GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Title of Paper:
The Role of National History on Identity Formation in Qatari K-12 Education
Paper Proposal Text :
Within the past two decades Gulf States have actively been engaging in significant nation- building projects, in addition to steps to construct and concretise national identity amongst locals within their borders. These are aimed at transcending tribal/ familial, lifestyle, and class divisions, to create sentiments of citizenship and subjecthood to the State.

The process of the formation of national identity in the region is evidently witnessed in Qatar, resulting in numerous changes during this period. For example, the National Day changed by Emiri decree on 21st June 2007, from the day of Independence from the British, celebrated annually on 3rd September, to 18th December. This marks the day that Sheikh Jassim Al-Thani, determined as the country’s founder, succeeded his father as ruler.

Interpretations of the past become key factors in the establishment of nationalist sentiments. The change in National Day from Independence Day to Founder’s Day creates an understanding of a country’s history that existed prior to British control of the region, but also one that is based upon a different narrative: one of economic and political success stemming from monarchical rule. This is further emphasised through other projects that are currently taking place, including Qatar’s recent successful bid to turn the Al-Zubarah archaeological site into a United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) World Heritage Site, as well as subsequent emerging nationalist, historical narratives, to the recent policy of establishing compulsory national military service for males aged 18 to 35. Yet, it is through the education system that these notions of nationhood and identity germinate.

From 2012, both private and independent schools in Qatar with nationals on their rolls are mandatorily required by the Supreme Education Council to teach Qatar National History/ Studies as part of the K- 12 curriculum. This paper seeks to examine the narrative presented through state- issued textbooks to schools throughout schools in the country. The discourses that emerge, due to state- sponsorship, become canonised and dominant within the society, and inform the nation’s youth’s understanding of their own past. Since primary and secondary education are the foundations upon which students and youth develop intellectually, occurring during the formative years of identity, and sense of self, upon which higher education builds, they form a necessary part of the conversation.