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Japanese become second foreign language in some UAE high schools

Japan and the UAE are discussing an initiative to teach Japanese as a second foreign language in some UAE high schools, according to a top Japanese diplomat.

"It is expected to start within a year," Akihiko Nakajima, the new Japanese Ambassador to the UAE, told the Emirates News Agency, WAM, in an exclusive interview.

He said both nations are currently giving importance to educational cooperation.

"To both countries, education is one of the most important policy pillars for our prosperous future, and I firmly believe that we can contribute to each other in this area," Nakajima said.

"Some achievements have already been made in the past years," he said, citing the Moral Education Programme introduced in UAE primary schools in 2017, which "reflects Japanese moral education system as one of the model cases."

As the ambassador is impressed about the UAE’s young engineers and their innovative spirit, he would like to explore cooperation in Research and Development sector.

He said there is a criticism that innovation activities are costly in Japan and young talented engineers are not managed well.

"The UAE should be proud of its globally competitive governance and management skills as well as its young educated engineers," he said, adding that this gives the potential for synergetic cooperation in Research and Development activities. 

Nakajima wants to extend bilateral relations to new areas as stipulated in the Japan-UAE Joint Statement signed last year.

"Until recently, our bilateral relations have always been centered around the economy, more specifically, oil business. I believe my mission here is to further expand and deepen these existing fields of cooperation of both countries," he said.

He would like to materialise and vitalise cooperative programmes and projects such as industry-academic cooperation already identified in bilateral Memorandums of Understanding and other policy documents.

The envoy is also impressed with the curiosity of Emiratis about Japanese culture.

In recent years, bilateral relations have dramatically developed in the area of culture and sports as well. Manga, a Japanese comic, and Judo, a Japanese martial art, are becoming popular among Emiratis, Nakajima said.

"[People] ask [me] how Japan has absorbed and digested different civilisations, while still retaining its indigenous culture. Regrettably, Japanese people, including myself, are not necessarily aware of the uniqueness or particularity of our own culture, and that is exactly why I truly enjoy talking to people in this country who always let me realise what Japan really is," Nakajima explained. 

People-to-people links are crucial in bilateral relations, the diplomat said. He said he would organise several cultural events in the coming months to encourage people-to-people relations.

More than 4,000 Japanese people live in the UAE and the number is growing year by year, with approximately 3,000 residing in Dubai and more than 1,000 in Abu Dhabi and other emirates. 

The Japanese Association with its branches in Abu Dhabi and Dubai play a significant role in bringing the community together with their regular social events, Akihiko Nakajima added.

He is also excited about his first posting in the region, as it could be instrumental in introducing Arab/Muslim world’s civilisational values to his country. 

"In my opinion, the Arab/Muslim world and its glorious history as well as its civilisation, have not been fully introduced to my country."

He said the Japanese first started getting exposure to the Arab/ Muslim world in the late 1980s. "Therefore, I am very much excited and fascinated to be posted here, trying to absorb everything I can with my own eyes, ears and tongue, without any prejudice or preconception," Nakajima said.

About the developments in the Gulf region, the ambassador said, "To my great concern, tensions are mounting in the Gulf region to the degree that minor incidents may lead to serious consequences. We have to avoid military clashes by any means because, needless to say, peace and security in the Middle East are essential not only for this region, but for global prosperity."

Japan will continue its efforts side by side with international community toward this end, he said.

Securing the safety of navigation in the Strait of Hormuz is crucially important to Japan’s energy security and so is to the peace and prosperity of the international community, the envoy explained, adding that Japan takes the attacks on the ship operated by a Japanese shipping company near the Strait of Hormuz on 13th June "seriously."

Japan will continue to make efforts to gather information and secure the safety of navigation, while closely coordinating with the related countries, he explained. 

Japan has been making repeated calls to Iran for complying with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, JCPOA, based on Japan’s support for the JCPOA that contributes to strengthening the international non-proliferation regime and thereby to the stability of the Middle East, Nakajima said.

In conclusion, the Japanese envoy said his country once again strongly urges Iran to comply with the JCPOA and immediately return to its commitment under the agreement and to refrain from further measures that may undermine the agreement.

Last week, it was announced that the Chinese language will be introduced to the UAE's education curricula starting this September. 

The agreement to include the language was made official through the signing of an MoU during the recent state visit of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, to China.

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