THE Christian satellite-TV station that broadcasts to the Middle East, SAT-7 (Feature, 8 August 2014), is to launch an education channel next May, to help meet the need for improved schooling in the region.
SAT-7 says that “unrest and war across the Middle East and North Africa have caused a crisis in child education. The statistics are staggering. One in every four children and young adolescents (more than 21 million) in the region are either out of school or at risk of dropping out.”
The new station will seek to reach some of the millions of Syrians and other Arabs who have been made homeless by conflict. But the aim is also to encourage a broader approach to education than the current one, which is based largely on rote learning in overcrowded and poorly resourced schools.
“We want to equip kids to get on the learning ladder,” SAT-7’s founder and CEO, Dr Terence Ascott, said. “Children need to be taught to think for themselves, and be equipped and encouraged to question, to be creative, and to learn basic life-skills.”
The new channel will initially provide tuition in maths, science, Arabic, English, and French, for children up to the age of ten. The intention, Dr Ascott says, is “to be as unspecific as possible with the curriculum” in order to make it attractive throughout the Arab world.
He also emphasised that the education “will not be overtly Christian in content, but will include an enormous amount of Christian values. Students will not be required to memorise passages from the Qur’an, as happens in most schools, but neither will they have to memorise parts of the Bible; so the channel will be neutral in that sense. We will encourage children to be inclusive, to accept other cultures.”
SAT-7’s new venture will also target adults associated with education, addressing the “needs and attitudes of parents and poorly trained teachers, most of whom have not themselves experienced education beyond rote learning”. SAT-7 will co-operate with NGOs, including Caritas and World Vision, to evaluate the reaction to the new channel, and look at the possibility of setting up experimental classrooms for refugee children.
“Children offer the only real hope for change in the Arab world,” Dr Ascott said. “If they can’t be convinced of the need for an inclusive society, then there will be no space in the future for Christians or other minority religious and ethnic groups.”