Magazine article New African

Reinventing Education

Magazine article New African

Reinventing Education

Article excerpt

Education remains the cornerstone of any prosperous society. And when African leaders talk about Africa's rich continent they all say its riches lie in its people, its human capital. As much as the indicators in education have improved, the continent still lags behind, especially if Africa is to become a global leader in innovation, services or even manufacturing. Luckily, new models of learning and innovative initiatives are yielding incredible results. It is to share these new ideas and developments, that The World Innovation Summit on Education (WISE) takes place in Qatar, where some of the world's most renowned experts in education convene every year. New African spoke to Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali Al Thani, WISE chairman, about his expectations for this year's summit and developments in education.

Why is global education strategically important to Qatar, and to you personally?

At WISE we believe that education must be placed at the top of the global agenda. While efforts have been made to widen access to learning, it is still a critical issue which is too often overlooked, and access does not in itself guarantee quality. The lack of relevant education and skills is the underlying cause of unemployment, poverty and conflict. We think education is the best investment nations can make for their people and their future. For example, finding solutions to environmental issues requires scientific research and engineering. But you don't get scientists and engineers in countries without a viable education system. The problem is most acute in Africa, where 57 million children still don't receive primary education.

Education has always been at the heart of my career first in teaching and then as Vice President, Education, at Qatar Foundation and President of Hamad bin Khalifa University (HBKU). I am also very honoured to have been Chairman of WISE since its launch by Qatar Foundation in 2009.

We live in a world where technology is changing the way we interact, the way we learn and the way we communicate. As Chairman of WISE, are you seeing rapid developments in the impact of technology on education?

Technology can improve access to education, but it also allows us to reinvent the way we learn. The recent debates about Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs), which make content from universities freely available online, indicate that the rapid spread of technology is transforming education around the world, offering possibilities that were unimaginable a few years ago. Some of the initiatives recognised by WISE over the past five years use technology as an educational tool. A 2013 WISE Awards finalist from Uganda, for example, the Mobile Solar Computer Classroom, transports solar-powered PCs in a truck to remote rural areas. At WISE 2013 we will be focusing on the links between technology and learning, which will also be the theme of the third WISE Book to be released early in 2014.

What innovations or initiatives in education have captured your imagination?

Working with WISE one quickly realises that there are so many pioneering projects around the world that are having a profound effect on communities and individuals. Many of these initiatives deserve to be scaled up and replicated, both locally and regionally. The WISE Awards identify these projects and support their development by sharing them with the global community. Since 2009, WISE has recognised 30 WISE Awards winning projects. All of them are unique and have had an outstanding impact on societies. Teacher Education in Sub-Saharan Africa (TESSA) is a network of over 20 universities and organisations from twelve African countries that creates high-quality multilingual resources for teachers. Given the lack of primary education structures in Africa I already mentioned, these initiatives are true models for other people seeking to innovate across the continent.

This year's Summit is themed "Reinventing Education for Life": what does that mean exactly? …

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