LAU develops unique curriculum for new B.A. in Arabic
Humanities professors join hands to offer an alternative approach to teaching Arabic.
LAU students, required to take at least one course in an Arabic language subject, will see their options expand as the university launches its first undergraduate degree in Arabic this fall.
“As a large university in an Arab country, logic dictates that we have a role in Arabic literature and culture,” says B.A. degree coordinator Dr. Latif Zeitouni, who has been a professor of Arabic Literature at LAU for 29 years. “We began by ensuring all students took a course in Arabic regardless of their major. Over time we increased our offering from one Arabic course to nine, and now we are offering a B.A. in Arabic that covers both language and literature.”
While the B.A. was in development for some time, the next step, a course plan for a master’s degree, is already underway and will soon be submitted to the administration for consideration.
The degrees were developed and championed over the years by the Arabic faculty within the Department of Humanities. The professors sought to offer an alternative approach to the study of Arabic. “Degrees in Arabic come in various designs. Some have a strong element of religion while others focus on culture. We sought to fill the gap and develop a balanced curriculum. One that incorporates contemporary and classical literature equally, that celebrates opposing critiques and perspectives and that includes the study of linguistics and semiotics.”
The degree, adds Zeitouni, is a reflection of Lebanon, incorporating different perspectives and cultures. “The benefit of balance is that you don’t defend one thought at the expense of another. This is in line with LAU’s goal to be of service to our region and educate our graduates to accept and understand other points of view in a way that other universities’ degrees in Arabic do not prepare their students for.”
All the Arabic courses that make up the degree will be available as electives to students of other majors. Asked if the increased standards will make it more difficult for LAU students to do well in elective Arabic language courses, Zeitouni reflects on changes in education since he returned to Lebanon in 1984. “Today’s students were not affected by the war. They studied uninterrupted at school and as such their Arabic is up to standard. Additionally, over the years, LAU’s entry requirements have become more competitive, resulting in a more capable student base.”
Zeitouni looks forward to the launch of the master’s program, expecting it to result in highly exceptional research that will promote the uniqueness of LAU. One of Zeitouni’s Ph.D.’s., a study in semiotics applied to Arabic literature, was the first of its kind worldwide. “I have high hopes for the Arabic department. With the quality of students and professors at LAU, and our unconventional but all-embracing approach to the curriculum, we are contributing something that traditional and government universities simply cannot.”