about the growing prevalence of academic dishonesty, as students become increasingly creative in cheating their way to success using high-tech methods to deceive teachers and exam invigilators. She provided prominent examples of real-life stories from inside and outside the UAE, describing it as an international problem which can easily be carried into the workforce, and result in dire consequences for students later in life.

Ms Khan offered an in-depth insight into the roles both teachers and parents play in preventing academic dishonesty, and gave tips and suggestions as to how counselors can aid both groups in supporting integrity. As she explained, both teachers and parents must work together to enforce a school’s education policy.  Parents should be encouraged by the counselors to not view cheating as helping their child to succeed, and should attempt to reduce pressure on their child to be the best at any cost, regardless of the consequences.

“Integrity is the foundation of human communication and interaction, and it is vital that students, teachers, and parents alike incorporate this in the world of academia, not only in everyday life” said Ms Khan.

The second session was led by Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist Dr Binu C.B, a specialist in childhood autism from Al Fasht Medical Centre. 

“Autistic teenagers, like their peers, desire to fit in and obtain acceptance. It is important that support figures such as parents, academic tutors, psychiatrists, and others provide the necessary means to help them integrate seamlessly in mainstream education and to minimise the repercussions of their behaviours, which may be difficult for them to unlearn once it is settled,” Dr Binu explained.

Along with giving an account of the medical explanations for autism, Dr Binu also focused on how school counselors can support an inclusive education system and described the tools which are available to aid them in this endeavour.

Both workshops were well received by attendees. Nida Zehra Naqvi from Al Ain Juniors praised both presenters' knowledge and  use of video, audio and statistics, whilst Carlee Hill from Victoria International School appreciated the "helpful diagnostic tools, tips and guidance on how to help autistic students". Sonali Gupta from The Winchester School added her appreciation for Zeenath Khan, stating "the knowledge of the speaker and the way she conducted her presentation was very useful and enjoyable."

Commenting on the workshops, Vinu Abraham, UOWD’s Marketing and School Liaison Executive and event organiser said: “At UOWD we focus strongly on community engagement and enjoy having a two-way dialogue with schools and other organisations about hot topics facing the nation’s educators.  The workshop sessions allowed us to pass on our specialist knowledge to school counsellors, a group of professionals who exert a large influence on the decisions made by young people in the UAE, and to also hear their views on the subjects.”