Unveiling Third Space: A Case Study of International Educators in Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Article excerpt

Globalization has had a profound impact on education. Educators and students alike are crossing international borders for higher educational opportunities (Sawir, 2011). Crossing a national border to live as a participating member of a new and very different community can be challenging for the most seasoned educator. Due to the potential joys and stressors of living an international life, it is crucial to understand the nature of hybridity and accommodation (Bhabha, 1994) from those who have made an international existence their preferred lifestyle. Exploring perceptions of international educators in third space has never been so relevant. This paper reports one aspect of a case study of international educators teaching at Dubai Women's Campus (DWC), United Arab Emirates (UAE). It sought their perceptions as international educators in third space teaching to Islamic, Emirati female students and illuminates their considerations, beliefs, and tensions as they navigate their international existence.


Geographically, the former Trucial States is located at the littoral of the Persian Gulf. On December 2, 1971, the tribal regions of the Trucial States federated and became the seven Sheikhdoms of the UAE: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Fujarah, Ajman, Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm Al-Qaiwain (Al Fahim, 1995; Kazim, 2000). Complete transformation of society occurred within the next 20 years; the UAE went from existing as an impoverished Bedouin society to becoming an independent country with the world's highest per capita income (Gardner, 1995). Dubai, arguably, is the most developed Emirate (Davidson, 2008; Gardner, 1995; Patai, 2002).

Social-culturally, education for Emirati (the national people of the Emirates) women in the UAE is publicly promoted, government supported (UNESCO, 2003; Whiteoak, Crawford, & Mapstone, 2006), and socially desired (Al Fahim, 1995; Salloum, 2003). Today, a highly educated Emirati woman is considered to be a national symbol of strength, prestige, and family honour (Nashif, 2000; Salloum, 2003; Whiteoak et al., 2006). However, this philosophical stance is not represented historically in the UAE, nor is it widely accepted throughout the UAE in general (Salloum, 2003; Godwin, 2006; Whiteoak et al., 2006). Rather, it is a cultural repositioning emanating from rapid transformation and globalization that has affected the Emirates, particularly Dubai.

Dubai Women's College (DWC) is one campus of a governmental, higher-educational college system, the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT). HCT is exclusive to Emirati students indigenous to this nation. All students at DWC are exclusively Emirati females. Most of the educators working at DWC are foreigners from across the globe, many with citizenship in several countries. The HCT system functions as an English-language medium, vocational institution operating to prepare Emiratis for three purposes: (a) to work in technological and professional occupations (Diploma program), (b) to build skills to enter university (Higher Diploma program), or (c) assume leadership and supervisory positions (Higher Diploma program) (HCTAS, 2007). There are 16 gender-segregated, HCT campuses in the Emirates, with DWC widely regarded as a premier educational institution (Macpherson, Kachelhoffer, & El Nemr, 2007).

The curriculum at DWC is specifically designed to embrace educational innovation, and frequently pushes the boundaries of cultural limits. DWC endorses a task-oriented approach to curriculum with students completing large-scale, open-to-the-public tasks as their expressions of learning. Philosophically, DWC asserts that students need to consider, evaluate, and address global and local controversial issues in a public forum. As an example, the primary task for the second semester is a three-day, open-to-the-public Current Issues Forum, which is a student-driven conference of issues affecting the global and local society. …