Have Curriculums in The Free Syrian Territories Underscored the Syrian Identity?

As the Syrian regime intensified its military aggression against the rebel-held areas, education conditions deteriorated, however, some of these initiatives outlived. At the inception of the revolution, teachers created special educational efforts to teach children following the shutdown in schools after the Assad regime war against the rebelling areas across Syria.

Despite the hazardous security situation, teachers began in local areas to reopen schools and started to open, attracting decent numbers of children gradually. Later on, small scale civil society actors started to aid schools’ reopening; though after amending the original state curriculum. Nonetheless, the broad national curriculums did undergo neither a fundamental change nor any notable developments. 

In the history textbook, for instance, when Syria was under Ottoman occupation, is described as the Ottoman Empire period, and everything in that period is praised. Additionally, quotes from figures in the Syrian opposition, just the way images and quotes from Bashar and Hafez al-Assad were included in books for the course before 2011.

Disintegrated Syrian Identity

One of the initiatives was led in 2012, several teachers, academics, and political opposition formed a National Commission for Education for opposition-controlled areas of the country. 

The new authority hired local teachers and staff and coordinated an alternative curriculum – one that left out pro-Assad and pro-Ba’ath party material and, in some areas, including additional courses on safety and first aid.

In the following years as fundamentalist groups rose and laid their control over large swaths of the Syrian land, they also took power across Syria and seized control of schools.

Kwala Hadid, a social and psychological researcher, based in Abu-Dhabi, explains that some of the authorities in the rebel-held areas have transformed the regime’s influence on education and instead imposed its own.

What is more dangerous, however, is the authorities’ practices in terms of applying non-national united policy in the schooling system. This policy in some areas favors the Islamic leaning rhetoric, implementing a mandatory Islamic custom at schools, let alone gender-segregation. 

The various authorities are not only failing to underpin the Syrian identity, but in contrast, perpetuating sheer inequality, and stereotype binaries between men and women, between Arab and Non Arab, Sunni, and Kurdish.

“This practice embeds a narrow religious or ethnic-sects based identity between Syrian children which if continued, will be hard to tackle,”

“Hence, an inclusive Syrian identity should be constructed and agreed upon by all actors, to which they should be reflected in the Syrian education system.” She adds

Kwala Hadid, a social and psychological researcher

Identity design Quandary

While deleting parts of the curriculum excluding all Ba’ath and Assad related propaganda and pictures from the educational system hold a strong sentiment after four decades of the Ba’ath repression and whitewashing of Syrian generation; however, it was not replaced with meaningful content on Syria’s history and authentic heritage.

According to Mohand Younes, 39 years old teachers from Aleppo, that a replacement of the “nationalist education subject” should be put in place to teach Syrian schoolchildren about the “civic education” teaching the concepts of diversity, tolerance, plurality and collective participation in the political life and so on.

Though so far, the teacher said that the local actors in the rebel-held areas continue to fail to reconstruct the educational system in a way that suits the free Syrian citizen individually

The teacher highlighted that the future Syrian curriculum should foresee establishing a long-term vision that reflects and reflects the concepts mentioned above, aimed at consolidating Syrian’s attachment to their country. 

The authoritarian legacy of the Syrian regime is still so far embedded and is being taught to our children deviating the authentic historical and consequently weakening or confusing their identity attachment and belonging.

Mohand Younes, 39 years old teachers from Aleppo

Partial Replacement

In the rebel-held areas, the researcher addresses the issues that, akin to the Syrian regime, authorities in rebel-held areas directed the educational process often to whichever please them, reflecting a specific ideological background.

Younes believes that, although the concepts of freedoms, liberties, diversity and were relatively respected, however, the characteristic of cross ethnic-religious prejudice perpetuation establishes an exclusion mentality. 

“This exclusionary streaming confuses the youth population and sway them away from the unity, pluralism, and equality between all Syrian regardless of their differences,”

This subsequently generates confusion and ambivalence features citizens who would not know what to say or understand what does the “Syrian identity” represent or stand for, let alone be an active citizen who will be a positive actor in rebuilding Syria.

The teacher finally underscores that to rebuild an educated Syrian citizen who is passionate about their county and are well aware of its history and revive their sense of belonging and attachment that the Assad war has shattered since 2012.

“Rebuilding what the war has destroyed should come after rebuilding the Syrian minds, not the other way around.”