15 - 21 June 2000
Issue No. 486
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875|
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Plain TalkBy Mursi Saad El-Din
I remember a BBC Radio Programme from the late 1940s and early 1950s with the title "I was there." Using modern reporting techniques, the programme reenacted historical events as if they were happening then and there. The title appeals to me because now that so many years have passed, I feel I too was there on many and various occasions. Recently I was asked by the Ministry of Education to take part in a series of interactive video conferences on the subject of education for social responsibility. The series began in October 1999, organised jointly by the ministry and the American Embassy.
Seven sessions have dealt with such issues as global education across the curriculum, teaching culture and tolerance, conflict resolution skills, building democratic classrooms, and peace education in the new millennium. I spoke about the role of the media in engendering social responsibility.
The main impetus of the series lies in a belief that it is not enough for teachers to teach their subjects. They should see themselves as facilitator, leaders and educators, not just someone doing a job. Teachers should be aware of the important role they play in developing young people and educating them for social responsibility -- ie fostering behaviour and skills that help promote young people's moral and social development.
If young people are to be truly informed about their world, their education must encourage them to explore the causes, effects and potential solutions to the global issues of our time. Problems have now transcended national boundaries and acquired a global nature. Environmental issues -- desertification, aridity, water -- illiteracy and hunger are now the worry of all nations and all peoples. Students must be encouraged to discuss such issues and see how they might contribute to their solution.
It is becoming increasingly clear that academic success is no longer enough for career development and the economic and political development of the country. Students should be provided, alongside academic skills, with those requisites needed for active and responsible citizenship. Teachers should help increase their awareness of contemporary global issues and provide them with a richer learning environment.
And this is where the media comes in. The media should complement the teachers' role. Students must be helped to acquire a good understanding of public policy, of the role of government and issues of citizenship. The press, radio and television can assist in fostering responsible citizenship, cooperation and global understanding.
By chance this series coincides with a project initiated by the Ministry of Youth and Al-Ahram Centre for Strategic Studies. Together they have started the publication of inexpensive paperbacks on subjects related to these very issues. The first two books, written in a simple, easily understood language, are about Parliament and political parties. They are the first two in a series of 20 books aimed at promoting awareness of the political, social and economic institutions of the country.
And this is not the end. Margot Abdel-Aziz, civic education programme specialist at the Cultural Centre of the American Embassy informs me that they are organising, under the patronage of the Minister of Education Dr Bahaeddin -- a national conference on Civic Education from 25-27 June 2000. A task force on which representatives from the ministry, universities and NGOs sit is already undertaking the necessary preparatory tasks. The event is in addition being sponsored by the an impressive array of organisations.
The objectives of the conference are to share and discuss the frameworks and concepts of citizenship in the educational system; to share and discuss civil models and developments in other countries; to build a national network including the public and private sectors and NGOs and to suggest a unified framework, direction and content for civic education in Egypt.