x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

FNC presses educators on protection of national identity

Council asks Ministry of Education how it will 'protect our national identity' and teach children the dangers of globalisation.

ABU DHABI // The Federal National Council is concerned that young Emiratis are losing their national identity and are being influenced by the "dangers of globalisation" and the council wants to know what educators intend to do about it.

When the FNC convenes today, the Minister of Education, Humaid al Qattami, will be asked to present his plan for reshaping the school curriculum to address the issues. The Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development, Abdulrahman al Owais, will be asked to explain how schools incorporate activities that promote patriotism and enhance national pride. "I want to know whether the ministry has a plan for the future," said Sultan al Kubaisi, an FNC member from Umm al Qaiwain.

He said he was worried that schools were not protecting pupils from the effects of globalisation, and was concerned about children's extensive use of the internet. He also said the Ministry of Education was not seriously addressing issues related to the multicultural make-up of the UAE. "With the stunning development in the UAE, the various nationalities living here and the internet, how can we protect our national identity?" Mr al Kubaisi asked. "What are the school curricula that make pupils aware of the dangers of globalisation?

"We need to protect our children from the effects of importing other cultures and we need to protect our own culture. We don't want to be imitators." He said the issues were related to the population imbalance in the UAE, where only 16.5 per cent of residents are Emiratis. He praised the Government for forming the Federal Demographics Council to address the issue and promote national pride. Mr al Qattami is expected to respond through a written or oral statement during the session. Officials from the Ministry of Education were unavailable to comment yesterday.

Principals and head teachers are also eager to hear the minister's plans. Some said the curriculum had room for improvement. Latifa al Hosali, the principal at Al Assayel School for Primary Education in Khalifa City, said national identity was promoted at the school but it could be more entrenched in the curriculum. "We already have social studies and geography books that develop national identity," Mrs al Hosali said. "But, honestly, the more activities we can cultivate around that the better.

"The more there is patriotism to the country the better, and it should be across all levels. Everyone should be a part of it, whether it is the curriculum for students themselves, or also the school's administration and staff. "There should be more classes on the seven emirates, on our culture, on our tradition. And not just lessons that barely graze the surface, but full classes that go into the issues in depth."

Mrs al Hosali cited the internet as one of the biggest dangers of globalisation. "It might be better to have the school curriculum return to basics and force students to research in libraries and using books, and not just rely on the computer," she said. Khawla al Mulla, the principal at Alnoof High School in Sharjah, said the curriculum needs updating. "Generations change, cultures change, and a curriculum that was great five years ago might no longer be applicable today."

Mrs al Mulla said students should be taught to take the good and avoid the bad, when it comes to learning from other cultures. "We cannot protect our students from the effect of globalisation, but we can make them aware of its disadvantages," she said. "We can teach them how to build up their own characters based on their pride in their nation and heritage." :hkhalaf@thenational.ae mhabboush@thenational.ae