Five Shocking Truths About Syrian Education

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Schoolgirls just outside Damascus, Syria
Schoolgirls just outside Damascus, Syria (Photo: SAMEER AL-DOUMY / AFP / Getty Images)

These five shocking truths regarding Syrian education all come from the latest report by Impact-SE, which is a research, policy and advocacy organization that monitors and analyzes education.

  1. There are indications of ever-closer bonds to Russia, including study of the Russian language which has recently become a compulsory language choice and appreciation of all things Russian, possibly indicating a continued alliance after the civil war ends. Russia emerges from the curriculum as a close ideological and cultural friend and ally.
  2. Syrian national identity is based on the principles of struggle to realize a single Arab nation that includes all Arab states, constituting one country, the “Arab Homeland.” This pan-Arab ideology places secular nationalism and devotion to a radical struggle at the forefront.
  3. There is no room for Israel—dubbed the “Racist/Terrorist/Zionist Entity.” Anti-Semitic motifs such as stereotypical references to the character of Shylock from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice are to be found. The Holocaust is ignored. Textbooks teach that Israel is a terrorist state and therefore all means are legitimate in the war against it, including terror and suicide attacks. Still, the option of land for peace within the framework of a comprehensive agreement is preserved, but hidden.
  4. The long civil war has not softened the portrayal in the curriculum of Syria’s radical national identity. Much that relates to the war is ignored. The ethos is of a natural disaster that demands mobilization and individual contribution.
  5. While the curriculum encourages free-thinking, is secular in outlook and has separate books for Christian education, it does not meet UNESCO-derived standards on peace and tolerance apart from the standard of gender equality. It professes an ideology that is exclusionary, militaristic and authoritarian.



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