Falconry is an important part of the Arab heritage and culture. Image Credit: Oliver Clarke, Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: The Fourth International Heritage and Education Symposium, which concluded yesterday, saw over 60 regional and international experts present their observations on the role of education in preserving heritage.

Experts also discussed what the true meaning of heritage is, and the best methods to preserve and promote each country's unique culture.

"The Intangible Heritage Convention, which was launched in 2003, was ratified by 121 states on January 26, 2010. In 2009, 12 elements from eight states, including the UAE, were identified and placed on the Urgent Safeguarding List of Intangible Heritage," Anna Paolini, Representative of the Unesco Director General for Jordan, said.

"This year, we are even discussing creating a convention to protect natural landscapes. That is causing a lot of debate, even among ourselves," she added.

Living culture

According to Paolini, Unesco identifies intangible heritage as living heritage, that is, cultural elements including language, dress and traditions that are a part of peoples' daily lives.

To ensure that these elements are not lost to future generations, the organisation utilises various methods including educational kits to raise awareness and interest.

"We have educational kits that we provide schools, that are a part of our Associated Schools Project Network [ASPnet], which is being revised for the Arab region.

"It is currently in print and will be distributed next month. We will also train teachers on how to use the kit effectively ... at the moment there are 660 schools in the Middle East who are a part of ASPnet, and over 100 of these are in the UAE alone," Paolini said.

"This year, we are calling on countries to encourage the use of museums as not only to showcase artifacts but also as places of learning that can stimulate the minds of pupils," she added.

Other participants in the symposium noted that in addition to using education as a means of preserving heritage, there are additional areas of concern.


"We should look inwards at members from our own communities who are passionate about preserving their culture in all its forms and equip them with the means to do just that, instead of hiring foreign consultants ... not all foreigners are qualified to give advice on what we should do ...

"I urge everyone here to please check the resumes of the people they are hiring no matter what their nationalities are," Dr Abdul Aziz Ali Al Horr, Head of Al Jazeera Media Centre for Training and Development, Qatar University, said.