Saturday, April 09, 2011

What's Sesame Street in Urdu?

The BBC reports:

The United States is funding a Pakistani remake of the popular TV children's show Sesame Street.

In a new effort to win hearts and minds in Pakistan, USAID - the development arm of the US government - is donating $20m (£12m) to the country to create a local Urdu version of the show.

The project aims to boost education in Pakistan, where many children have no access to regular schooling.

The show is to be filmed in Lahore and aired later in the year.

"The programme is part of a series of ventures that is aimed at developing the educational infrastructure in the country," Virginia Morgan, a spokesperson for USAID, told the BBC.

"Education is one of the vital sectors that need help in Pakistan."

The show will be set in a village in Pakistan - rather than the streets of New York - with roadside tea shop and residents sitting on their verandas.

The remake will star a puppet called Rani, the six-year-old daughter of a peasant farmer, with pigtails and a school uniform, according to Britain's Guardian newspaper.

There are some who have criticized Sesame Street for turning education into entertainment, that is, for making learning a bit too much fun (as if "thought control" and "dark sarcasm" are preferable). There's something to that, I suppose, but the decline of educational standards, and of cultural literacy generally, is hardly the fault of a single TV show, and, personally, I've always loved Sesame Street and found its educational efforts to be genuine and beneficial. (I was even on it. No, not with the Muppets, alas, but on some French-language segments produced for the Canadian version, back when I was a kid.) Besides, compare it to so much of the rest of our culture. It stands out as a model of decency that encourages children to do more than just sit and drool.

There's always a bit of concern when the U.S. government gets involved with spreading "culture," but this seems like a pretty good idea:

In an interview with a local edition of Newsweek, Imraan Peerzada‚ a writer for the new series‚ said the protagonist was a brave and daring girl.

"She will represent what little girls have to go through in this gender-biased society," he said.

He said her journey would inevitably touch on Pakistan's ongoing fight with militancy, but would not directly refer to religion.

"We don't want to label children‚" he said. "The basic learning tools of literacy‚ numeracy‚ hygiene‚ and healthy eating have to be in place first."

A noble goal, to be sure.


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  • My daughter learned how to read on her own, with just two Sesame Street videos. Fun AND educational! I hope the Urdu version is just as good, as it could have a much more positive and lasting impact than military "aid".

    By Blogger Daniel, at 7:40 PM  

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