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Russia Adds Arabic Language and Culture to its Curriculum

December 17, 2009 6:43 pm

By Sara Elghobashy

December 17, 2009

It’s no secret that Arabic has become very popular in the last few years. Enrollment in Arabic courses increased on the college level and more language and culture programs have been created throughout the world, not just the United States. However, Russia’s Ministry of Education just one up-ed the game and announced that it would be adding Arabic language and culture to its school curriculum.

Russia is home to a sizeable Arab community and has a vested interest in the Middle East, with strong political and business alliances throughout the region. The new curriculum was welcomed by native Russians and received praise from the Council for Arab Expatriates, who believe that this is a great effort to help mixed Russian-Arab families. It’s also seen as a way to create job prospects for government positions in international policy and foreign service as well as for large companies that may operate or want to expand into the Middle East.

It’s exciting to hear that countries are open to adding Arabic to their curriculum, just as French and Spanish have been a regular part of curriculums here in America for some time now. However, I can’t help but think of how much controversy it would cause if a program like this was introduced in the States.

Remember the media frenzy that surrounded the opening of New York’s Khalil Gibran International Academy in 2007? Some people were infuriated that a school would include Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies in its curriculum. Words like “madrasa” and “intifada” were used to scare New Yorkers into thinking that the school would somehow create the next generation of terrorists and several people attempted to smear the name of the school’s founder, Debbie Almontaser, in the process. It was disheartening to watch KGIA become the center of criticism even though there were several other dual-language schools already established in New York.

So kudos, Russia! Adding the Arabic curriculum is a surprising show of tolerance, especially from a country that doesn’t exactly have a history of being very tolerant or accepting. It’s also a very smart move that will surely help the former Soviet state benefit strategically in government and business down the line.

Source: Al Arabiya

Photo by Sofia Moro/Cover/Getty Images

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