‘Smarter, stronger, kinder’: Interests at stake in the remake of Iftah ya Simsim for Gulf children

Sakr, N. 2018. ‘Smarter, stronger, kinder’: Interests at stake in the remake of Iftah ya Simsim for Gulf children. Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication. 11 (1), pp. 9-28.

Title‘Smarter, stronger, kinder’: Interests at stake in the remake of Iftah ya Simsim for Gulf children
AuthorsSakr, N.
Abstract

Heralding the imminent screening of a new series of Iftah ya Simsim (Open Sesame) for pre-schoolers on Gulf television in 2015, the managing director of the show’s production company described it as the culmination of ‘passion and commitment’ on the part of ‘dozens of individuals across international boundaries’ over four years. Joint efforts of individuals and institutions on that scale imply shared objectives. The publicly declared objective of Iftah ya Simsim partner, Sesame Workshop in New York, is to offer fun lessons that will make Gulf children ‘smarter, stronger and kinder’, which is a significant ambition given educational and health issues in parts of the region. Yet the reality of international collaboration makes the project even more complex. This study explores the interests at stake in making the series, on the part of Sesame Workshop itself, the Arab Bureau for Education in Gulf States, based in Riyadh, and Bidaya Media, the Abu Dhabi-based joint venture created to produce the shows. It finds that the challenge of collaboration was lessened because different institutions took responsibility for different phases of the project, public narratives about it played down culturally-sensitive concerns that informed the curriculum underlying it, and widespread nostalgia linked to a 1970s version of the show implied that Iftah ya Simsim is itself part of Gulf traditions.

Keywordspreschool, education, collaboration, tradition, local customs, capacity building
JournalMiddle East Journal of Culture and Communication
Journal citation11 (1), pp. 9-28
ISSN1873-9857
Year2018
PublisherBrill
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)doi:10.1163/18739865-01101002
Publication dates
Published01 Jan 2018

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