The Aden College Phenomenon Part I
Abdulla Ahmed Al-Sayyari
MBA ( SHU), BSc (LON), MBBS (LON), MD (LON), FRCP, FRCP (EDIN), PhD (HON)
Aden College Alumnus
Professor of Medicine
King Saud bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences
Head of Nephrology & Renal Transplantation
King Abdulaziz Medical City, Riyadh
Editor-in-Chief, Saudi Journal for Kidney Diseases and Transplantation
Chairman, Saudi National Committee of Kidney Transplantation
The recipe of successful educational strategy –the ingredients that made Aden College what it was- the College with a heritage and alumni with accomplishment.
There, I said it right there in the title. Clearly I am inclined to use superlatives to describe my alma mater Thus I want to admit right at the outset that I am unashamedly –nay proudly –totally biased towards Aden College. I am., after all, one of its products – a proud and grateful Aden College alumnus. Objectivity, however, demands that I provide evidence for the appropriateness of using these superlatives when talking about Aden College. After all I am supposedly trained in evidence-based conclusions.
But first why I am writing about this? (or indeed why have a website about Aden College at all?)
The romantic reminiscing motive
There is no doubt that in part this is a self indulgent exercise by an alumnus who loved and loves his old College. There is also the power of the inevitable drive to reminisce and hark back to childhood days especially as one gets older. Often the compelling syndrome of ‘the good old days” prevails when talking about one’s early days.
Then there is the love for Aden, the City. An organic link no doubt existed between Aden College to Aden, the City. As far as I am concerned, reminiscing about the College cannot be separated from reminiscing about the City. There are so closely entwined and thoroughly entangled.
Practical pragmatic motive (although I say so myself)
Whereas all the points mentioned above might be contributory drivers for writing this article ( and I give no apologies for this), it is also true that I am driven at another important level having to do with attempting to answer this question: “what can the Aden College experience teach us in the way of
improving educational strategies in the Arab World?”.
Those of us who have children in Arab Schools will –very certainly- be open to ways to improving how our children are taught. Can Aden College act as a
model?. I will argue that it can.
The methodology I will pursue in discussing the issues
1) I shall speculate on why did the British Colonial Power decided to establish Aden College when they did.
2) If the College deserves to be emulated and replicated, the first premise I need to establish as being true is that Aden College has pursued a successful educational strategy.
3) In order to do that one needs to put forward universally accepted indicators of a successful educational institution. I am no expert in educational strategies and theories but I do know this; like most parents, I know what our children ought to gain from the schools they attend.
4) Once I have done so, I will then attempt to describe what, in my view, were the ingredients that made Aden College a highly successful project.
5) Finally I will have a go at speculating about "what could have been" and how the experience- what I would call the “the Aden College Phenomenon”, can be replicated.
Perhaps a good way to start is to speculate about why the British Colonial Powers decided to establish Aden College in 1953 and why have they modeled it in the way they did.
I have no firsthand knowledge as to why the British decided to open the College as they did in 1953. I am planning to investigate this further perhaps by studying the Colonial Service records of that time, if I can. Be as it may, my research showed there are some differing views reading the reason for opening this college. I will mention them and rebut them if rebutting is needed. My approach in discussing this will depend on my own experiences of how I got there ( to Aden College) what I did and experienced when I was there and what has become of me when I left the College.
1. One view will have us believe that the British wanted a group of half educated Adenis to work as office boys and clerks to enhance and help the British in the day to day running of the colony at a low cost since the alternative would be to bring British people to do the work. This has been
expressed in some articles one of which was posted on this site. If that was their intention , then this is reflected in the content of the curriculum itself, the choice of subjects to be taught and the plans set forth to deal with the bright students (I will have more to say about this in a future essay).
2. Another view might contend that the whole exercise is at the core of it a colonial/colonizing exercise calculated to breed an influential pro-British anti national anti Islamic substratum of natives who would serve as British appeasers. Those who espouse this view would find it difficult to square this with the realities that came about immediately before the independence. I will have a lot to say about this and attempt to prove a contrary postulate in a future article.
3. Then there are those who would say that the College was set up simply to serve and reward the elite of society by educating the children of the influential families of Aden and the Sultans and Sheikhs of the protectorate. In other words, it is an elitist institution that enhanced societal polarization. I have no figures to show if such influential families were over represented in the student population or not, and it would be interesting to look into this. But even if this were found to be the case the next litmus test to undertake s whether this overrepresentation was justified and based on higher achievements of pupils from these families or was it because of preferential unfair treatment (reverse affirmative action, so to speak). I will argue in a future article that, by and large, Aden College was not an elitist or unfair college.
4. The other view holds no conspiratorial contention and argues that Aden College was simply established as a result of a new scheme taken by Westminster Government in the fifties to simply provide good, albeit limited, scholastic opportunities to the British colonies at the time. I will argue this point in a future article basing this on the extent to which Aden College was modeled on successful British Public schools and on what was happening in the other British colonies at the time from the Educational services point of view.