A Palestinian teacher of Arabic language working for a private school complains that most students of both sexes in such schools show lack of interest for Arabic, the mother tongue of the Arabs, the language of our forefathers and the Holy Quran. He says the reasons are many.
The most important is Arabic in private foreign schools is not looked upon as a subject that will help climb the steps of success or because it affects the yearend general assessment like other subjects such as mathematics, chemistry, physics and even English which is of course the first language in these schools, be it British or American.
He says one of the most important reasons why Arab students are reluctant to learn Arabic is because the topics are old and delves on the past rather than the present and the future. In general it lacks attractiveness and usefulness. Most of the subjects are related to the past heritage and covers uninteresting Arab and Islamic culture which have nothing to do with Western or contemporary Arabic culture.
The teacher says I, for example, teach the Grade XI students in the second semester (current) and according to the decision of the Ministry of Education, the following topics must be taught: From Al-Imran, a Sura in the Quran, the source of magic in the Holy Quran, from the life experiences of the pre-Islamic poet Zuhair bin Abi Salma, Muhammad the Messenger of Humanity, a lesson on patriotism and the language of Dhadh (an exclusive consonant in Arabic). He added, most of these topics whether in the form of poetry or prose revolve around the essence of ancient civilization.
The topics of the first semester are not different in thought and content from the second semester, and what is taught Grade XI which is decided by the Ministry of Education can be found in the topics of the 9th, 10th, 12th grades, the classes of secondary stage in the structure of the new educational system.
He continued saying: “We also teach the 10th grade students in private foreign schools and even public government schools the following topics in the second semester: a Hadith (saying of the Holy Prophet) ‘Standing on the ruin’ (crying over the past — nostalgia), and the role of women in the events of Hijra, a poem for Ibn Al-Roumi, an Abbasid poet who lived a thousand years ago, and a topic about the state of Saba’a in Yemen before Islam.
So what is left for the teacher of Islamic education to teach? Am I a teacher of Arabic or teacher of Islamic education? Is it not right that the Arabic students in these private and even government schools are taught contemporary and world literatures, poetry and prose? Where are the poems of the contemporary poets, their stories, their dramas and their wonderful literary articles of human nature or human values universally agreed and valid for all time and place? Where is the world’s useful and interesting literature? Why do not we teach our students excerpts that are wonderful and interesting and influential in their minds and emotions that have positive enchanting impact? Where is the poetry of Ahmed Shawki, Hafez Ibrahim, Nizar Qabbani, Yaqoub Al-Rasheed, Su’ad Al-Sabah, Fahd Al-Askar, Khalifah Al-Waqayan, Abu Al-Qasim Al-Shabi, Ibrahim Naji, Tamim Al-Barghouthi and many others? Where are the internationally translated plays of Shakespeare, and the plays of Tawfiq Al-Hakim and Ahmed Shawki’s poetic plays so that our students read them and play them on stage as well? Where are the stories of Youssef Idris, Naguib Mahfouz and Ihsan Abdul Qaddous? Where are the novels that embody the wonderful humanity? Where are the articles of Mohammed Musaed Al-Saleh, and Abdul-Latif Al-Duaij, Ahmad Al-Rubei and Moudi Al-Hamoud, Ahmed Al-Sarraf (!!), Sheikh Mohammed Abdo and Hassan Al-Issa and Taha Hussein and Fouad Zakaria and Saleh Al-Shayji and others? Why do not we nourish the minds and emotions of our students with a brief of each winner of the Nobel Prize for literature, for teaching them criticism, analysis and also take them a model to follow? Most of our school subjects, if not all of them, are about the past, the ancient heritage and nothing about the painful present and prosperous future.
The result is what we now see it from the intellectual and moral level of our students. The prevailing thought is radical, violent, dictatorial or awfully contemptible, not a thought of justice and respect. Are we teaching for the past or the future, to advance or to go backward, for happiness or for misery? Are we promoting justice or racism? We want to get out of the circle of the past and its glories, and stop crying over spilled milk.
We have to engage in the safe present and happy future so that our students come to us with a pinch of eagerness, respect and appreciation because the mentality of the students today is different from ours and they are not interested in topics that get worn out by time.
Why should we allocate 20 marks out of 100 for grammar when we all know that some of the grammar is no longer in use and not accepted by an enlightened mind and sound logic? Under the curriculum of excellent competencies is it not enough to allocate five marks out of 100 for applications of grammatical rules which are necessary to understand the speech or ease of pronunciation and the rest of the hundred marks to instill understanding and good comprehension and the development of linguistic taste for distinguished students? The talk goes on and the space is so small but the tragedy continues.
By Ahmad Al-Sarraf