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Arabic language education requires update: report

File - School children arrange Arabic alphabets during an all-day Arabic language festival entitled "We Are Our Language" in Beirut, June 26, 2010. (The Daily Star/Grace Kassab)

BEIRUT: The Arabic language is in dire need of support and revival through fundamental shifts in the way it is taught, according to a report by an Arab educational organization.

“The Arabic language in particular doesn’t have the enough means to have a wide presence,” Zuhaida Darwich Jabbour, secretary-general of the Lebanese National Commission for UNESCO, told The Daily Star. “Our youth have a complex called the Arabic language and they try to avoid using it.”

She was speaking on the sidelines of a Commission-sponsored meeting of experts to discuss the report, which was compiled by the Arab Organization for Education, Culture and Science as part of an executive plan to develop and promote the Arabic language.

‘There’s no development without a language and its sovereignty’

“The experts’ meeting today is to look into the report, adjust it and look into means to implement it until the main goal is achieved,” Jabbour said.

Saideh Ahmar, a member of the independent Center for Educational Research and Development’s Arabic language department, said her organization was working with the Lebanese government to improve the Arabic curriculum taught in public and private schools.

“We are renewing the curriculum, developing books and currently we are holding workshops to continue training teachers in the Arabic language,” Ahmar said.

She added that the government and the center would take the report’s findings into consideration.

“We will have to look into the level of compatibility between our [new] curriculum and the one the organization suggested,” Ahmar said, adding that the Education Ministry and the center would continue with the ALESCO’s efforts.

According to the report, several factors including technological advances spurred the need for a new report to analyze ways this technology might be used to support education and learning.

“Change and replenishment are vital for the [educational] sector, this is why developed educational systems reorganize their curricula,” the report said.

“There’s no development without a language and its sovereignty,” it continued, referring to the importance of promoting a nation’s official native language in order to encourage development in all fields.

The report proposed introducing new, more dynamic, interactive teaching methods into Arabic instruction. “There has been a lot of emphasis placed on memorizing [Arabic grammar] and this has negative implications for the student,” the report said.

“[Through memorization], the student would not develop different strategies that help him to search and be creative.”

Rather than encouraging students to engage in rote memorization of grammar rules, the report calls on teachers to find strategies that help students better understand the content of the material.

“Providing quality Arabic education in an era where naturally acquiring it is difficult has become an urgent need,” the report said.

The report also concluded that Arabic language education should be developed with an eye toward adjusting the teaching style and material according to the ages and interests of students.

“The elementary-level student should learn the language spontaneously,” the report said. “This is before learning it correctly [in advanced levels].”

The report also suggested that those who are responsible for creating curricula should be Arabic language experts.

The Arabic language today faces challenges that require creative solutions, said Latouf Abdullah, an Arabic curriculum program coordinator for the organization.

“The use of modern dialect in classes and by the media has also proven threatening to the language,” Abdullah said. “The problems of the Arabic language have been present for more than 100 years.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 02, 2014, on page 4.

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