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20 years on, 'Iftah Ya Simsim' coming back to educate Gulf.

Summary: RIYADH: "Iftah Ya Simsim," the Arabic version of the global educational and entertainment brand "Sesame Street" is to be reintroduced in the Gulf region after 20 years.

Arab Bureau of Education for the Gulf States (ABEGS) in partnership with an educational media company opened the Content Seminar for "Iftah Ya Simsim" for GCC states. Robert Kenzevic, regional director of International Partnership of Sesame Workshop, said: "We recognize the deep love for the program. Education needs are understood by local educators and that's why the GCC has welcomed the program's return." Kenzevic said the program has evolved keeping in mind the new generation and the new abilities of preschoolers. "The key question is 'what are the children's needs?' And now we can refer to the 40 years during which the program evolved as 'experimental years,'" Kenzevic said, adding that children are living in a more diverse and complicated world now and therefore there is a greater need for creativity. Sesame Workshop, says Kenzevic, cannot determine what the educational goals in the region are, and that's why this seminar is taking place with experts from the region to pinpoint the issues the program will discuss and the messages it will deliver. Director General of ABEGS, Ali bin Abdalkhalq Al-Qarni, said ABEGS signed an agreement with the owner company, Sesame Workshop, to start putting guidelines for the program before the production.

He added: "We are in an era that is different from that of the past 20 years, and we too have to evolve with the times," he said. Al-Qarni said educators, experts and officials from the Ministry of Education have been meeting for the last one year to come up with recommendations that are to be discussed during this two-day workshop. Sesame Workshop is an education company that uses different tools to deliver education through one of the important media tools -- television. Kenzevic said Sesame Workshop could help in other ways too. They could go directly to the community and this program is called "outreach." Kenzevic said: "We took our four famous characters on a tour of six Saudi cities were they sang about benefits of using seatbelts, and road safety. Also, children at the end of the experience were allowed to practice in small cars the road regulations and were offered "Iftah Ya Simsim" driving licenses." He added that the big characters and their colorful costumes added to the attraction. Executive Manager of GCC Joint Program Production Institution -- GCCJPPI, Abdulmohsen Al-Bannai, believes that "Iftah Ya Simsim" has a vision with a national goal and will work toward turning the child into an exporting creator rather than an importer of information only. "Social responsibility and positive efforts on social and environmental issues is the generator behind our contribution to sponsoring the program," said SABIC CSR Manager Abdullah Al-Fawaz, adding that they see in "Iftah Ya Simsim" a great opportunity to send educational and environmental messages. Assistant professor Nada Al-Rabiah from the department of early childhood education at King Saud University, said: "The seminar aims at putting the basis for the program's plan that are compatible to the needs of the children of the region." Al-Rabiah said after all the GCC states conducted studies for a year, the draft is ready on which the Sesame Workshop will rely to build a program that suits the educational needs and demands of the region.

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Publication:Arab News (Jeddah, Saudi Arabia)
Date:Jun 4, 2011
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