x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

National identity to be taught from age of 5

Strategic planners have urged educators to foster national identity in Emirati children from the moment they start school.

Children holding UAE flags in the carnival parade as part of the UAE´s 40th National Day celebration at Downtown Dubai.
Children holding UAE flags in the carnival parade as part of the UAE´s 40th National Day celebration at Downtown Dubai.

DUBAI //Fostering national identity in Emirati children must begin the moment they start school, strategic planners have urged.

Dubai's Executive Council yesterday launched a scheme to develop a school curriculum and resources that strengthen pupils' understanding of UAE history, heritage and culture.

The National Identity Preservation in Education (Nipe) programme will be implemented by a joint task force including the Ministry of Education and Community Development Authority, who will collaborate to emiratise the curriculum.

The Ministry of Education has also been asked to create guidelines to help teachers to link national identity to all education subjects in the 2012-2013 academic year.

"These recommendations will enhance national identity among citizens and equip young people to further the achievements of the country," said Abdulla Al Shaibani, secretary general of the Dubai Executive Council (DEC).

The scheme is the latest product of the Dubai Partnership Agenda planning forum.

It was created in 2010 to bring together leaders from key sectors to devise policy recommendations in support of the emirate's 2015 goals.

Nipe addresses the goal of enhancing the national identity of young Emiratis.

Fatima Al Shuwaihi, an Emirati media professional from Dubai, said young children aren't exposed to the same culture she grew up in.

"Nowadays they imbibe a culture that is dominant on TV and social networking sites," she said. "I believe they should have visits from people who can make them feel proud of their Emirati traditions."

The Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing plans to do its part by showcasing artefacts at popular malls around the city.

And the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority will support the initiative by creating a reference guide to publications that revolve around themes of national identity to distribute to all public and private schools next year.

Maitha Al Khayat, an Emirati author of children's stories based around the local culture, said these steps were necessary because of the effect of globalisation.

"I started writing because I realised there was not much about the culture and heritage in my children's curriculum," said Ms Al Khayat. "It is becoming increasingly difficult in this age to pull them towards traditions."

She said, if a curriculum is developed, it should be age sensitive.

"Young children do not want to be bogged down by big vocabulary. When my daughter reads them, she yawns."

"Such concepts should be introduced through tales and role playing. That twist of fun arouses their curiosity."

Nasif Kayed, general manager of Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding, agrees that unless it's hands-on, such education will not have an effect.

"More needs to be done but it cannot only be through talk," said Mr Kayed. "It has to be tangible because they remember when they touch and feel."

The centre runs a programme for schools where pupils are given a tour of Bastakiya to learn about old structures and the traditional Emirati lifestyle.

"They visit the houses, have the Emirati meals and we talk to them about the clothing.

"We also link the past to the present. Like we talk to them about spice market and how that was the pharmacy for people back then."

Mr Kayed said pupils have the opportunity to make fishing nets and design clothes, which keeps them hooked.

"Don't just tell them how they used to make it; ask them to make it."

Samia Farah, chief operating officer at Taaleem, which has 10 schools in the emirate, said could see the need for Nipe, too.

"We talk about being global citizens, but you cannot have that unless you do not find your own identity," she said.

At international schools, the curricula offered often make no mention of civilisation in this part of the world. "We compensate by drawing attention to it on occasions like National Day and Eid," said Ms Farah.

As part of the recommendations, state and private schools will be asked to work together to share information on such topics.

aahmed@thenational.ae