Education summit sets global challenges

Bookmark and Share

The identification of 10 strategic priorities that will affect and shape education in the 21st century come at the end of a three-day conference in Doha, Qatar, which was attended by teachers, academics and policy-makers from across the world.

The speakers included Gerhard Schröder, former German Chancellor; Kiyotaka Akasaka, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, United Nations; Sheikha Abdulla Al-Misnad, President, University of Qatar; Anthony Salcito, Vice President, Microsoft – Worldwide Education, Biz Stone, Co-Founder of Twitter; as well as, Ruth Dreifuss, Chancellor, University for Peace, former President of the Swiss Confederation (1999).

The goal behind WISE - a global forum organised by the Qatar Foundation, and established by the Qatari royal family - is to create an international, multi-disciplinary platform which will try to shape education models of the 21st century, by offering a better understanding of key current and future educational issues, and promoting a global multicultural vision through an interdisciplinary event.

The scale of the event meant global opinion leaders, political figures, grass-roots teachers and diverse educational organisations could be invited to participation in a series of discussions designed to explore the themes of pluralism, sustainability and innovation in education.

The hope is that the gathering of so many luminaries in one location will trigger a coordinated and comprehensive international effort to address the educational challenges of the 21st century through a process of pooling expertise, sharing new ideas and best practice in education.

Dr. Abdulla bin Ali Al-Thani, Chairman of WISE and Qatar Foundation’s Vice-President of Education, said: "This Summit represents the beginning of a long-term process of innovation. Throughout, we have been listening very closely to the contributions and the key concerns of the participants with a firm commitment to move from debate to concrete outcomes.

"The identification of 10 strategic priorities is a milestone as it represents a convergence among global educational leaders on the key issues that will affect and shape education in the 21st century.”

The 10 strategic priorities include:

  1. Access to ‘quality’ education
  2. A fully integrated approach
  3. Global citizenship
  4. Education embedded in the local community
  5. Protecting education and educators
  6. Reconciliation
  7. ‘WISE pioneers’ to monitor progress
  8. Innovating new ways to learn
  9. Pursuing sustainable development
  10. A future built on multi-stakeholder partnership

WISE will now refine how it will contribute to drive educational changes in the future by:

  • Acting as an agenda-setting forum which will define areas requiring actions across all sectors of education and will seek involvement of appropriate partners.
  • Promoting innovative practices, methodologies and partnerships, making best use of modern technology.
  • Seeking to build on the momentum of the inaugural summit to inform public opinion and put education as a priority on the political, social and economic agenda.

One of the most important points to come out of the conference was that emergent, revolutionary technologies such as open, accessible, peer-to-peer and social media platforms have an influential role to play in how conventional education is both taught and learned.

Co-founder of Twitter, Biz Stone, discussed how use of his rudimentary communication tool has become a real-time educational tool as well, where users help and inform each other, citing earthquakes, fuel shortages and episodes of geo-political unrest as prime examples.

“It doesn’t matter how many servers we add to the network; ultimately, we hope Twitter will be a triumph of humanity, not a triumph of technology,” he said.

Professor Sugata Mitra, Professor of Education, Newcastle University, and the inspiration behind the movie ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, said: “Teachers are now no longer required to be repositories of knowledge”, adding that children can learn to teach themselves and solve complex matters if equipped and empowered with the necessary technological tools."

Mr. Gerhard Schröder said: “We must make use of all available talents, skills and aptitudes. Any country that wants to be successful, either economically or culturally, must utilise these resources.

"There is only one way to ensure that Governments continue to put an emphasis on education and that is through pressure by the people”.

Founder and Director of SMARTlab Digital Media Institute, Professor Lizabeth Goodman, said: “It is vital that technology and support is offered to people with special needs and their network at the earliest possible stage in order to allow this community to fully realise their abilities.”

Ms. Vivien Stewart, Vice-President for Education, Asia Society, said: “Globalisation poses questions about the excellence, equity and content of our education systems, which we must take into account if we are to adequately prepare our students for tomorrow."

Professor Bob Moon, Professor of Education, at The Open University said: “There is a pressing need to exploit communication technologies progressively, as bricks and mortar institutions are insufficient for 21st century needs”.

Mrs Irina Bokova, newly appointed UNESCO Director-General, explained in her opening that 75 million children worldwide are not in any form of education. This is further compounded by the fact that 800 million adults lack a basic education. She explained that teaching is a top priority for UNESCO and that we must all do our utmost to protect education from the current economic crisis.

“The world is undergoing a profound and rapid transformation. The economic and financial crisis has brought education sharply into focus. Education is a lifetime pursuit and an investment for the future,” Mrs Irina Bokova said.

The conference was officially launched by the event's patron, Her Highness Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al-Missned, Chair of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, who said that world education is almost comatose and that we all need to sound the alarm for change and the right to education for everyone.

Tom Barrett, assistant head at Priestsic Primary in Nottinghamshire, said: "The challenge now is to translate words into action, and for that the strategic priorities that have been identified during the course of the seminars will require input at a grass roots level – that is, the voices of teachers, who will need to be listened to, their ideas for going forward explored and supported as fully as possible."