The UAE marks 2019 as the Year of Tolerance, celebrating the values of diversity, harmony and peaceful coexistence between communities. From adapting the curricula to starting various programmes, activities and projects — inside as well as outside the classroom — early education centres in the UAE have several plans this year to help tiny learners reflect the core values of tolerance.
“Tolerance is all about understanding and acceptance,” explains Susie McShane, Head of Raffles Starters. “We help the children appreciate these two concepts by using stories and comprehension.”
Raffles Starters has also adapted its curriculum and brought in a programme called Circle of Culture, where parents are invited in to the class to discuss their country, culture, food, dress and lifestyle. “This is helping children to understand the multicultural difference in all of us,” adds McShane.
Vaishali Kapoor, Head of Raffles Nursery, says, “We wish to inculcate in children an attitude of openness where they are encouraged to embrace the concept of diversity and welcome the people with determination.”
Teachers in nurseries are also constantly encouraged to talk about and share real-life examples of tolerance and harmony so that the little ones are able relate to the concept of diversity in their local community.
Chubby Cheeks Nursery, for example, has been inspiring its teachers to actively promote the values of friendship, oneness and inclusivity to children through circle time set-ups, stories, rhymes, puppet shows and pretend play. “A child’s absorbent mind is like a sponge,” says Roshi Tandon, Managing Director, Chubby Cheeks Nursery.
“The values we impart as educators will stay in their memories forever. These will help us mould these children into tolerant individuals with respect for people coming from all walks of life irrespective of their regional, cultural or religious background.”
Meanwhile, Safa Early Learning Centre (ELC) is planning to send its staff members for continuous professional development programmes focusing on diversity training so that they can aptly incorporate and implement activities to encourage diversity and acceptance at its centres.
“As part of our academic programme, we will organise International Day and various other social events such as Cultural Day and Children’s World Day to increase awareness of various cultures and nationalities around us,” says Sylvia Al Hazmi, Centre Director at Safa ELC.
Practise what you preach
While schools are undertaking various initiatives to promote the idea of tolerance, educators agree that it’s not always easy to teach children, especially younger ones, the abstract concepts of social and moral values. They need to experience these ideas first-hand to appreciate their importance in life, which is why creating positive role models is extremely important.
“We ensure that our entire faculty acts as role models to our children by showing them how to be tolerant and empathetic towards different cultures, people and heritages,” says Shirley Jacob, Executive Director at New Dubai Nursery Early Learning Centre.
It will also promote multiculturalism through various initiatives throughout the year such as family days, where parents will be invited to participate in an activity promoting their culture and traditions, food festivals, international days and celebration of key festivals such as Eid, Christmas and Diwali, among others.