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June 1996 - Issue No. #23 p.18
One aim of global education is to inform students about the countries and cultures of the world.
This article describes a multi-media film course designed to introduce students to the countries of the Middle East.

Teaching About the Middle East

by Alan Fisher

University of Distribution & Marketing, Kobe, Japan

Introducing the Middle East to Japanese students is complicated. Not only are they unfamiliar with it, but it has a bad reputation as an incomprehensible place.

At the Osaka Asahi Cultural Center for a twelve-week summer Middle Eastern film course, I used an extended travel role play to stir student interest and to provide the historical and cultural background that would help them enjoy the films. In the first two classes, the students took the role of a tour group and I became their tour guide. At the beginning of the first class, the students purchased souvenirs from a variety of objects: jewelry, scarves, books, prayer shawls and caps, woven saddle bags, a pile carpet, etc. which my wife and I had collected in our seven years in the Middle East. Then they were presented with a travel itinerary with visits scheduled to Turkey, Syria, Israel, Egypt, Morocco, Spain (a great Muslim cultural center for 700 years), Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran and Bahrain.

Facts about the countries were presented as sightseeing information and through a mixture of video clips from public service documentaries and films such as "Exodus" and the Palestinian "Wedding In Galilee". Film clips ranged in length from two to five minutes.

At the end of the introduction, I announced that students going to Saudi Arabia would have to convert to Islam. Rules for conversion were presented and rejected. Some students refused to give up alcohol. Others objected to rising before dawn for the morning prayer. This created a four-day gap in the itinerary. Students were broken into groups to discuss how to redistribute the days, then asked to present their plans to other groups.

The films began on the third day: Lawrence of Arabia (colonialism), The Battle of Algiers (anti-colonialism), and Fiddler on the Roof (European anti-Semitism which fueled the rise of Zionism). Worksheets clarifying the narrative and discussions followed each film segment.

The final class involved a general discussion. Additional information about the countries that students had "visited" was also given. This combination of travel role play plus films could be used to introduce other unfamiliar regions to Japanese students.


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Kip A. Cates, Tottori University, Koyama, Tottori City, JAPAN 680-8551
E-mail: Work Tel/Fax: 0857-31-5650