Education reform and innovation a priority: Reem Al Hashemy

Education reform and innovation is more than a necessity; it is also a priority, said Reem bint Ibrahim Al Hashemy, Minister of State for International Cooperation and Director General of Expo 2020 Dubai Bureau.

Al Hashemy made the remarks while addressing the opening day of Expo 2020 Dubai’s Knowledge and Learning Week, held in collaboration with UAE-based global philanthropic organisation Dubai Cares.

The two-day event explores the future of education and how its reform is vital to reflect a changed world, and to benefit our children, the economy, and society as a whole.

Al Hashemy said education is a cornerstone of the development strategy of the United Arab Emirates, underpinning policies and institutions that are leading the way in the global development space.

“As UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation, and the Chairperson of global philanthropic organization Dubai Cares, I have a profound professional interest in the future of education, knowledge creation, preservation and transfer. Moreover, as a parent my curiosity is deeply personal too. It’s what I do every day, in the office and at home, because there are few more fundamental responsibilities than ensuring that each new generation is blessed with the lessons of the past, and the greatest possible opportunities of the future. This is why education is a cornerstone of the development strategy of the United Arab Emirates, underpinning policies and institutions that are leading the way in the global development space. And this is why the sector itself is subject to unstinting scrutiny; how can we better use what we know, to change how we learn?”

For decades, she continued, we have asked increasingly urgent questions of the conventional educational structures we inherited from our forebears. And then in the course of 2020 we learned our lesson, as those structures proved eminently unsuitable for the challenges of the new reality in which we find ourselves. The Covid-19 pandemic proved the ultimate test of what we had built; and while we did not entirely fail, we know what we must do to continue to provide our youth and education community with a toolkit fit for the 21st century.

Today, in full knowledge of what we must do better, we begin to rebuild. As with so many other sectors, we cannot expect the world to return to how it was, so we must fashion something that fits the way it is. Something that harnesses the energy of this volatile, explosive moment in history, and directs it towards the forging of something strong, something resilient, and ready for purpose.

“We are fortunate that the transformation of education was underway even before the pandemic struck, as reflected in the increase in the growth and adoption of education technology that has characterised much of the last half-decade. But when pandemic-related closures of schools and other learning spaces impact 94% of the world’s student population, including up to 99% in low and middle-income countries, that tells us we’re not moving fast enough. Now education reform and innovation is more than a necessity; it is also a priority. We must bring the sector into the digital world with alacrity and deep impact, in a way that places our children first but also brings benefits for the economy, and indeed the whole of society. Whether in Dubai or Dar es Salaam, Helsinki or Hyderabad, all children and youth should be guaranteed inclusive and equitable quality education. And the value of this basic right will ripple out through communities, across continents, and down generations.”

According to Al Hashemy, the conference will examine misperceptions laid bare by the pandemic, as well as some of the everyday innovations that are now here to stay. Tomorrow speakers will look ahead, identifying valid priorities as we think about how to rewire education and learning for a prosperous and sustainable future for all.

“In one year from now, the conversations ignited over the course of this pre-Expo theme week, and at RewirEdX, will help illuminate our full on-site RewirED summit at Expo 2020 Dubai. A collaboration between Expo and Dubai Cares, RewirED’s goal is to reshape the global conversation on education, pushing the boundaries of current thinking and fostering cooperation among new allies from across different sectors… and by governments, global education stakeholders, strategic partners, and the private sector. We will be the platform for this summit, which has been received hugely enthusiastically by the global education community. And we will raise a milestone in the history of knowledge and learning, which of course is about so much more than education, incorporating everything from heritage and culture, to the art of storytelling, and the true value of the knowledge economy.”

She concluded by saying the nations, institutions and individuals you engage with over the coming days, hold in their power the strength to change the world.

“And that’s a good thing: after all, the more we know, the better placed we are to protect ourselves, and that world.”

Hussain bin Ibrahim Al Hammadi, Minister of Education, focussed his speech on pivotal issues related to harnessing knowledge and learning in preparation for the future, and specifically how to create a supportive, stimulating environment for innovation that induces systematic, tangible impacts on sustainability.

“The key to achieving this is to look at new skills and knowledge, integrating technology in our lives and enhancing human capabilities through continuous technical and professional training. Starting with a modern educational mind-set that is based on reforming education in a changing world, The Ministry of Education has developed a set of goals and a sustainable vision for the future. We have been working towards this by preparing students at the academic, scientific and skill levels to meet the requirements of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Focusing on future technology in UAE schools, we are keen to develop specialised curricula that revolve around technology, computer science and AI and its applications, while also seeking to use the latest technology across various areas of education, he said.

He underlined the role of the Ministry of Education, which is to consider students’ different educational needs as we prepare them across various technical and applied specialisations, introducing diverse streams to keep pace with the requirements of education and the labour market.

“A crucial concept is lifelong learning. To that end, the Ministry of Education has encouraged self-learning among students, providing digital libraries with resources on various sciences to equip students with knowledge outside the formal school setting. The UAE’s wise leadership continues to stress the need to invest in education. Every improvement we have made serves that purpose, including upgrading learning mechanisms and resources to enable future generations to overcome all challenges and achieve sustainable development. We have also focused on developing innovation skills among students early in their lives, to create a generation capable of adapting to the accelerating changes of the future. The recently implemented hybrid learning model is a perfect example.”

“Focusing on the Expo School Programme, Expo Live, and the Expo 2020 Global Best Practice Programme, the upcoming World Expo will be an ideal opportunity for international civil society and youth to take part in transforming the global dialogue on education to achieve the world’s education goals for 2030,” he concluded.


Source: UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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