Emirati children are taught peace, tolerance, study finds

Israeli NGO that monitors educational material in the Middle East heaps surprise praise on UAE.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

The head of an Israeli watchdog group that monitors the content of Arab education materials said Friday the education program in the United Arab Emirates that teaches tolerance of Israel and Jews might be a model for use in other countries.

The Jerusalem-based Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-se) monitors the content of school textbooks around the world with an emphasis on the Middle East to see how they educate in relation to religion, societies, cultures, democratic values and tolerance.

An IMPACT-se report released this week praises the UAE education system for its Moral Education curriculum, which is taught in all public and private schools from grades 1 to 12.

“We think this particular stand-alone Moral Education curriculum, unconnected to religious studies courses could be a model for the region,” IMPACT-se CEO Marcus Sheff told World Israel News.

The report said the Moral Education course breaks ground and is unique in the region, reflecting the UAE leadership’s reform program for textbooks.

Sheff said the curriculum incorporates values of peace and tolerance into the traditional education system. A UAE social studies textbook mentions Judaism as belonging in the Arab region while Israel, Judea and Samaria, and Gaza are separately delineated on a topological map of the Arab world.

In most Arab countries, maps of the region do not show Israel at all and instead replace it with “Palestine.”

The IMPACT-se report was a preliminary investigation, focusing on the textbooks and teacher guides that make up the ‘character and morality’ unit, measuring it against UNESCO-derived standards of peace and tolerance. IMPACT-se concluded that the textbooks meet UNESCO standards.

The report found that the curriculum taught positive aspects of diversity and inclusivity, peace as the ultimate goal for global society, respect for the ‘Other,’ conflict resolution. It also advocates against violence, using the examples of Mahatma Gandhi and American soldier Desmond Doss, who risked his life fighting as a combat medic in World War 2 while refusing to carry a gun.

“The fact that this Moral Education curriculum is independent of religious education makes it unique to the Arab world,” the report reads. “It is a highly visible result of [UAE leader] Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan’s stated aim to take back control of the education ministry from the Islamists who originally wrote the country’s textbooks.

“The material we have reviewed so far is a roadmap for young Emiratis towards moderation, respect for the ‘Other’, peace-making and tolerance.”