ABU DHABI // With globalisation threatening to erode the national identities of students across the GCC, experts and academics gathered in the capital on Tuesday to discuss how to promote Khaleeji culture and bonds.
The two-day Strengthening Gulf Citizenship conference hosted by the Ministry of Education sought to address how technology and communications can be harnessed to promote a shared regional identity among youths, rather than allowing modernity to drive a wedge between cultures.
“These tools, they can be a double-edged sword,” said Dr Mohammed Al Mualla, the ministry’s undersecretary for academic affairs of higher education.
“They can lead to losing the identity and losing the sense of belonging to the GCC but they can also be used to enhance, and this is what we are trying to do.”
More than 100 regional educators gathered to hear research findings presented by academics from each country on the topics of citizenship and national identity.
The ministry recently introduced a compulsory moral education subject, which is being piloted in selected schools, to teach pupils ethics, volunteering, culture and heritage, civic rights and responsibilities. Pupils are also required to study UAE social studies.
But Dr Al Mualla said more could be done. “When we look at universities, can we introduce things in the curriculum to enhance citizenship and volunteering activities?” he asked.
Dr Aqil Kazim, chairman of sociology at UAE University, said young people in the GCC needed to develop a greater understanding of environmental issues and feel a sense of civic duty to protect it.
GCC citizenship should also carry the responsibility of being sustainable, Dr Kazim said.
“Sustainable in the sense of energy consumption – how to use energy,” he said. “Gulf societies have become very consumerist.
“We need to teach our youths how to save money for the future, to invest it rather than spend it on consumer products, to be aware of tourism coming to our society, to be aware of immigrant labourers and how to respect them, and so on.”
Dr Kazim also called on youths to act as social media ambassadors for the GCC by learning to communicate effectively and intelligently with the outside world and each other.