Israelis Should Be Taught Arabic in Schools

There’s no expression that better demonstrates the new peaks Arab-Israeli relations have hit in recent years than a “picture is worth a thousand words.” Just in the past month, Israeli officials and military forces were photographed alongside Arab counterparts. A major change was also seen in the diplomatic sphere, which might not have received the same amount of visual coverage, but was publicly announced, a change in and of itself. In Israel’s Declaration of Independence, the country’s founding fathers wrote: “We extend our hand to all neighboring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighborliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land. The State of Israel is prepared to do its share in a common effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East.” Since then, the attitude has changed in many countries, but overt cooperation—as we’ve witnessed recently—has not often been seen. The direction is right, but we’re not there yet. In the Arab street, some say that the peace with Israel is peace among governments, but not among the peoples. An Israeli citizen, for example, cannot walk freely and feel safe in the streets of Cairo or Amman. This mostly has to do with the popular view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But Israelis can do more to assimilate into the region. The most basic step to change this is to start teaching Arabic at a younger age and to include spoken Arabic as part of our schools’ curricula. It is said that the entire Arabic teaching system in Israel is aimed at training young men and women ahead of possible service in the IDF’s Intelligence Corps. In this age of peace, it is time to change the direction. This is the right time for us, the people, to show that Israel is more than just an exporter of military technology. We have a lot to give, and a key step is learning the language of the region, which will help all of us communicate in the new language of peace.  Complete Editorial HERE

The Conversation_AI and Student Coding Pic

Artificial Intelligence Is Getting Better at Writing, and Universities Should Worry About Plagiarism

The dramatic rise of online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic has spotlit concerns about the role of technology in exam surveillance—and also in student cheating. Some universities have reported more cheating during the pandemic, and such concerns are unfolding in a climate where technologies that allow for the automation of writing continue to improve. Over the past two years, the ability of artificial intelligence to generate writing has leapt forward significantly, particularly with the development of what’s known as the language generator GPT-3. With this, companies such as Google, Microsoft and NVIDIA can now produce “human-like” text. AI-generated writing has raised the stakes of how universities and schools will gauge what constitutes academic misconduct, such as plagiarism. As scholars with an interest in academic integrity and the intersections of work, society and educators’ labor, we believe that educators and parents should be, at the very least, paying close attention to these significant developments. The use of technology in academic writing is already widespread. For example, many universities already use text-based plagiarism detectors like Turnitin, while students might use Grammarly, a cloud-based writing assistant. Examples of writing support include automatic text generation, extraction, prediction, mining, form-filling, paraphrasing, translation and transcription. Advancements in AI technology have led to new tools, products and services being offered to writers to improve content and efficiency. As these improve, soon entire articles or essays might be generated and written entirely by artificial intelligence. In schools, the implications of such developments will undoubtedly shape the future of learning, writing and teaching… Complete Article HERE

UN News_Helping Iraqi School Girls

‘It Will Help Me to Achieve My Dream’: Helping Iraqi Girls Stay in School

When COVID-19 closed schools in Basra, southern Iraq, the academic prospects for many schoolgirls were put at risk. The 2,570 primary school children from Basra’s Shatt al-Arab district who are involved in the trial project from the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP), receive a cash stipend to support their education. “This will help me achieve my dream of becoming a dentist,” says 12-year-old Baneen, whose family were able to buy her own mobile phone with the money from the programme: mobiles phones were a popular choice amongst the families involved in the project. “The mobile phones have been helping with online study”, explains Principal Zainab Karim, a headteacher in Basra. “Many schoolchildren live in the same home as several other children, and share the same phone as their moms and dads. The students benefit from having their own phones. If they don’t need a new one for e-learning, the families can use the money to pay for transport, daily expenses, or clothing.”  Complete Article HERE

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A Middle East Scholar’s Impressions of the George Eckert Institute Report on Palestinian Textbooks

The Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research recently completed its research of 174 Palestinian Authority textbooks and 16 teachers’ guides for 2017–20, grades 1-12, plus an additional seven textbooks published by the PA and modified by Israeli authorities for use in East Jerusalem schools. The research was initiated by the European Parliament upon requests by some members who had expressed concern about antisemitic and anti-peace contents found in the books by previous researchers, chiefly the teams of the Institute for Monitoring Peace And Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-se) and me, through consecutive studies of these books from 2000 to 2020. The European Union financially supports both the PA and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for the Palestine refugees (UNRWA) that uses these books as well, and it was necessary to ascertain the existence of such contents in the books prior to making further decisions [regarding continued support]. Having studied the attitude to the “Other” and to peace in various Middle Eastern curricula, including that of the PA, I was curious to look into GEI’s report. The following is my initial impressions of its findings…  Complete Impressions HERE

The Economist_Travails of Teaching Arabic

The Travails of Teaching Arabs Their Own Language

God, says the Qur’an, chose Arabic for his revelation because it is easy to understand. But many of the world’s 470 million Arabic-speakers beg to differ. According to a report by the World Bank, almost 60 percent of ten-year-olds in Arabic-speaking countries (and Iran) struggle to read and understand a basic text. Despite decades of investment in education, the Middle East and north Africa still suffer from what the report calls “learning poverty.” “School systems don’t see the importance of engaging kids in reading—or don’t know how,” says Hanada Taha-Thomure, one of the authors. “It creates a gap between children and their language. Many can’t read or write an essay.” The root of the problem is bad teaching. Arabic lessons are dull and focus on fiddly grammar. Classrooms often have no printed material. Few schools have libraries. Teachers tend to lack “sufficient mastery of the language itself,” says the report. In universities across the region, Arabic departments, along with religious studies ones, attract students with the lowest grades. Arab education ministries are waking up to the problem. Egypt has developed a trove of online material to bypass the traditionalists. The UAE has begun fitting classrooms with “reading corners.”….  Complete Article  HERE

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As Most Students Return to Classrooms, Schools in Some Countries Have Been Shuttered for 18 Months Straight

Students across much of the world are trading in Zoom widows for chalkboards, in a global moment of hope and apprehension. In some places, including parts of the United States, many school doors shut for a year and a half have swung open, even amid resurgent coronavirus outbreaks. In five countries—Bangladesh, Kuwait, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela—in-person schooling was paused nationally for 18 months. In the Philippines and Venezuela, there’s no end in sight. Many of the countries that have seen the longest pauses in classroom education were among those least equipped to transition to remote learning. Students are facing dire consequences, teachers say. For many teachers, the situation seems desperate, said Raymond Basilio, the secretary general of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers, a large organization of education workers in the Philippines. Of the nation’s approximately 27 million students, only around 14 percent participated in online schooling last fall, according to a survey conducted in November 2020. Families with resources, Basilio said, are more likely to have the means and wherewithal to buy sufficient Internet access and enroll their children in online school. They can also hire tutors to help their children keep up with unsupervised lessons. “That story is not the story for students who are the children of farm workers, children of fisher folk or urban poor workers,” he said.  Complete Article  HERE

IMPACT-se Review of GEI PA Report_Image of Palestinian wielding slingshot

IMPACT-se Review: The Georg Eckert Institute Report on the Palestinian Curriculum

The 2021 Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research report into Palestinian Authority textbooks is a welcome addition to the corpus of knowledge about the most recent iteration of the Palestinian national curriculum. Commissioned by the European Union, this report identifies many of the same systemic problems that other research institutes have brought to light over the past several years: Palestinian textbooks feature content that promotes the glorification of terrorism and martyrdom, violence, antisemitism and hate. The report, however, fails to provide a complete and accurate picture of the state of the PA curriculum. It exaggerates positive features, minimizes negative aspects, and refrains from drawing meaningful conclusions about self-evident problematic findings. It examines minor aspects of the textbooks without attempting to describe how they fit into the greater narrative of the PA curriculum. Overall, the report does not discuss the likely effect of the curriculum on Palestinian students, nor what type of Palestinian national civil society may emerge as a result. These errors and omissions will leave an unwitting reader with an unrealistic understanding of the PA textbooks, which is unfortunate given the time and effort that went into preparing the report. Complete Review HERE

BESA_Mideast Shapes_Doha Schoolchildren-Attend Exhibition (Vinod-Divakaran)

Through Education Middle East Powers Vie to Shape the Next Generation of Muslims

Education is emerging as a major flashpoint in competing visions of a future Muslim world. Rival concepts being instilled in the next generation are likely to shape what amounts to a battle for the soul of Islam. Reports published earlier this year by the Israel-based Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-SE) chart a notable divergence in educational approaches across the Muslim world. At one end of the spectrum are Pakistan and Turkey, two of the more populous Muslim countries. Their claim to leadership of the Muslim world is rooted in conservative if not ultra-conservative interpretations of Islam that increasingly shape their education systems. Saudi Arabia and the UAE reside at the other end of the spectrum with their reduced emphasis on religion in education and emphasis on science as well as religious tolerance and interfaith dialogue. Straddling the two approaches is Qatar, the world’s only other Wahhabi state alongside Saudi Arabia—even if it adhered to a more liberal interpretation long before the rise of Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman.  Complete Article HERE

Girls’ Education ‘Worth Fighting For’, Malala Tells Education Summit

“The world is facing a girls’ education crisis,” with more than 130 million girls missing out on school around the world, Malala Yousafzai has warned. “Their futures are worth fighting for,” the education campaigner told a global education summit in London. She said the recovery from the pandemic had to mean fair access to education. The Global Partnership for Education summit wants to raise $5bn (£3.6bn) to support education in some of the world’s poorest countries. Hosted by the UK and Kenya, it will raise funds for the next five years, creating an extra 88 million school places and supporting the learning of 175 million children. The pandemic has exacerbated the problems already facing schools in poorer countries – with warnings that children who were forced out of school because of coronavirus might never return. The UK has promised £430m and other donor countries will be making pledges—with about $4bn (£2.9bn) of the total expected to be promised by Thursday, in what is claimed as the biggest ever education fundraising event. Malala, a Nobel prize winner from Pakistan who has campaigned for female education, told the summit of the importance of investing in education, particularly for girls who don’t have opportunities “just because of their gender.” Complete Article HERE

VOA UNESCO, UNICEF-Urge School Reopenings

UNICEF, UNESCO Urge World Leaders to Reopen Schools

World leaders should prioritize reopening schools for in-person learning immediately in order to avoid a “generational catastrophe,” UNICEF and UNESCO said in a joint statement Monday. The organizations said that keeping schools closed to 156 million students in 19 countries, due to COVID-19, is causing potentially irreparable damage to child development. They also pointed out discrepancies in reopening strategies, which have often opened bars and restaurants while keeping schools shut. “Closing schools mortgages our future for unclear benefits to our present,” the statement read. “We must prioritize better. We can reopen schools safely, and we must.” The statement comes before the convening of the 2021 Global Education Meeting, an annual event organized by UNESCO that brings together prominent education leaders to address global efforts to improve education. Last year, leaders at the 2020 GEM agreed to a 15-month education plan focused on recovering from the setbacks of the COVID-19 pandemic and staying on track with other educational goals. UNICEF’s and UNESCO’s primary argument for reopening schools now centers around mitigating the negative impacts of 18 months of school closures…. Complete Article HERE