JP_The Emirati Curriculum_Bennett and MBZ (MS)

The Emirati School Curriculum: When Peace Goes to School

When President Isaac Herzog flies to the United Arab Emirates on Sunday, marking the first official visit of an Israeli president to the Gulf state, he will be welcomed by the man who is arguably the Middle East’s most effective educational reformer. According to The New York Times, Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, also known as MBZ, undertook a bottom-up review of all of his country’s vulnerabilities to terrorist attacks after 9/11. Among other things, MBZ took a long, hard look at the UAE’s education ministry which Islamists had previously made into a state within a state of sorts, demanding a sweeping rewrite of the country’s textbooks. … The UAE is developing strategically to secure a stake in the emerging world order and understands that education for tolerance and peaceful coexistence is critical for societies to flourish. Emirati students are taught that prosperity and national pride are intrinsically linked to peace and tolerance, a theme that runs throughout the curriculum. Textbooks take the psychological well-being of their students seriously, educating young generations morally and spiritually for a rapidly changing global society… Complete Article HERE

JI_Arab Influencer Pushing Abraham Accords from UAE

The Arab Influencer Pushing the Abraham Accords From Abu Dhabi

At the age of 28, when Loay Alshareef, then a French language student from Saudi Arabia, stumbled into his homestay in Paris to discover he was surrounded by Stars of David—his instinct was to turn on his heels and find another family to stay with. “I didn’t feel comfortable at the beginning,” he told The Circuit. Putting it mildly, Alshareef said he “didn’t have positive views about Israel or about the Jewish people,” at that time, in 2010. “I called the school and they said ‘take your time'”—and with the gentle guidance of his “wise” host mother, he did. “There are good Jews, bad Jews, good Christians, bad Christians, good Muslims, bad Muslims—but this is not what we were taught. We were told that the Jews are conspiring against Muslims and the Jews are evil, the Jews hate Muslims from the bottom of their hearts. And to me, it was very baffling.” Today, Alshareef is fully invested in building bridges between Jews and Arabs, but understands the inherent challenges in doing so. “You cannot blame” people, he said, for “being taught for 70 years hatred towards Jews and Israel.” Today, he noted, Saudi Arabia is undergoing a “great change,” leaving behind previous education curricula that he described as “disastrous.”  Complete Article HERE

Kurdish Education in Turkey: A Joint Responsibility

Turkish elites often see Kurds as posing a mortal threat to their homeland’s territorial integrity. Kurdish elites often harbor pan-Kurdish dreams of their own. The rise to power of Erdogan’s Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) in 2002 appeared to imply a watershed, bringing about a measure of cultural liberalization toward the Kurds. More Islam seemed at first to signal less nationalistic chauvinism. IMPACT-se, a think tank focusing on peace and tolerance in school education, pointed out that the AKP government introduced liberal elements to the Turkish curriculum. These “included the introduction of a Kurdish language elective program, the teaching of evolution, expressions of cultural openness, and displays of tolerance toward minorities. … a slight improvement over past textbooks in recognizing the Kurds, but they are still generally ignored.” [Yet] the name “Kurd” is no longer obliterated from the curriculum. Kurdish-language textbooks were authored as part of a wider Turkish-Kurdish rapprochement. … But this is not enough. A Turkish-Kurdish common vision should be developed. Educationally, a serious effort should be directed toward educating both Turks and Kurds about each other’s identity, culture, shared history, commonalities, conflicts, and interactions… Complete Article  HERE

Arabic-Learning ‘Madrasa’ App Developed by Technion Students

Students from the Henry and Marilyn Taub Faculty of Computer Science at the Technion recently developed a voice-recognition app for the “Madrasa” project to help people learn Arabic. Part of the Madrasa project—which advocates for better communication in Israeli society through spoken Arabic courses—the app includes a voice recognition feature that will allow tens of thousands of students learning Arabic in online courses to practice their pronunciation. Students Noor Hamdan, Rina Atieh, Lina Mansour and Wadad Boulos worked on developing the app. “Working with the students was very effective and helpful,” Gilad Sevitt, founder and director of Madrasa, said. “They came on board and contributed greatly to our project, and we enjoyed working together on both the linguistic and technological levels. . . . With the help of Technion students, we were able to develop a voice recognition component that will finally allow tens of thousands of students in our online courses to practice their pronunciation in Arabic and speak while learning,” Sevitt said.  Complete Article HERE

Egyptian Parliament Reopens Debate on Quran’s Place in the Curriculum

When the Egyptian Parliament recently considered a bill intended to support the use of Standard Arabic, the discussion grew heated between a a representative of Al-Azhar and a parliamentarian who objected to provisions about Quran memorization in primary school. Modern Standard Arabic is the formal dialect of the wider Arabic language, which there are now many dialects across the Arab world. On Nov. 30, the Egyptian Parliament discussed a bill containing measures to support of the arguably archaic literary dialect that included a language exam for applicants for government jobs, obligating shops to post their names in Standard Arabic and forcing advertisements and television programs to broadcast their content in Standard Arabic. The bill includes penalties of up to a year in imprison and fines of up to 50,000 Egyptian pounds ($3,175). In the session, a representative of Al-Azhar suggested students be required to memorize more Quranic verses, but parliamentarian Youssef Al-Husseini objected to provisions in the bill that retain Quran memorization in primary school. “There are non-Muslim students like Copts who should not be forced to memorize the Quran,” argued Husseini, who is deputy chairman of parliament’s media and culture committee.  Complete Article 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

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

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

Dr. Anon Groiss-200x157

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