Posted by Joshua on Tuesday, September 21st, 2010
“Memorizing school books by heart is no more the way to excellence with the new curricula,” says the Assistant Education Minster, Ali al-Hasri.
This could be a very important change for Syria, if it can be implemented. When I attended the University of Damascus in the 1980s, exams for the English and History classes were based on memorizing the lectures. One Fulbright English professor from the US who taught a class of 600 students showed me his blue books for the final exam., the only grade in the course. All but 15 of the blue books were copied from his lectures, which had been taped, transcribed (badly), mimeographed and sold to students before the exam. The students memorized the lectures by heart rather than read the novels – Jane Austin, Dickens, etc., that were assigned. In response to questions that had little to do with his lectures, the students reproduced his lectures on the author word for word.
Critical thinking emphasised in new school curriculum: Problem solving and decision making will replace memorisation, Assistant Education Minister Ali al-Hasri said.
Raqqa, (SANA) – Memorizing school books by heart is no more the way to excellence with the new curricula. The measure is now the ability of learners to deal with problems, how to solve them and link them to real life situations, Assistant Education Minister Ali al-Hasri said.
Inspecting the training courses on the new curricula in Raqqa province on Monday, al-Hasri told SANA that the Ministry of Education considers the new curricula as extremely important. The Ministry is training teachers to deal with these curricula which were based on modern educational and scientific methods.
He pointed out that the new curricula will start based on a student-centered learning process as the focus is on the learner’s activities in and out of the classroom. This requires developing the learner’s skills in solving problems, taking decisions, shouldering the responsibility and teamwork, while the teacher is a guide for the learners.
Evenings of Poetry Provide a Space for New Voices
By KAREEM FAHIM and NAWARA MAHFOUD
DAMASCUS, Syria — Lukman Derky, the host of a weekly poetry salon here, was in classic form, a beer perched below a microphone he used to joke, to soothe, to provoke. He read a short poem by Mahmoud Darwish, the Palestinian national bard, and gave a shout-out to a regular, a young American named Mitch, who sat in the crowd, among dozens of other foreigners.
“We brought you an imperialist,” Mr. Derky kidded his audience. “So you would have some peace of mind.”
He also politely apologized to any secret policemen he might have offended with one of his stories. Two men who fit that description, sitting at a table by the bar, quietly sipped their drinks.
So it goes on Monday nights at Bayt al-Qasid, or the House of Poetry, a space for freewheeling expression in a country where that space is usually in short supply. In sessions lubricated with local arak and Lebanese beer, Mr. Derky, a salon host with the bearing of Lenny Bruce, presides over an irreverent evening that the regulars say is impossible to find elsewhere in Syria, and indeed, would be hard to replicate anywhere else.
He intended it as a space for new voices and not the same parade of poets and writers whom Syrians had been hearing from since the 1960s. Sometimes, those intellectuals, as Mr. Derky somewhat derisively referred to them, “show up and feel like strangers.”
Though Syrians are smitten with poetry and with their celebrated scribes, including Nizar Qabbani, Bayt al-Qasid provides one of the few platforms for young or undiscovered poets. The evenings here also draw writers from overseas, who listen as their work is translated from Spanish or Greek or Berber into Arabic on the spot.
“To know others is to read their poetry,” Mr. Derky said. “Bayt al-Qasid is a place for the others.”
The performers who step up to Mr. Derky’s podium follow his lead and take risks, reading works by exiled poets or flirting with risky political subjects. But the point of the evening is not insubordination, Mr. Derky insists. “We don’t do things because they are forbidden,” he says. “The night is about freedom.” That may explain why it has survived for more than two years now, in full view of a government that has little stomach for dissent.
It also explains why it is hard to find a seat. There were none available on an evening last month in the basement bar where, underneath posters of Malcolm X, Gandhi and Charlie Parker, American students huddled in groups, an entourage waited for one young Syrian poet and a couple snuggled in a corner. Mr. Derky dished out his typically eclectic monologue.
He sang a Shiite mourning hymn and told a joke about the invasion of Iraq. He welcomed a British writer, Stephen Watts, who read a poem called “Birds of East London” that was translated simultaneously by a young Syrian poet who somehow managed to quickly interpret the line “when you see that kestrel pinioned on its wing-bone.” A bald Syrian read another poem, to muted applause.
A Kurdish musical troupe brought the evening to a rousing close.
“You don’t hear that music in public like this,” said Khalid Elekhetyar, a Syrian journalist and a regular who sat at one of the round red tables near the front. If the state was watching, it was apparently enjoying the show. “In this space, they don’t give any conditions,” he said.
Mr. Derky, a frenetic Kurd with shoulder-length hair, has for years been a fixture of Syria’s creative class, a chain-smoking renaissance character who seems to delight in poking the establishment.
He performs one-man shows and writes for television. He was homeless for a time, and now roams his neighborhood in Damascus every morning, looking for stories to fill a newspaper column. He is well known for a stint as the editor of a satirical weekly that enjoyed a brief heyday after President Bashar al-Assad took power 10 years ago.
As Mr. Derky tells it, in 2001, when the publisher of the weekly, Al Doumari, first asked for his thoughts on the newspaper’s design, Mr. Derky asked him for a liter of arak, a bag of ice, pickles and hummus, and told the publisher to come back later that night to look at a mock-up. Eleven popular issues later, Mr. Derky left the magazine over differences with the publisher, and by 2003 the government had had enough and shut it down.
A few years ago, Mr. Derky had the idea for a poetry night. He found space in the underused bar of the Fardoss Tower hotel in downtown Damascus, which on other nights is a disco or just a dark watering hole.
It seemed like an opportune time: in 2008, Unesco had selected the city as that year’s Arab capital of culture, and Mr. Derky said he sensed “a little bit of openness.”
Though poetry is widely read throughout the Middle East, independent showcases like Bayt al-Qasid are increasingly hard to find, Sinan Antoon, an Iraqi poet and novelist who is an assistant professor of Arabic literature at New York University, said.
“Many of the cafes which used to be literary and cultural nodes have closed down — especially in Beirut — or have been transformed because of gentrification,” he said. Poets often have to pay publishers to carry their work and rarely receive royalties. “The culture ministries in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere are a caricature of what they should be. Beyond the Internet, where hundreds of sites exist for publishing, young poets don’t have many outlets or forums.”
At Bayt al-Qasid, the evening starts at 10 p.m., but people start arriving hours earlier. During an intermission, a parking lot behind the hotel is filled with smokers. Talk during the performances quickly invites angry glances from the other patrons.
On another Monday last month, a young Iraqi poet, Hoshang Waziri, read a poem about God and Satan, another touchy subject. A patron, Sahban al-Sawah, sipped his arak and sang Bayt al-Qasid’s praises.
“In a culture that loathes dialogue,” the evening represented something different, said Mr. Sawah, the editor of a poetry Web site.
“What is tackled here,” he said, “would never be approached elsewhere.”
US and Iran battle for Syrian affections
Phil Sands, UAE / September 19. 2010, The National
Iran’s first vice-president, Mohammad Reza Rahimi, meets the Syrian president, Bashar Assad. Louai Beshara / AFP
DAMASCUS // The rivalry between the United States and Iran for Syria’s affections appears to have stepped up a gear…..
That means the tug of war between Tehran and Washington over Syria remains firmly stacked against the US. For the past three decades, Syria has been closely tied with Iran, the alliance enduring ups and downs and seismic regional events. With both countries still facing a hostile West, neither has been given a persuasive incentive to change that status quo.
Egypt Foreign Direct Investment May Reach $8 Bln: Reuters Link (to see a graph comparing FDI for several Mid East countries including Syria, click here)
CAIRO (Reuters) – Foreign direct investment (FDI) in Egypt is likely to rise to at least $8 billion in 2010/11, Investment Minister Mahmoud Mohieldin said on Monday, adding that investors should not be deterred by any uncertainty before upcoming …
Sept. 20 (Economist Intelligence Unit)
— FROM THE ECONOMIST INTELLIGENCE UNIT
The Credit and Monetary Council (CMC), which is affiliated to the Central Bank of Syria, reduced interest rates on various categories of deposits in August, according to an announcement published in mid-September. The latest move was made in a bid to stimulate investment without deterring saving in the national currency. The rate for time deposits was cut by 50 basis points to a range of 5.5-7.5% (plus or minus 2%), from a 6-8% range, which has been in force since January 2009. The rate on savings deposits was reduced by 50 basis points to 5.5% (plus or minus 2%). Banks must keep the gap between the highest and lowest rates that they provide for their customers at or below three percentage points, when dealing with time deposits. There is also a S£1m (US$21,730) limit on individual savings accounts. The bank felt that it had room to make the latest moves, given that there are no serious inflationary pressures. Although at the start of this year, the central bank announced that it would start producing a monthly inflation report, the only report to be issued so far was for February. The central bank has issued inflation data for April 2010 when the year-on-year increase in CPI was 5.6%.
THE EIU VIEW
According to the most recent monetary data available, local currency deposits increased at a marginally faster rate than credit to the private sector in the first four months of 2010, which could explain why the authorities have been prepared to loosen monetary policy. In the 12 months up to end-April, credit provided by all banks increased by 20.3%, whereas total deposits rose by 14.6%. (In both instances the rate of growth was significantly higher for private banks.) The recent weakness of
the euro has also been reflected in an increased preference for local currency savings. The Economist Intelligence Unit forecasts that the Central Bank of Syria will continue to implement monetary reform and gradually gain greater autonomy. It is likely to continue to reduce the restrictions on foreign-currency transactions, a process that it started in early 2008, in order to facilitate investment. Consumer price inflation is expected to rise in 2010-11, to an average of 6.3% over the period as a whole (from just 2.6% in 2009). However, this remains below the peak of 15.7% in 2008.
BEIRUT, Sep 20, 2010 (Xinhua via COMTEX) — Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri has informed members of the country’s parliament that he will not back down from supporting the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) over the killing of his father, after such calls were made by the rival parties, an official said Monday.