QCA sidelines Palestine question

2nd February 2007 at 00:00
THE CURRICULUM watchdog has been criticised for shelving a course for teenagers on the Arab-Israeli conflict, which history teachers think would have helped de-radicalise Muslim pupils.

The news came as a poll by the right-wing think tank Policy Exchange found that more that 37 per cent of UK Muslims aged 16 to 24 would prefer to live under Sharia rather than British law. Three new history courses for 11 to 14-year-olds covering post-war Germany, India's struggle for independence and the Middle East in the 20th century were planned.

But this week The TES learned that having released the first two, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority is delaying publication of the Middle East unit indefinitely.

The decision has prompted criticism from one of the authority's consultants who says the course would have helped pupils, particularly Muslims, gain a balanced view of the background to the conflict shaping global politics today.

When it was first announced last February a QCA spokesman said: "These are crucial historical subjects which are not as well understood by British school children as they perhaps should be."

The Association of Muslim Researchers agreed saying a "sense of alienation and disenchantment" among Muslim youth over British foreign policy was compounded by the irrelevance of history lessons.

One association member, Matthew Wilkinson, head of history at Brondesbury college for boys, an independent Islamic school in Brent, London, was taken on as a QCA consultant to help develop the course. This week he said the authority had made "a very poor call".

"This is very important in de-radicalising Muslim pupils," he said. "If there is bias among them, it is an almost uniquely Palestinian one. To show this conflict, warts and all, from both sides is very important in giving Muslim kids a perspective on the world.

"Children take history because they want to be able to decode what is in the news, and to prevent that understanding is really not going to serve anyone's interests."

Mr Wilkinson covers the topic at key stage 3, using his own course. He said the curriculum gave other teachers licence to do the same, but without a framework from the curriculum watchdog he doubted that many would.

Jerome Freeman, an authority history adviser, said: "We did have plans at one stage to have a third unit on the Middle East but we are in the throes of revising the key stage 3 curriculum so we decided to finish that and then take stock."

The three units were proposed to make it easier for teachers to include post-1945 history in the curriculum. The QCA had voiced concern that there was too much concentration on Hitler and the Tudors.

But as The TES revealed last week, lessons on the Second World War will remain compulsory under its new 11 to 14 curriculum.

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