As the new school year starts in Raqqa, the local Civic Council is instituting a new curriculum that is focused on promoting coexistence and pluralism.
After being deprived of a proper education for over three years, the children of Raqqa started the new school year in September. The Raqqa Civic Council estimates that more than 100,000 students have attended some 281 school under its administration. The city of Raqqa alone had some 36,000 students in 41 schools.
Like many other areas under the control of the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), the matter of education is hotly debated here in the city. In a bid to avoid inflaming tensions, the schools here have mostly retained the curriculum that was in use by the Syrian Government and sanctioned by the Syrian Ministry of Education.
Despite the overall integration, however, the curriculum excludes the Ba’ath ideology education. Instead, a curriculum with a focus on coexistence and acknowledgement of different populations has been created. A centerpiece of this education is the teaching of Syriac, Arabic and Kurdish languages to all children, ensuring that people of different minorities can understand eachother. The goal here is to erase the traces of the ISIS-imposed education which took a fundamentalist and discriminatory approach to education, seeking to radicalize children against other minorities at at early age. This is especially important in Raqqa which was the heart of the group’s power and ideology in Syria.
The policy of having coexistence-centric curriculum is similar to the policies undertaken by schools managed by the Self-Administration in the provinces of Hasakah and Deir ez-Zour. So far, reaction to the current curriculum has been positive. However, a number of long-term issues linger. In particular, the Syrian Ministry of Education does not recognise the curriculum of the schools administered by the SDC. There are concerns that this can hamper the long-term educational prospects of the students, particularly if they wish to attend higher education.
Other issues are more practical. The war has had an adverse impact in Syria’s education sector, resulting in the destruction of many schools and damage to others. Although the 2018 school year has started well, many of the resultant scarcities continue to pose a challenge to the quality of schooling in the country.