30 thousand books at Exhibition of Used Books News Round Up A Student’s Perspective of Islamic Finance Mind Over Matter Cooperation in the field of heritage News Update Self Study and Reflective Writing Department of Public Relations and Information Sultan Qaboos University Issue 239 View Point The Language of the Universe Humaid Abdullah Al Adwani Editorial Supervision & Editor in Chief M.K. Santhosh Senior Editor Ahlam Al Wahaibi Design & Layout Rashad Al Wahaibi & Photography Dept., CET Photography When you buy a car, follow a recipe, or decorate your home, you’re using math principles. People have been using these same principles for thousands of years, across countries and continents. Whether you’re sailing a boat off the coast of Muscat or building a house in Salalah, you’re using math to get things done. Math is so universal.In fact, human beings didn’t invent math concepts; we discovered them. Also, the language of math is numbers, not English or Arabic or Russian. If we are well versed in this language of numbers, it can help us make important decisions and perform everyday tasks. Math is everywhere and yet, we may not recognize it because it doesn’t look like the math we did in school. Math in the world around us sometimes seems invisible. But math is present in our world all the time--in the workplace, in our homes, and in life in general. In the words of Dr. Bernhard Heim, a math professor in a private university in Oman, we are surrounded by numbers in our every day life. Secret pin codes, IT systems, phone applications, etc. are based on the so-called number theories. Mathematics is a way to shorten the counting process. Number theory is one of the most important areas of modern science in Mathematics. It is the core of modern Mathematics, taught at all universities around the world. Out of their genuine interest in this area, Dr. Heim and Mehiddin Al-Baali of the Department of Mathematics at SQU, took the initiative to organize a joint International Workshop on Mathematics entitled “New Developments in Number Theory and in Applied Mathematics” in February this year. In January 2012, SQU hosted another International mathematics event: International Conference on the Theory of Radicals, Rings and Modules. The two events were noted for the presence of internationally reputed mathematicians from different continents. It is sometimes difficult for students to appreciate the importance of Mathematics. They often find the subject boring and hard to understand. We hope workshops dealing with numbers and shapes would help our students realise that Mathematics is not just a subject on their time-table but a tool they use in their everyday life. Such events play a vital role in bringing people closer to mathematics, the language of the universe. Horizon invites contributions from SQU members of staff and faculty. Contributions in the form of articles, news, travelogues, stories of unique and interesting experiences, encounters, etc., are welcome. Contributions may be edited for the sake of clarity and length. Please send your contributions to [email protected] preferably, as MSWord attachments. Authors will be suitably credited. Horizon is published three times a month by the Department of Public Relations and Information, Sultan Qaboos University, P.O. Box 50, P.C. 123, Muscat, Sultanate of Oman. Phone: +968 24141045 E-mail: [email protected] 10 April 2012 P2 Fax: +968 24413 391 Website: www.squ.edu.om News Update President of Polish Senate visits SQU Cooperation in the field of heritage HE Dr. Ali bin Saud Al Bimani the Vice Chancellor of Sultan Qaboos University, received HE Bogdan Borusewicz, the president of Polish Senate, and his delegation, with presence of senior officers in SQU. During their meeting, they explored the potential of educational cooperation between SQU and Polish educational institutions and the means of enhancing it. The meeting discussed cooperation in research and academic matters. Dr. Al Bimani evinced the keenness of SQU in carrying out cooperative researches with focus on scientific areas that serve the community in medical, agricultural and other scientific fields. The delegation lauded the achievements that SQU made in terms of education, research, community service and scientific activity, and discussed the available scientific and academic programs in Polish universities. The discussion focused on the modern scientific programs and the development of medical science at the university, and the importance of investment and scientific knowledge. H.H. Sayyida Dr. Mona bint Fahd Al Said, SQU Assistant Vice Chancellor for External Co-operation alluded to the steps that the university follow to consolidate its foreign relations with many institutions and universities around the world. Prof. Amer bin Ali Al Rawas, SQU Deputy Vice Chancellor for Postgraduate & Research talked about the research and scientific fields that the university focused on, the types of scientific research, and the scientific achievements of the university. At the end of the visit, the delegation visited the Cultural Center, the Grand Hall and the Main Library, where they introduced to the most important sections and the provided services in the library. Through the meeting which was chaired recently by HE Dr. Ali bin Saud al Bimani, the Vice Chancellor of Sultan Qaboos University and HE Salim Bin Mohammed Al Mahrooqi, Undersecretary for Heritage Affairs at the Ministry of Heritage and Culture, they explored the possibility of enhancing cooperation between the university and the Ministry of Heritage and Culture, specifically in the field of heritage. The meeting discussed the possibility of the ministry to benefit from university’s experience in the field of exploration, rehabilitation of archaeological sites and review the submitted action plans by the global institutions, and also organize specialized courses in the field of space, graphic artifacts and geographic information systems and offers training opportunities to technicians. Further, they discussed the possibility of inserting specialty courses for museum management. Both sides agreed in principle to start joint programs to hold workshops and seminars in the field of heritage and rehabilitate working staff in the museum, in the areas of museum management and the conservation of museum collections. As well as establishing joint activities, such as exhibitions and seminars that deal with heritage and architecture of Oman. In addition, agreement on doing shared scientific program in archaeological and historical fields was discussed. The meeting concluded to form a working group headed by Dr. Abdullah bin Khamis Al Kindi, Dean of the Collage of Arts & Social Sciences to study the raised issues and the possibility of implementing them. Vice Chancellor Receives Mori HE Dr. Ali bin Saud Al Bimani, Vice Chancellor of Sultan Qaboos University, received Dr. Mariko Mori, Professor at the Sultan Qaboos Chair for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Tokyo, during their meeting they explore the possibilities of enhancing the cooperation between the two institutions. Mori said that they have a continuous program of events during the coming period include lectures and conferences dealing with East Asia and the Islamic world, noted to the importance of SQU lecturers to participate in these forums. Dr. Al Bimani evinced the keenness of SQU in participating in these seminars and cooperating with the University of Tokyo, stressing the need to establish partnership with various institutions to exchange expertise and contribute to the development of the educational process at the university. He also suggested the idea of presenting a seminar about Oman- Japan relationships. H.H. Sayyida Dr. Mona bint Fahd Al Said, SQU Assistant Vice Chancellor for External Co-operation, said: “The relationship of SQU with educational institutions of Japan began years ago, such as Waseda University, where SQU hosted Japanese students to learn Arabic, in addition to other programs in different areas. 10 April 2012 P3 Insight Self Study and Reflective Writing problems such as using the comma to separate sentences. In retrospect, I learned as much English and writing as that acquired in the years of graduate studies. By: Dr. Tsze Sun Li Associate Professor Business Communication Unit College of Commerce & Economics Since then, I have been teaching and learning various forms of professional communications as part and parcel of my life in Hong Kong, Singapore, Oman, UAE, and Macao. Interestingly, I found that Singaporean and Indian students, who use English at an early age, tend to be more proficient in spoken English, despite the Singaporean and Indian accents, whereas Chinese students can write better than they speak, and the Arab students seem to have negative self-images in writing. Most of them share one characteristic—they appeared to be “struggling” in writing all along the way. Now that you know my story, let’s look at the scenario of university student writing through the notion of reflective practices. Linguists have been studying how people learn writing. In this article, I will study my self to reflect on my process of learning writing, and then introduce the notion of reflective practices with a writing assignment, which is highly recommended for students across the curriculum. When I started learning English at primary school, I didn’t like it. My mom enrolled me in an English evening primary school situated next to our house. So I had to study full-time in the day and “part-time” (English) in the evening. Changes occurred when I was at Primary 5—I began to love learning English. As a boy, I liked to study English on whatever objects with English words on them such as match boxes, soda cans, posters, stamps, etc. I obtained an “A” (Distinction) in English when I finished primary school, so my mom continued to enroll me in the English evening secondary school. So I had double concentration in English in my secondary school days. As a result, all my peers then perceived me as the English subject leader; whenever they did not understand some English, they would consult me. In the final year, to my mom’s expectation, I graduated with Distinction in English again. Then I entered university but improved little in English. It was until I won a scholarship to study a year as an exchange student in USA that changed my life. It was my first exposure to intensive English learning in a native English speaking and writing environment. I spoke and wrote a lot of English during the year at Beaver College. That year secured my English foundation and I decided to pursue further studies after graduation. . Since university graduation, I have been living on English language teaching. During the initial years of secondary school English teaching, I continued to improve myself, but I thought my dream of graduate studies in professional communications was yet to be accomplished. In the early 1980’s, I received formal and rigorous training in journalistic writing at the University of Oregon (UO), and assisted the department head in teaching news reporting and writing at Oklahoma State University while pursuing a doctoral degree in Higher Education. I can clearly and pleasantly recall those painstaking days at UO checking hard-copy dictionaries to prepare for lessons and tutorials and rapidly doing writing assignments on manual typewriters in old-fashioned language laboratories, which were due right after one hour. In addition, in Professor Galen Rarick’s Editorial Writing course, we wrote one editorial per week, which was corrected word for word and commented on as if it were an article submitted for blind review. After obtaining the doctoral degree, I started out teaching News Writing and Editorial Writing in Kansas (USA) and improved tremendously on my own writing proficiency. It was then I realized the weaknesses of native English learners, for instance, confusing “its” and “it’s” and grammatical 10 April 2012 P4 Many students are labeled or self-perceived as “poor writers.” Reflective practices can be an effective tool to help students see themselves as writers who are learning to negotiate various literacies required in the academy. The problem is not that students are intellectually incapable, but the way student writing is received creates struggle, tension and conflict when they try to conform to the institutional requirements of writing. As a strategy, learning from the notion of reflective practices, teachers can help students build greater confidence in writing, better understand the writing process and the resources they can access for writing assignments. In this view, “errors” are logical in students’ writing, and should not be emphasized because focusing on error correction would be counterproductive to their search for student-writer identity. At the beginning of the semester, teachers can engage students in a low-stake writing assignment that reflects on the students’ experiences and influences as writers. The following is a blueprint of the assignment, subject to teachers’ modification. In-Class Reflective Writing Assignment—Seeing Yourself as a Writer A. Memories What is the first time you remember writing? Make a list of those events that seem particularly interesting or memorable to you. What were your thoughts, feelings, and ideas at these times? B. Successes When was writing particularly successful or exciting for you? Has writing seemed difficult or unpleasant for you? What do you think are the causes? What particular pieces of writing are you most or least proud of? Why? C. Influences Who has had the most positive effect on your writing? The most negative? What kinds of writing have you done? What have people said about your writing? D. Seeing yourself writing Imagine your ideal writing space – the place you would write the most productively, the most beautifully, with the greatest ease. What does that space look like, feel like, sound like? What do you look like? What are you doing? E. Truths and lies Write two or three truths about yourself as a writer. Write two or three lies about yourself as a writer. F. Imaginations Writing is like... because...Coming up with ideas for writing is like... because... G. What else should I know about you as a student or as a writer? Mind Over Matter A Student’s Perspective of Islamic Finance By: Azza Khalid Al Habsi College of Commerce & Economics Is satisfying some members of the public worth the risk of implementing a new banking system in Oman’s infant economy? What if the general public is unaware of what the Islamic banking system entails, its functionality, and the risks associated with it? The recent Oman Islamic Economic Forum held on December 17-18, 2011, dealt in depth with the implementation of Islamic finance in Oman and attempted to answer these questions. Economic pundits, policy makers, and scholars from around the world came to Oman to examine the risks behind Islamic finance, and the success that could be achieved from it. As one of Sultan Qaboos University students, from the College of Commerce and Economic, who was lucky enough to participate in this forum, I would like to share with you a student’s perspective on Islamic finance, and what I learnt from this educational experience. Bank Nizwa and Al Izz International Bank are two new banks entering the Omani market next year with an inclusive Islamic infrastructure or what is economically called an ‘Islamic base’. The success of Islamic finance in Oman, and the banks that will implement it, will all depend entirely on the public’s reaction. As a result, if Islamic banking leads to an increase in the mobilization of funds and investment prospects, than we should expect more employment opportunities, an increase in the number of Islamic banks, and a rush to open Islamic windows in traditional commercial banks similar to the launching of ‘alMithaq’, Bank Muscat’s Islamic window. This in the long run will improve the country’s economy as a whole. On the other hand, if the “unexpected” occur, and the majority of the public and institutions in the country reacts negatively to Islamic banking, the consequences might be damaging to the national economy and its reputation. My direct interaction with professionals and researchers in the economic and finance sector from Oman and abroad, throughout the forum, alerted me to the fact that implementing and adding a new banking system in a country is a huge step and should not be taken slightly as many think. For this reason, Oman should make it a priority to take advantage of other countries’ experiences such as Malaysia, for example, and not just rush into the new system and repeat the same mistakes. The objective of the system must also be clearly set from the beginning, and targeting the same objective to the very end. Moreover, increasing the general public awareness is crucial to minimize the risk of public disappointment if expectations about Islamic banking turn out to be totally different from the reality. In addition to this, regulators in Oman should start implementing the new system in stages, until the idea, practices, and methods of Islamic banking and finance is well established in the market place, and this according to my humble opinion, should definitely take precedent from the launching of any new ‘Islamic base’ banks such as Bank Nizwa and Al Izz International bank. I believe that any new bank entering the market at this point in time, would be “unfairly” put under the intense banking competition already existing in the country and prior to the maturity of the Omani consumer to the very idea of Islamic banking and finance. Although the world financial meltdown may have led many countries to begin implementing the Islamic banking system in their fascination to avoid future economic crises, and Islamic finance is no more a Muslim countries phenomenon alone, which clearly boost the likely success of the system in Oman as well. Nevertheless, because an agreed upon international standard for the system is still lacking, in order to avoid future conflicts, and to enable Oman’s financial system to move hand in hand with the current established system used by the majority of commercial bank around the world, jumping into a new banking system should be a decision analyzed, examined, and agreed upon by every sector and member of society and the business community as a whole to understand and predict its future effects. I conclude my perspective on Islamic finance by considering if Islamic Banking is going to succeed in Oman; Maybe yes, because that is what some of the citizen are demanding, but maybe not, because only few Omanis knows what Islamic banking and finance is, and how it works. As a result, though many might believe that Islamic banking will encourage growth, stimulate the economy, and encourage citizens who are currently non commercial bank users and depositing huge funds in Islamic banks around the world, to bring their savings back to Oman, many individuals also tend to ignore the negative aspects of Islamic banking such as the lack of international standards, and the unfamiliarity of its products to many people in the country and around the world. In all cases, the truth through predictions alone is impossible, and the answer unfortunately, will only be clear when the new ‘Islamic base’ banks open their doors to Omani consumers next year. My only hope is that by then policy makers of our country will have completed analyzing all the positives and negatives effects of Islamic finance on the national economy before entirely committing to it. (Edited by: Salim Al Jahwari, Visiting Consultant (2009-2010), College of Commerce and Economics) 10 April 2012 P5 News Round Up 30 thousand books at Exhibition of Used Books 40 children participated in “My Doctor is My Friend” The Medical Group in Collage of Medicine and Health Sciences organized an event entitled “My Doctor is my Friend” at the Child Care Center in Al Khoudh. The event attracted over 40 children, which included a number of activities varied between recognition to the doctor’s tools and their uses, try the experience of visiting the doctor, and gave them some important information about the importance of healthy food, cleaning teeth and body care. The project of “My Doctor is my Friend” is one of the global projects of medical students in the world, targeting the children between 3 to 9 years and aims to break the fear from the doctor and consolidate a good relationship between them. This project is recognized by the International Federation of Medical Students’ Association, introduced in the Sultanate at 2010 as the first Gulf country and one of the first Arab countries that apply the project. The event concluded by some entertainment competitions for children and distribution of souvenirs and honored the centre’s administration for their cooperation in the success of this event. The First Edition of the Junior Statistical Competition The opening ceremony of the third charity book fair of pre-owned books at Muscat City Center, organized and supervised annually by the Information Center Group, Collage of commerce & Economics in SQU, was held under the patronage of H.H Ms. Hajeja bint Jeffer Al Said. Ms. Al Said lauded the efforts of Collage of Commerce and Economics, she said: “I am proud to present such charity fair, and this is a nice gesture from the college to encourage reading by selling books at discounted price and I welcomed the idea of donating the income of these books for a people with special needs or for charity organizations.” Amera Al Yarubi, head of the Information Center Group, said: “This year, the number of books doubled from the previous years from ten thousand books to about 30 thousand books. Different from the previous exhibitions they allocated a larger corner for children with group of activities. These activities provide tips for parents to encourage their children to read. She added: “The number of places that were collected books increased, such as the University of Nizwa, Omani Women’s Association in Saham and a number of private schools. The book fair aims to encourage reading and volunteer work. Books are categorized into various sections including literature, culture, art, medicine, science and so on, which are available in both Arabic and English. Deanship of Student Affairs Organizes Nutrition Forum Nutrition Supervising Section at Female Students Social Services Department, Deanship of Student Affairs organized Nutrition Forum, which its activities continued for three days. The forum included an exhibition about the importance of food and nutrition in life as well as the safety steps for safety life.The exhibition contained many important corners such as alternative medicine , healthy dish, beauty and health, security and safety and a corner for Taus Food Company. Within the framework of Mathematics & Statistics Group seeking to raise the concept of statistics and promote awareness of it, the statistics team in the Collage of Science at the University organized the first edition of the junior statistical competition, which is concerned in the field of statistics and it targeted the students of the second stage at schools. In the event, the organizers at the beginning of the competition gave a lecture about the basics of statistics, followed by the competition, which included several stages ranging from the easiest to the hardest. Among the participated schools are Al Fadhel bin Abbas primary school, Rustaq primary school and Ahmed bin Majid private School. 10 April 2012 P6 Establishing such events is very important to identify the female students to a healthy life. Zainab Al Hassani, Nutrition supervisor, talked about the goal of establishing such exhibitions and its importance to the students, which identify them to the proper food values and habits, and activate the role of female students to participate in such events, on the other hand the exhibition seeks to create an entertainment atmosphere between the students. The opening ceremony included many presentations about the participated staff in the exhibition, such as Mayor corner, who explained in some presentation the purpose of their presence in such exhibitions, which is to raise awareness to consumers about basics of preserving food and observing the offered food in restaurants and shops. Moreover, it included a corner for Civil Defense, who presents the risks that women face at home and how to prevent them. The ceremony concluded by some cultural competitions for students and some excerpts of poetry. More than 1420 research projects worth 20 million riyals undertaken since inception; funded through internal grants, joints grants, strategic grants, consultancy services, and external grants. Research findings resulted in publishing hundreds of papers in reputed scientific journals in addition to numerous conference presentations. Research adds to the prestige of the university; the progress continues with more advanced researches. A Sun that never sets Straight Talk Dr. Kwaku Aning Horizon: Could you explain the role of the Technical Cooperation Department of the IAEA? Dr. Aning: The Department of Technical Cooperation is responsible for developing, managing and monitoring the IAEA’s technical cooperation programme. This programme disburses more than 70 million US dollars worth of equipment, services and training per year in approximately 100 countries and territories, which are grouped into four geographic regions. Through training courses, expert missions, fellowships, scientific visits, and equipment disbursement, the Technical Cooperation Programme provides Member States with the necessary skills and equipment to establish sustainable technology in their country or region. Though the Sultanate of Oman is a new member state of the IAEA, it has come a long way in terms of availing itself of the assistance of the IAEA in different training programs. Horizon: Could you elaborate on the Technical Cooperation Programme of IAEA? Dr. Aning: This programme is the primary mechanism for delivering IAEA services. It focuses on the safe and secure application of nuclear science and technology for sustainable socioeconomic development. The programme is unique in the UN system, as it combines significant technical and developmental competencies. All Member States are eligible for support, although in practice technical cooperation activities tend to focus on the needs and priorities of less developed countries. The programme is very much a shared responsibility between the Agency and the 129 countries and territories receiving support. Horizon: Could you explain the peaceful applications of nuclear technology and the role of IAEA in this regard? Dr. Aning: Nuclear technologies are finding ever wider applications in both developed and developing countries. This technology is used in tracing underground water courses, locating oil deposits, ensuring aircraft, pipeline and highway construction integrity, conserving and analyzing ancient artifacts, mapping ocean currents and measuring climate changes, preventing fires, reducing air pollution, among many other applications. Some of these applications are literally lifesaving: nuclear technologies are used in medical diagnostics, cancer treatment and for sterilizing blood, tissue and medical supplies. The IAEA fosters the efficient and safe use of nuclear power by supporting interested Member States, as well as helping Member States introduce and utilize nuclear technologies for many other uses. Horizon: Can you elaborate on the current status of cooperation between the IAEA and Oman? Dr. Aning: Dr. Kwaku Aning, originally from Ghana, is the Deputy Director General for Technical Cooperation of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). He is the first African to assume this high-level exalted IAEA position. Dr. Aning is responsible for the implementation of nuclear technology projects in 120 member states of the IAEA. Prior to joining the IAEA in 2000, Dr. Aning served with the UN in various capacities for 23 years in New York, Angola and Geneva. He obtained his doctorate degree in Metallurgical Engineering from Columbia University, New York; a master’s degree in Solid State Physics from Princeton University, Princeton; and a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, Ghana. Dr. Kwaku Aning recently visited SQU and promised more support to the university in training and human resources development in peaceful applications and nuclear energy. Oman has experience working with the IAEA as a Gulf Cooperation Council Member State. At the 52nd IAEA General Conference in 2008, Oman identified several priority areas for development collaboration with the IAEA. These areas included electricity generation and water desalination, as well as applications related to the fields of medicine, health, environment, water management and agriculture. Oman became a member state in 2009. At present, 13 different ongoing projects in Oman receive IAEA technical support. These include long term planning for energy and water demand and supply in Oman; developing sustainable energy strategies and assessing the potential of nuclear power for social-economic growth; and strengthening national capacities in radiation medicine and dosimetry. Though Oman is a comparatively new member of IAEA, the country has come a long way in participating in the training programmes and technical support offered by the agency to its member states. Horizon: For IAEA, nuclear safety is a priority. What is the rea- son? Dr. Aning: Nuclear energy is an extremely powerful technology in which safety is an important element. Proper training of cadres is important in ensuring safe use of nuclear technology for peaceful applications such as medicine, water desalination, pest control, ground water management, oil exploration, food processing and so on. Institutions like SQU can play a key role in ensuring nuclear safety by providing cadres for training in nuclear applications with the support of IAEA.