Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by the British Council


  The memorandum draws the Committee's attention to factors in the accessibility of educational and social opportunity for young people and the area of cross-cultural understanding which have a bearing on the issues addressed by the Inquiry (Global Security in the Middle East).


  Over the next three years, the British Council will increase its work in the region, in particular in the areas of expanding educational opportunity, fostering social development and improving inter-cultural understanding and trust.

  We will give priority to developing leadership through community-based youth programmes; developing skills through schools-based programmes, and developing partnerships with media organisations for reporting on social issues. We will reach beyond traditional elites to the broader mainstream of younger people.

  Despite the evident lack of trust in the UK, there is nevertheless a growing interest, particularly in UK, in Arabic and Islamic culture, and a growing demand by sections pf UK society for greater interchange on Arabic and Islamic culture, and the fostering of a more equitable dialogue and improving mutual understanding.


  The obvious locus of insecurity in the region lies with the conflicts in Iraq, Palestine/Israel, Afghanistan and Lebanon and with the national interests of the Western and regional powers. However, behind the geo-political drivers of current events lie the lives of ordinary people and professionals whose views and actions moderate the policies of national leaderships and who can either condone or exacerbate extremism within their societies or oppose or resist it. Long-term security therefore lies with the views and attitudes of citizens in both the region and the West. These views and attitudes, as everywhere, are heavily influenced by the availability of personal opportunity and quality of life and by underlying perceptions of the motives and values of the "other". At present, both these are challenged. In particular, the common view in the region is that Western foreign policy is driven by double-standards and therefore the traditional role of honest broker no longer applies. For these reasons, the UK's educational and cultural relationship with the region bears directly on long term global security.


  There are significant challenges. Over 70% of the population of the region is under 30 and youth unemployment and under-employment is high. There is a growing gap between rich and poor with considerable disparities in wealth between rural and urban areas. While economies are growing, access to opportunity tends to be limited to social elites.

  In the region as a whole 8 million children do not attend primary school while 27% of adults are illiterate. There are serious gaps between boys and girls in the education system, and higher education is a rare privilege. At the same time, developments in technology have led to a proliferation of TV and radio broadcasters, there has been a rapid growth in internet access in urban areas and e-communications are driving investment and growth.

  An attitudinal survey of young people carried out by the British Council in the Near East (Egypt, Palestinian Territories, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon) shows distinct variations in aspiration between those of low/middle income who aspire to financial security, a sense of identity and stability and those of middle/high incomes who, while equally valuing social and family stability, aspire to self development and career progression. The former tend towards local media, while the latter to regional and international media. The former tend to travel little and value mutuality in engagement; the latter tend to aspire to engage in international networks and value leisure and recreation; they are driving the current growth of blogging, pod casting and online video.

  Evidence suggests that societies are polarising on faith lines. There is an overall growth of conservative religious practice and in many countries also greater support for political Islam with an increased influence of radical Islamic opposition parties, legal or illegal. There is increasing discontent within more secular sections of society in reaction to this and a growing separation in political outlook between secular and faith based ideologies. Among secular groups there is a developing perception that the West is not interested in the cause of building society on citizenship principles.

  Participation in society is generally increasing, while at varying pace. Media freedoms are restricted in most countries, and censorship of the internet occurs in some. There is a slow increase in women's political participation but general support among governments for campaigns to bring women into public life. There is progress to develop and implement legislation to support women's entry to the labour force although in general positive indicators on women's representation in education are not yet carried through to the labour market.

  International human rights organisations are frequently critical of the performance of governments in the region in upholding human rights. There are growing immigrant populations with limited rights and security in some countries (Syria, Jordan, Egypt). In Jordan, refugees from Iraq are not formally registered as refugees and therefore lack access to Jordanian education.

  This context presents significant challenges for young people in terms of fulfilling their aspirations for economic and social security. British Council research in the Near East shows that a high proportion of young people at all levels of society are seeking greater access to education and skills, including to English which has become critical to career progression. They are also seeking avenues to contribute to their communities and societies. A consequence of being unable to fulfil these aspirations is dissociation from and dissatisfaction with society or attraction to more radical ideology.


  In general, the UK has not until recently prioritised building social, cultural and educational relationships with the region to the same extent as other regions such as Europe, East Asia, China and Russia. This is despite the UK's economic and security interests in the region which have been present for some time. To some extent this can be explained by challenges of language and the "middle income status" of many countries. Recently perceptions of the region have been affected negatively by media coverage emphasising violence. On the other hand, in reaction to events of the past four years, there is clear and growing interest by sections of UK society to gain access to the region and greater understanding of it.


  This is particularly apparent within the arts and the creative community who are showing interest in collaborative projects and unpacking stereotypes through film, theatre, visual arts, literature and music. This interest is matched by that of the sector in the region which wishes to promote Arab and Islamic culture in the UK and foster more equal dialogue and understanding.

  There is a feeling amongst sector specialists and art audiences in the region, both young and old, that Arab culture is poorly represented, if not misrepresented in the West. While historical links and francophone policies in the region have lead to more representation of Arab culture in France and some other francophone countries, this representation remains limited in the UK. This is interpreted by people in the region as lack of interest from the UK side in contemporary Arab life. This is an unfortunate message as the reality in the UK is otherwise: our work in the UK has shown that a huge interest in Arab culture is starting to develop. This feeling of a culture being marginalised by another, can lead to isolation, anger and protectionism towards the other culture. Attempts to address this feeling are welcomed and grasped especially by young people in the region.

  Given the lack of individual freedoms in the region, art is often seen as a tool for political and social expression and many young people are turning to the arts. Artists and intellectuals are figures that people look up to for opinions not only on their specialised sectors, but on society as a whole. Arts and politics are interlinked with most artists on the side of opposition groups. Government sponsored artists exist and occupy positions in government ministries, but they have not won credibility and respect among wider audiences. The independent artists' opposition to government does not necessarily make them supportive of the West. On the contrary, most of them are critical of Western policies in the region.

  The challenge of responding to interests in UK culture and UK interest in Arab culture is considerable. Areas of growing cultural engagement between young people include some sub-sectors of the urban music scene, particularly in North Africa. However, in general there are currently few opportunities for young people in the UK and the region to meet, connect and communicate and this is perpetuating a sense of difference and alienation.

  Young musicians in the region surf the web and try to find out about UK music. They are eager for more East/West musical dialogue that would enable them to modernise Arabic music and through it, their own identity and voice. They see benefit from engaging with UK experience in using music a tool for self expression and wish to open up UK publics to the wealth of Arabic music heritage.

  The picture is little better in the field of literature, theatre and film. There is little literature from the region available in translation in the UK and equally little from the UK available in the region. What exists tends to be limited to the classics. UK publishers are reticent to engage with the regional market and regional publishers lack understanding and skills necessary to engage with the UK. While UK publishers do well in delivering contracts for the English school curriculum in a number of countries, there is little further penetration of the market.

  Theatre is one of the art forms in the region which is less subject to censorship and is becoming a platform for expression for many young people, who are pushing the boundaries on stage and addressing taboos of sex, religion and politics. Exchange in theatre between the UK and the Arab world is limited to showcasing British creativity in the region or to the few theatres in the UK that run active international programmes. For example, while Tunisian theatre, the most distinguished amongst Arab theatre today, has found its way to the stages of France, it remains almost unknown in Britain. Arab theatre practitioners are eager to make their voice heard in the UK and young practitioners to develop their skills through workshops and collaborations with UK artists.

  Perhaps least exchange is happening in film, although both the UK and the region have a very interesting film scene and interest in both is considerable. The regional film scene is vibrant in its challenging of social taboos and questioning of many sensitive issues in contemporary life. New digital film technology is making film-making accessible to young people who are using it as a means of free self expression and experimentation.


  There is also huge demand for more engagement in education at all levels. Governments in the region seek support in areas of education leadership, teacher development, curriculum design, e-learning and ICT, quality assurance, work life skills etc. They seek partnerships with UK education institutions, whether schools, universities or colleges and access to UK systems, models and practices. Capacity is a problem, and therefore they are keen to exploit new options for provision such as private or distance options or devising new methods of delivery.

  There have been more links and contacts established in education. In addition to the work of the British Council, much of this has been through DFID—including the Higher Education Links Programme. However, in the past three years, UK bilateral development funding in the region has greatly decreased with the exceptions of the Palestinian Territories, Yemen and Iraq, the Higher Education Links programme has ended and UK support is largely delivered through the EU. Opportunities for UK sector engagement now lie through the programmes of the Euromed Partnership and the World Bank.

  While there remains a healthy interest from UK universities for regional engagement, particularly in specialist areas, UK schools are responding slowly to opportunities presented by the British Council to link with schools in the region. Where these links are occurring they have proved to be remarkably effective in delivering both pedagogical and intercultural outcomes. Amongst the most successful models for linking are those which use sport or the arts as a medium for communication.

  The region is a secondary rather than major education market for the UK in terms of joint programmes, distance learning, publishing or qualifications (aside from Egypt and Saudi which have significant qualifications portfolios). However there are significant opportunities for UK exporters in Libya, Egypt and Jordan and countries in the Gulf which can be nurtured, and they can capitalise on the growing interest from the business community in learning and development opportunities for their staff. There are growing numbers of students going to the UK from the region as well as growth in transnational education. The Ministry of Higher Education in Iraq has recently signalled that they will be sending up to 400 Phd students a year to the UK and Saudi Arabia sends around 4,000 students on undergraduate and post-graduate programmes. In the Gulf in particular a number of UK universities are establishing programmes and in some cases campuses.

  The UK's strongest brand in the region is perhaps "UK English" which stands out as an area where there is an overriding perception that the UK offers the better language model. This in turn enhances the reputation of UK education as a whole. Offering access to English is often the most effective way to open relationships with new partners.


  All engagement is currently taking place within the context of insecurity and conflict in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian Territories. Perceptions of the UK are heavily and negatively influenced by UK foreign policy involvement and have led to apprehension and scepticism on the part of some British Council partners. There is a clear decrease in trust and understanding between people in the region and the UK, even though a distinction is usually made between UK foreign policy and wider UK society.

  There is a general resistance towards Western models of democracy and suspicion of the desire to "engage with the Moslem World" especially within areas of governance and social change. Equally, there appears to be some donor fatigue around support aiming to promote "good governance", democratisation and reform due both to the extent of impact, concerns about possible dangers of legitimising radical Islamist groups through elections and the suspicion in which the initiatives are held by wider society.

  Language and rhetoric such as "radicalisation", "extremism" can be seen as reviving colonial approaches and dividing the region on the basis of religious sects. The "Broader Middle East" language comes under most criticism.

  The media in the region also follows UK domestic debate on issues of multiculturalism and the integration of Muslims in the UK and has brought an impression that new legislation impacts negatively on Muslims in UK.

  The picture of perceptions of UK lifestyles, ways of life and values is complex and varied. The UK is recognised as having many areas of strength, eg luxury/elegance, democracy, freedom, science and technology, fashion, movies, tourism, traditions/heritage, modernity, sports (especially football), cars and education. However, in almost every area, the UK is thought to be outperformed by another country most notably the US.

  For those who have not been to the UK before, which is the majority, what they know is based on secondary sources (media, word of mouth, etc). As such, many of their views are stereotypical. There is, therefore, an opportunity to present them with an alternative perspective, for instance in terms of inventions in technology often attributed to the US but in fact from the UK.


  Whilst the picture of current contact and perceptions and the scope of opportunity available to young people in the region may appear gloomy, there are a number of effective avenues for greater and more effective UK engagement and support.

  The main opportunity is to respond to the ambitions of young people for educational and social opportunity. The priority is for the UK to work in partnership with governments within their programmes of education development, providing young people with skills for employment and contributing to economic growth and social development. Equally important is to respond to the massive demand for English as the portal for access to global competitiveness and opportunity and to reach larger numbers of learners.

  In the context of suspicion of recent Western intervention it is vital that mutuality informs all initiatives and programmes built around local agendas and models. This is particularly true in areas of governance and social development—that programmes are designed in partnership to meet needs and interests of both parties and with openness to learning and exchange on both sides. We should promote effective local models rather than import our own. This does not imply that we should engage from the position of a values-free arbitrator or broker of different positions. In this tricky terrain we need to be clear about the non-negotiable set of values which we believe can and should have universal application.

    —  Freedom of expression under the rule of law.

    —  Freedom of academic inquiry based on empirical evidence.

    —  The right to democratic representation and government by consent.

    —  Freedom from persecution and the right of minorities to participate fully in the wider societies in which they live.

    —  Freedom to engage in peaceful protest.

    —  Freedom to pursue and realise quality of life opportunities.

  Within this context, the UK has considerable opportunity to support young people and professionals, particularly in civil society, to develop their skills and opportunities to participate in public life, and to promote wider acceptance and practice of the principles of EO, diversity and social inclusion. It is vital though to reach beyond the traditional elite to the mainstream of young people, in other words to the demand rather than the supply side of social change and to engage through practical programmes such as volunteering, leadership development or debating.

  Finally, it is clear that a safer world can only be built on increased understanding and improved levels of trust. Here again, we need to reach out to the mainstream and to those moderate voices and institutions who influence them. Whilst we will work with relatively privileged young professionals, aligned to current leadership, we will also link up with young people through schools. Universities and youth clubs are an example of a catchment area in society where we may be able to engage "mainstream" young people effectively in a range of joint projects.


  The response will require new partnerships with organisations in the region including seminal institutions of religious significance such as Al-Azhar University as well as with the media both for wider influence and to address the question of reporting on social issues. Organisations in the region are open to such partnerships where there they perceive a genuine interest in their contribution to a relationship between equals.

  There are major skills gaps which will require effort to develop capacity over generations. The interest in UK experience as a world renowned education provider and leader in educational reform at many levels is there.

  2012 is the opportunity for a major initiative in international youth dialogue which can reach beyond the obvious to look at social issues and build leadership skills. Working through sport and other creative areas can be a very powerful way for young people who lack sufficient English to engage with their UK counterparts.

  In all areas, a long-term strategy is needed to build trust and demonstrate commitment; trust cannot be created instantly and "quick fixes" would engender distrust. From the start, it is vital to bring together capacity building with networking and exchange of ideas. Imagination is necessary in using new media and in creative partnerships, including considerable scope for partnership with the private sector. Large, ambitious programmes will be necessary.


  In the Middle East, the British Council is active in Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestinian Territories, Syria, Tunisia, Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Yemen. We have a 75 year track record in the region in the field of cultural engagement, education reform and institutional and individual capacity building. We know from partner feedback and customer surveys that people in the region have recognised the British Council presents the UK's good intent and desire for collaboration across the region, within the more complex set of factors which influence perceptions of the UK in the region.

  Our high level mission is to work for the long-term benefit and security of the UK; and we do this by growing strong, open, working relationships between the breadth of UK society and societies in the region. We participate robustly in the region's agenda for educational reform and skills building, and substantiate, particularly through professional collaboration, the drive for continuously improving intercultural understanding.

  Tackling environments which give rise to alienation and religious radicalisation amongst young people and promoting intercultural dialogue and a sense of shared values will be a principle objective of the British Council's work over the next three years. We will focus on delivering:

    —  Increased opportunities for young people through education development and cultural exchange.

    —  Strengthened understanding of the principles of social inclusion and human rights and empowering their participation in open and civil society.

    —  Increased understanding and trust between young people in the region and the UK.

    —  International networks that influence intercultural dialogue and positive social change.

  These priorities fit squarely with the UK's priorities, particularly "making the world a safer place" and the Supporting Democratic Development Theme of the Public Diplomacy Board.


  Whilst there remain a number of practical constraints to joint working between Israel and neighbouring Arab countries, the strategic focus of our work in Israel is still very much in step with our work across the rest of the Middle East and countries in the wider European neighbourhood.
British Council Target Outcomes British Council products that support delivery of these outcomes in Arab countries of the Middle East British Council products that support delivery of these outcomes in Israel and wider European neighbourhood
Increased opportunities for young people through education development and cultural exchange Reconnect EducationSkills @ Work
Strengthened understanding of the principles of social inclusion and human rights and empowering their participation in an open and civil society Reconnect
Social Development
Living Together
Increased understanding and trust between young people in the region and the UK Reconnect DialogueYouth Sports Action!
International networks that influence intercultural dialogue and positive social change Reconnect (all product strands)Creative Collaboration

    —  Many of the young people we are working with—be they from the urban Jewish mainstream or the Palestinian Arab minority—see their relationship with the British Council as a way of bringing them out of isolation and connecting them with the outside world. This opportunity for intercultural dialogue is particularly valued given Israel's troubled community relations.

    Our strong focus on community relations/co-existence with Israel's large Arab community (1.4 million people, 20% approx of population) is an important feature of our work and makes us well networked with an influential minority and this is particularly appreciated by FCO colleagues.

    eg our "Youth Sport Action" initiative is a major new programme to share the passion of the London Olympics and realise its ambitious vision of sport and community service by building trust between different ethnic communities and then through youth exchange programmes to connect them with counterparts from the UK, mainland Europe and other Middle Eastern countries.

    —  Despite the continuing shadow of conflict, Israel's government is seeking to modernise and meet the challenges posed by its complex multicultural society. British Council is playing an important role here in connecting Israelis with UK experience around migration, diversity and equal opportunity.

    In response to strong commercial competition in English language teaching and education promotion—especially from the USA—we have developed new approaches to English to build capacity specifically amongst disadvantaged youth in Israel's periphery eg Bedouin communities or new immigrants from Ethiopia and the former Soviet Union. We are also using English to enhance our community relations initiatives.

    eg Our new "Living Together" programme will offer a networking and think-tank approach for young leaders from Israel's various communities to influence policymaking, respond to the challenges of multi-culturalism and encourage greater dialogue and cooperation between government and civil society.

    —  Israel's knowledge economy—with its high outputs in science, high-tech and creative industry—is driving economic growth and British Council's support for helping young people to benefit from this whilst nurturing economic and business relationships between Israel and the UK is much appreciated by our partners.

    eg our Skills@Work Programme will engage with the Lisbon and Copenhagen agendas on skills for employability. It will bring together learning, work and enterprise across 17 countries in Europe and the Mediterranean rim area. It will do this by promoting links between education and industry, partnering with British institutions and business. In this way, the programme will place the UK centre-stage in developing aspects of the EU's Neighbourhood Policy.

    Calls for an academic and cultural boycott of Israel have had an adverse effect on bi-lateral relationships and so through our programmes like BI-ARTS, a professional development and exchange programme we are encouraging a nuanced approach to support longer-term connections between UK and Israel higher education institutions, especially in relation to the arts and creative industry community.


  Over the next three years the British Council will build on current work and deliver it through our "Re-connect" programme, a multi-strand initiative which sets out to address the issues described above. This programme will enable us to realise our greater aspirations for UK engagement in the region and the region's engagement with the UK. It will fundamentally change the levels and degree of relationship that the British Council has been able to achieve in the past.


  We will scale up our current level of education work to enable real change to take place in state education systems at both school and further education levels. Our work will focus on linking policy makers to their UK counterparts and sharing expertise and practical experience. The objective is to improve employability and life opportunities for young people. We will facilitate networks of UK-regional practitioners through school links and e-communities which support leadership, teacher and curriculum development.

  In response to the massive demand for English we will greatly increase the reach of UK support in terms of geography, social breadth and numbers, working both in support of government teachers, priority partners and general learners. Increasing access to availability of English plays a pivotal role in facilitating international engagement and communication for political economic and social ends—for commerce, for presentation of society's or an individual's point of view or cultural perspective.


  Our main focus is on young people, working to provide them opportunity and skills to participate in public life, promoting debate and wider acceptance and practice of principles of EO and diversity and social inclusion. We support the formation of networks of professionals with internationals perspectives (and shared values) on social reform and link them with peers in the UK and elsewhere. This work addresses the UK's objective of strengthening open civil society.

  We will greatly increase the volume and impact of our work. We will reach beyond the traditional elite to the mainstream of young people, many of whom will not be able to communicate in English—therefore we will work through arts, media and sport and to embed communication and language skills development within our work. We will develop new partnerships in the region and in UK with those who share our values and are able to extend reach to these young people and to organisations with particular influence on them.

  We will prioritise:

    —  Leadership through community based youth programmes: volunteering and sport including possible focus on science and environment.

    —  Schools based programme of skills development for participation.

    —  Media partnership and development for reporting on social issues.

    —  Working with young leaders in government and civil society on issues of inclusion EO and diversity.

  Our work will help raise the level of debate and public understanding around the notion of social inclusion and participation and of concepts such as freedom of expression, freedom of academic inquiry, equal rights and opportunity, transparency and accountability. We will work across a range of sectors and partners to build alliances for deeper understanding and to facilitate change.


  In the medium term, a safer world will only be built on increased understanding and improved levels of trust between young people, who are the people who will influence future governments and social change. Working solely with privileged young professionals aligned to current leaders and secular voices will not create this influence. Therefore our focus will be on creating broader and more challenging dialogue including:

    —  Dialogue between young people in schools and universities and between artists and publics.

    —  Dialogue with institutions of religious influence such as Al-Azhar University, Cairo and the Ministry of Religious Affairs in Jordan.

    —  Dialogue with young Muslim leaders in UK and Europe.

  This will include focus on:

    —  Arts in Education and involvement in 2012.

    —  Dialogue through music, visual arts, film and literature (with Arab World as Guest of Honour for LBF 2008) and environmental science.

    —  Capacity building for important institutions leading to wider engagement in areas such as English and communications.

    —  Pan-regional working with European regions.


  In response to UK priorities, the British Council is moving additional resources to the region. We are also developing our capacity in terms of our organisational partnerships, ability to design and deliver larger, more ambitious projects and use new technologies, our capability in marketing and communications and our skills.


ICT in Education

  Over the past two years we have worked with over 750 English, Maths and Science teachers to develop their skills and confidence in using ICT in the classroom as part of a regional project with the Ministries of Education and ICT in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Palestine and UNRWA and the Gulf. Building on the teachers' skills, we have together developed and cascaded a training programme in each country and set up a regional online teachers' community. We have also provided a forum for policy makers and managers to discuss educational leadership in ICT. We ran a major regional conference funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Transforming Learning for 140 delegates involved in the project from Ministers to teachers to share experience in the region and beyond.

  Just over a year since celebrated its launch, this free English language learning site helps over 100,000 learners and teachers of English across the Arab world take to English like a duck to water. The unique, no-charge website has grown into one of the most popular English language learning websites in the Arabic speaking world; offering visitors of all ages and levels the chance to improve their English while having fun. There is more to than just online activities; throughout the year over 5,000 teachers from across the region have visited the site as part of British Council teacher training programmes to develop their ICT and teaching skills.

Women at Work

  As a contribution to gender equity agendas in participating countries, our new Women at Work project aims to enable young women across the Middle East, Near East and North Africa and the UK to make career choices beyond gender stereotypes. We are setting up a series of shadowing visits between female professionals and their counterparts in the UK. Working in a range of professional fields in seven countries, our aim is to raise awareness of the extent of women's contribution to working life and to break down entrenched stereotypes of those professions. The project was launched on 8 March 2007, International Women's Day, with two video conferences in which British parliamentarians linked with senior women from the region to raise some of the key issues facing women seeking to venture into non-traditional professional areas.

  In Saudi Arabia we have introduced in the last year pioneering training and development programmes for Saudi women (the Springboard course), used Global Opportunities Fund support for Saudi women journalists to train in the UK and have established a countrywide network of women's alumni groups. This activity is unique and has been accompanied by considerable investment in our three women's centres, thus considerably extending our reach and impact amongst a previously neglected group.


  The recent Nazra Festival in Cairo—organised by the British Embassy and the British Council with the support of BP Egypt—explored the life and lifestyles of Muslims in Britain today and it celebrated their outstanding contribution to British society, culture and ways of life. Nazra included a range of artistic and intellectual events, including concerts in Alexandria and Cairo by Sami Yusuf and a superb photographic exhibition by Peter Sanders depicting the life of British Muslims today. Central to Nazra was the visit of a delegation of young British Muslims who were typical in their enthusiasm for their professional, personal and spiritual life in the UK.

Music Matbakh

  This two year regional programme which commenced in October 2006 provides the space for mutually beneficial creative collaboration between young people from a diverse range of musical backgrounds, enabling them to develop their skills and increase their understanding of each other's cultural environments.

  The British Council is working with a range of UK and overseas partners to bring the most accomplished and innovative young Arab musicians to the UK for a three-week long residency in May 2007. The artists from the Near East and North Africa region will join forces with Britain's brightest new musical talent to create new work, drawing on a range of contemporary influences and performing work-in-progress in a variety of UK locations. The project will provide participating artists with new opportunities for personal and professional development and international engagement. It includes performances at major festivals in the UK and the Near East and North Africa.

"1001 School Links Programme"/Connecting Classrooms

  We are creating links over the next three years between 200 schools in the UK and 400 schools in the region, forging links between over half million young people.

  The UK-Middle East School Partnerships programme aims to enhance mutual awareness and understanding amongst student peers—particularly the 11-14 age group—and their schools and families, and to break down stereotypes and uninformed negative perceptions between the region and the UK. The programme involves the UK, and Bahrain, Iraq, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Yemen.

  The programme will enable more schools in the region to link with UK institutions and will be framed by our wider educational activity in the region, including school leadership training and ICT in Education.

Youth Works!

  Vocational Education and Training is a main strategic issue for the Middle East. It is driven by burgeoning populations and concerns for greater social inclusion in the work place for young people of both sexes and a desire to place them as economic stakeholders and drivers of the economy. We are developing our vocational education capacity and work in response to this through a regional programme called "Youth Works!" programme brings together policy makers and practitioners from across the region and covers inspection training programmes; linking colleges in the region and the UK; occupational skills development and technical capacity building. In Saudi Arabia we are working very closely with the Ministry responsible for vocational training (GOTEVOT) to develop Sector Skills Councils. This is in co-operation with major UK partners including City and Guilds and Edexcel.

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