Cross-cultural exchange is a must for progress

Cross-cultural exchange is a must for progress

Cross-cultural exchange is a must for progress
More than 80 years ago, one of my uncles Mohammed Al-Mulhim got the opportunity to travel to India at a very early age. He got so impressed by India that later on he set up his own business there and became one of the earliest Saudi merchants who used to import Indian goods from India.
With the passage of time, he became well-known among Saudis who used to travel to India. After getting married, my uncle took his children to India and settled there. He got his children enrolled at schools in India because Indian education system was (and still is) very advanced.
One of his daughters, Maryam Al-Mulhim, continued her education in India until she graduated from a college with a degree in English literature. She topped her class.
I vividly remember that it was in 1969 when our father took us to meet the above mentioned uncle who along with his family had come to Al-Ahsa all the way from India to spend summer with the family. That was the time when I first met Maryam. I was impressed by her fluency in English and Hindi languages. She was not only highly educated but very well-manned and modest.
Maryam had a great influence on my personality. Her stories about her school days, hard work and competition made me realize the importance of education at an early age. It was during those conversations with her that I also realized the importance of intercultural exchange programs. It was Maryam’s behavior that taught me the importance of respecting other cultures and other people.
Later on she became the first female Saudi English teacher in the Eastern Province. As I grew up I became more fascinated by her educational background.
A few days ago, I spoke to her over the phone and after I finished the conversation, I thought as to how we (the Saudis) can benefit from the presence of international schools (Indian, Pakistani and Filipino) in the Kingdom. We have many people from these countries but we have never bothered to learn their languages or be more exposed to their education systems and learn from it. We can enroll few young Saudi students at these international schools so that they can learn the language very easily and have direct and close contact with their cultures without leaving Saudi Arabia. We have hundreds of thousands of Indians, Pakistanis and Filipinos, but, very few Saudis speak their languages. If only few hundreds of young Saudis attend these schools, we can have some Saudis who can speak their languages and know them very closely rather than getting to know them at the workplace only. And at the same time we can allow few students from these countries to attend our schools. This way we can improve the education system by learning from one and another.
At this time, we send tens of thousands of young men and women to study abroad through Custodian of The Two Holy Mosques Scholarship Program and it would be a good idea if we expose our youths to different education systems at a very early stage of their lives.

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