Abu Dhabi, UAE: Lessons in Emirati values, manners and traditions, or “sanaa”, will be included in all school curriculums next year to ensure pupils better understand history and heritage.
Pupils will use resources and books provided by the Watani Al Emarat heritage foundation, said Dr Hamad Al Yahyaei, director of curriculum at the Ministry of Education.
“Watani Al Emarat have provided books and brought us a plan on how to engage students,” Dr Al Yahyaei said.
“They came up with a full programme of activities with which they want to engage the students, like al yola and traditional games.
“This hasn’t been implemented yet but will be soon, if not this year then by the next academic year at the latest.
“We don’t want to overwhelm students. We are linking these concepts into our textbooks and to the entire set of values.
“It is important to focus on feeding it to the child, making sure the children maintain it and grow up with it.”
It is important for students to “think deeply into these traditions and its philosophical value”, he said. “We want students to be raised with the social values of which Emirati people are proud.
“The new generation lives on the internet and the only way to make sure they preserve their national identity is not to just teach them significant dates, but the philosophy behind it and what is driving us to this practice.
“When students carry this deep understanding of all these social practices, they can stand in front of any community and face any challenges.”
Making sure expat students understand sanaa is just as important, Dr Al Yahyaei said.
“If you live within any society, you would try your best to understand social values and concept within that society, and that’s what keeps you fully attached to that society,” he said.
Dherar Belhoul, general manager of Watani Al Emarat, said the foundation was established to promote good citizenship among Emiratis and expats.
“We are trying to teach everybody what our habits are,” Mr Belhoul said.
The foundation helped to introduce a book about the UAE, looking at the philosophy and history behind the union of emirates, to Grade 10 pupils as part of their social studies classes.
“It’s trying to teach our kids customs. If we work together then the community is protected,” Mr Belhoul said.
Teachers said they were looking forward to introducing the sanaa programme as many of their Emirati students had forgotten their native dialect.
“Sanaa is asking for permission before entering the room. It’s how we welcome our guests,” said Mariam Al Kaabi, a public school primary teacher who suggested the name should be changed as it is too broad and could confuse some expat students.
“It is who we are but unfortunately many of the students have forgotten that. Sanaa is difficult for expat students to say and understand. It should be Emirati Traditions and Culture.”
Ms Al Kaabi said sanaa should be taught in the home and then reinforced at school.
Retired teacher Aishah Ibrahim said the curriculum should be updated.
“Its only the social studies class that teaches sanaa but the curriculum is based on a British or American curriculum,” Ms Ibrahim said. “These should be updated where some of the examples or references are relevant to the UAE.
“How do you want to teach students sanaa when in mathematics, for example, you use the pound to teach addition and subtraction.”
WK, another teacher, welcomed the introduction of sanaa into the classroom.
“Many of the words and language that I and my grandparents know, my students don’t know today. We are slowly losing our traditions.”
© The NationalFeb 2017