The Daily Tar Heel

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Sunday August 14th

Qatar Curriculum Reflects Cultural Differences

Discussions were complicated by the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development's request that UNC provide pre-engineering classes to Qatari students.

In recent weeks, foundation officials also have approached the University of Texas at Austin about a possible business school. UNC officials have said that despite the new competition with UT, the proposed curriculum has been deliberately modeled after the University's own and will not be negotiated.

Tom Tweed, associate dean for undergraduate curricula and member of the Qatar Planning Committee, said the only change to the proposed College of Arts & Sciences curriculum is that Qatari students will have fewer classes to choose from.

"Size limits, almost by definition, the number of courses that can be offered and number of faculty that can participate," he said. "We have to make some decisions for them. That's a constraint we can't get around."

He said the committee's main goal was to create an Arts & Sciences curriculum similar in structure to that of UNC, while adapting it to a Qatari context.

Although the Qatar Foundation imposed no specific limitations regarding gender, religion, or other sensitive issues, Tweed said that the Qatar Planning Committee took linguistic and cultural differences into consideration.

"We're presuming that English will be most students' second language," he said.

The proposed curriculum currently requires students to take English 10, with subsequent courses in English 11 and 12.

The curriculum also includes a cultural diversity requirement. Like UNC programs designed to enlighten students on ethnic, racial and cultural differences within the country, Qatari course offerings would reflect diversity within the region.

"We think it is important for our Qatari, as well as our Chapel Hill students, to understand ethnic and cultural diversity," he said. "It makes more sense for them to study a course dealing with Islam, Christianity and Judaism."

A similar contextual change applies to the proposed curriculum's history requirement. Like the University, the Qatari curriculum would require students to complete a pre-1700 Western and non-Western comparative history. But Tweed added that courses on topics such as Western civilization would provide a new perspective for students at the satellite campus. "We've been asked to do what is best and most characteristic of the UNC campus," he said. "We were trying to move what we thought was great about Chapel Hill to Doha."

The University Editor can be reached at udesk@unc.edu.

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