Dr. Osama Al Mahdi Reflects on the First Year of the Bahrain Teachers College

May 29, 2018
 
As the Bahrain Teachers College celebrates its tenth year, it is reflecting on some of its unique achievements. In this installment, we talk with one of its founding faculty members.
“We didn’t really know what it was about, but we instinctively knew it was a good move.” So says Dr. Osama Al Mahdi, Assistant Professor in the Department of Education Studies, about the invitation of faculty to transition from the soon-closing College of Education at the University of Bahrain to the new Bahrain Teachers College in 2008.
 
Having just returned in 2008 from earning his PhD at the University of Bristol, and having conducted research on school-community partnerships, Al Mahdi recalls rumors of changes to his alma mater. His bachelor’s degree came from the College of Education in 1995, and his masters, as well, in 2000. Al Mahdi served as a primary teacher in the Ministry of Education from 1995 to 2002 but then joined the College of Education as a Research Assistant in 2002. With so much time spent at the College of Education, these rumors were both perplexing and exciting. According to Al Mahdi, “I came back from Bristol with a new desire to make changes; starting with a new college, I believed, would be a good thing.”
 
The final dean of the College of Education, Dr. Khalil Khalili, who later joined the faculty of the Bahrain Teachers College, pushed Al Mahdi to join the BTC despite not really knowing what the ultimate difference would be. The first years, according to Al Mahdi, were marked by a mixture of teaching and administration: “At the time, we were new and small, and we all had to work together.” As a new PhD, the first few years at the BTC were unconventional but ultimately positive: in the early stages of his academic career, Dr. Mahdi felt that he got far more experience by helping to establish the BTC than he would as a faculty member in an already established college.
 
Al Mahdi reflected on one of the most noticeable differences between the College of Education and the Bahrain Teachers College: BTC students were selected by the Ministry of Education, given a stipend, and guaranteed a teaching position upon graduation. “The quality of students at the BTC encouraged us to be more student-centered, interactive, and school-focused,” said Al Mahdi. And with a more junior and international faculty, he felt his colleagues were more productively competitive in a way that inspired creativity and intellectual excitement in the college.
 
Over the ten years since moving to the BTC, Al Mahdi has taken on a greater role in the college’s Educational Leadership Program. Now comprising the majority of his teaching load, Al Mahdi has a noticeable and lasting impact on the leadership quality of senior teachers, assistant principals, and principals. “BTC is the sort of college that does not turn its back on schools; we are dedicated to improving the quality of education in the country, not just in teaching our courses and publishing our research,” said Al Mahdi.
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