Saudis review textbooks, hear call for broader worldview

Sunday, May 25, 2003

ABU DHABI Saudi Arabia has been urged to replace many of its school textbooks and place a new emphasis on interaction with the world as opposed to a narrow Islamic isolationist view.

The call came during a conference on the kingdom's educational curriculum in Riyad last week. Saudi scholars reviewed curriculum and teaching methods in the country as part of an effort to discourage Islamic violence.

"There is an urgent need to develop a global perspective in the minds of Saudi students by adding global issues to their history books," Reima Sado Al Jarf, a professor at King Saud University, said.

Ms. Al Jarf presented a study at the conference that recommended a revision of Saudi history textbooks. She termed the textbooks parochial and said they focused mostly on Islam.

The study said 68.5 percent of the themes of history textbooks for grades four until 12 were Islamic. Another 30 percent related to Saudi history. World history took up 1.5 percent of the nine textbooks.

"History books should teach them to live in interaction with the world and not to live in isolation," Ms. Al Jarf said. "These books should also enlighten them with information on various political, economic and social aspects of all the regions of the world, and not only the Arab and the Muslim worlds. Historical events and facts should be written up objectively without biased conclusions."

The study also criticized Saudi teaching methods. It said Saudi history books are not objective, discourage critical thinking and stress memory.

The conference compared the Islamic curriculum of 13 foreign countries.

The study praised the educational curriculum of Singapore, whose textbooks described as containing a global perspective of history.

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