If you want to something done, it has to start with you - Aminata Palmer, UNGEFI Youth Advocate - Sierra Leone
Today, I had the pleasure to hear from 5 incredible young women and their stories of struggle and empowerment. As I listened to how these women spoke about their road to discovering themselves, their purpose to strive and fight for the rights of women within their community and the rest of the world - I felt convicted to be a part of this movement. One of the advocates, Cheryl Perera, particularly stood out to me as she spoke about her work with children that are victims of sex trades. She challenged the audience with an extremely powerful question ‘How many children have to fall through the cracks before we use education as a preventive tool against exploitation?’ She then went on to reflect upon the urgency for us to ensure that girls are educated so that they understand their rights and to firstly, make schools a safe zone for girls to question, learn and grow.
So how can we empower girls in our ways?
Being an educator I see myself as an advocate for the rights of young children - regardless of the background they are from. This session was particularly powerful and it resonated to me. It has helped me reflect on the importance of creating a space in my own classroom in the future that empowers both boys and girls. It is crucial for teachers to establish a cultural norm within their classroom that every gender is equal. It is time to focus on building an education system that encourages independence, creative thinking, innovation and critical thinking for both genders as we strive to move towards a more inclusive community.
I am inspired to inspire young girls to not be afraid to speak up and shine.
When you educate a man, you educate a man. When you educate a woman, you educate a generation - Brigham Young
Today was the last day of the GESForum. The day started off with The Transformation Challenge game. This game has been one of the ongoing activities throughout the forum. The focus of the game today was to improve the education system’s efficiency of the imaginary country of Westlandia. Westlandia was presented as a developed country that ranked good by OECD standards and wanted to move up to excellent. Moreover Westlandia faced the challenge of lack of respect and interest towards the teaching profession, an aging population and rising immigration. Participants of the game are asked to impersonate policy makers in the education sector of Westlandia and take decisions that pertain to the following factors of education: Teachers’ CPD and ICT, pupil-teacher ratio, teachers’ salary and hours of teaching time.
During today’s Transformation Challenge I sat at a table with delegates from a very varied range of backgrounds. The conversation was fueled by our different perspectives and experiences. Nonetheless, we found a common imperative, which is the importance of teacher training in ensuring quality education. As the decision makers of Westlandia’s funds for education we decided to invest in teachers’ CPD and ICT in order to strengthen current teachers’ skills, promote trust in the teaching profession and to encourage the youth to pursue education as a career.
Westlandia is an imaginary country, however our discussion was based on real life experience and realistic expectations. Moreover, Westlandia’s challenges are relevant across most education systems in the world. The participants in my group come from very different places and backgrounds yet we shared very similar opinions on how to invest the funds we had at hand. The notable alignment in our thought path was very significant to me. This alignment further enhanced my awareness of education as a global crisis, a crisis that calls for cooperation of best practices for the betterment of all. It is important for all to realize that in the 21st century more than ever, investing in education is necessary at a global level. While contextualizing education practices is always necessary, there is a lot of space for cooperation in the education sector. One very important lesson that I have taken from this forum is that education should not be a field of competition as much as it should be a field of collaboration.
Fatima Ramadan Sanz
WISE is a platform that goes beyond attending prestigious conferences with remarkable speakers. It provides us with a once in a lifetime opportunity to learn through travel. In my travels with WISE to Doha and now, Dubai, I have learnt and grown tremendously as an individual. The exposure that I receive in contexts of cultures unlike my own, broadens my perspective and understanding of the world. This in return has truly contributed to moulding me into a global citizen.
I look forward to joining the team again in Madrid. As for now, I am filled with excitement for and hungry to learn even more on the last day of the Global Education & Skills Forum tomorrow.
Thank you Dubai, it’s been an absolute pleasure.
If I were two summarize the first day of the forum, I would say that the hot topic was the role of the public and private sector in solving the global problem of education. The plenary session put forward a good base for the summit to progress on. It started with a speech from the former president of United States, Bill Clinton, and followed by an interview with multiple personalities who are directly involved with educational sector. It was exciting to see differing opinions on the involvement of private sector and how it is changing not only education but also professional job market. Bill Clinton pointed out that 15% of employees at Google have no degrees, showing that private sector is starting to value skills more than degree, thus shifting emphasis towards vocational education.
After the plenary session I made way to a discussion where the panelist discussed the need of mobilizing the demographic dividend strategies for youth skills development and engagement. It was interesting to hear the great need for the private sector to get involved in the educational sector if we wish to overcome hurdles in the way of education. But even after the discussion I can’t help but be a bit cynical as to the involvement of private sector. Firstly I believe that the self-interest mentality and profit maximizing aims of private firms lead a huge are to question the commitment of these firms and sustainability of the projects they wish to sponsor. Secondly I believe that allowing private sector to play an important role in education will result in education becoming a means to satisfy the market demand for jobs. This sort of structure could result in further hierarchy of subjects and professions, and it defies the primary purpose of education, which is to allow individuals to satisfy their thirst of curiosity and pursue their passions. If these basic aims of education are not fulfilled, the society will fail to progress intellectually.
That day attended another sub session where the panelist addressed an issue close to me, that of higher education and student loans. Since I am a student who is faces the same worries it was discouraging not to see any solution brought forward by the banks or the university board. I can only hope more emphasis is placed on this growing problem. I want to end this with wise words of V. Shankar when he said “We all know education is priceless, we only need to find a way to make it less expensive”.
Today was the first day of the GESForum in Dubai. Some of the topics that played a central role in today’s sessions were quality education for all children, the use of technology in the classroom and the post-2015 education development agenda and the role of the private sector.
As an individual with a passion of education in emergency and conflict zones as well as international security, the session that I found most interesting was the panel discussion on Providing Education in Emergency Settings: What Works?
The discussion was held by amazing panelists who provided varied perspectives and experiences to form an enriching conversation. My personal favorite was Prof. Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish. In spite of his personal tragedy of losing his three daughters and his niece to the Israeli occupants in Palestinian Territories, he continued to profess in favor of a dialogue of understanding and inclusive education to enhance children’s understanding of others and foster their development as global citizens. I think his focus on the positive aspect of his experience is remarkable and respectable. Moreover, it is a great example on how to channel energy positively and setting sincere aims towards setting global education goals in which all students are given the same rights disregarding color, race, religion, socio-economic status, etc. an inclusive education, I believe, is the foundation for an understanding society and a community that embraces all. These values could potentially significantly decrease tension and eventually conflict.
Fatima Ramadan Sanz
A nation’s best investment is to build an educated generation - Sheikh Zayed Al Nahyan
The opening ceremony for the Global Education and Skills Forum was a spectacle of vibrant performances. It marked the beginning of a four-day event that will be emphasizing on the importance of education for domestic and global prosperity. The ceremony touched on some important issues that ranged from domestic educational policy of different countries to life experiences of individuals who faced adversities but did not give up on efforts to gain knowledge. The ceremony put forward a strong base for the upcoming days of the conference.
The highlights of the opening ceremony consisted of a one-on-one interview with former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Tony Blair, experience shared by the UNGEF (United Nations Global Education First) Youth Advocacy Group. Most of the ceremony was dominated by vibrant display of dance and music. Though the performance might have been viewed as pure entertainment, it had a subtle message of early education that was hard to miss. The performance brought forward the aspect of early education and its existential and global importance.
The show started off with middle school students taking on the stage together with their teachers in a contemporary classroom with the old school method of individual-based learning. It then progressed with a shift in teaching methods in which collaborative study was encouraged and technology was used to revolutionize studying habits. The change of dance routine and music showed an enthusiastic mood and revitalized spirit and the students showed how progressive teaching methods could make the students more eager to learn and satisfy their appetite for curiosity. The dance performance also consisted of acrobats flying across the stage, this symbolized a bird’s eye perspective of the problem faced in the education sector. It showed that countries some time look at educational difficulties only specific to their country, but in reality the problem could only be solved if we took a step back and look at this situation from above and view ourselves as global citizens and together solve the problem once and for all
The Youth Advocates of the UN Global Education First Initiative gave very passionate speeches relating the central importance of education to their personal experience. Their speeches were inspiring examples of how education can empower people to find their voice and make it heard. Moreover, their appreciation of education as an empowering tool is demonstrated in their vocational, as well as, professional paths. Seeing people our age, my age, be so passionate and contributing to education at an early age is not only motivating its also reassuring. It is reassuring because it demonstrates the international community’s recognition of the youth’s contribution in the conversation of the development of education. Education is developing at a fast pace and we need the voices of the youth to be heard. The youth are not only receiving today’s education they are also applying their learning to today’s worlds. The Youth Advocates speeches were a great example of how to invest the youth in education and to improve education quality and align education goals to market demands.
One of the main aspects of the opening ceremony was a keynote address with Former Prime Minister of the UK, Tony Blair that was moderated by Rebecca Winthrop, Director of Brookings Institution – USA. The session addressed three key areas of focus in education. Firstly, he mentioned that technology is extremely transformative of education, secondly, the need to radically change the way we teach and lastly the importance of engaging parents and the community to form multiple means of partnerships. These bold statements that Mr. Blair made reflected the urgency in rethinking children’s learning in schools and the build up of the settings that they are in. The session triggered us to think about these issues in multiple aspects for example, in the discussion on how transformative technology has been in education, it is just as important for us to think about how technology may be disruptive to learning.
The ceremony, without a doubt, was an astounding head start to the escalation of incredible topics of discussions that we could expect from the rest of the conference.
Abdullah Ahmad, A’qilah Saiere & Fatima Ramadan Sanz
“I do not talk much to make myself understood. So when I started studying English, I was wondering why I must say reasons and conclusions all the time in English.”
“I was once scolded by an English teacher and I didn’t understand why. Now I understand that the words and acts which don’t mean much to me can make people from other cultures resentful.”
These are the words of two students in Ms Reiko Okada’s English class in Japan. On the last day of the Education and Development Conference she presented a very interesting paper on the difficulties Japanese students experience when learning English. Her explanation took us back to the respective histories of Japanese and Western culture. Japan consists of several islands which are fairly far removed from other countries. This has allowed them to remain a very homogeneous society. It has also resulted in Japanese being an entirely independent language. Japanese together with Korean are the only two languages which are not influenced by any other language groups. Ms Okada explains that the Japanese community lives together like a big family and there is a lot of emphasis on the group as a whole. In Western countries we find continents where invasions of foreigners have allowed the countries to diversify. This has led to an emphasis on the uniqueness and importance of every individual within the community rather than a collective identity.
The different histories of these cultures have affected their respective communication styles. In the homogeneous Japanese society, people often understand each other by considering the context, feelings and implications involved in what is said. Therefore people don’t speak very directly and refrain from using unnecessary words. In the diverse culture ofWestern countries, people understand better by listening to what is said and therefore the message must be clear. People speak more directly and logically.
Ms Okada gave an example of where she asked Japanese students and students from the United Kingdom to describe their response if someone in their building was making a noise which was bothering them. Where the majority of students from the United Kingdom said they would ask the person to be quiet, the Japanese students would either just ignore the noise or speak to the landlord rather than directly to the individual making the noise. This gives us a typical idea of how messages are conveyed differently in these two cultures. Ms Okada also found that the Japanese students struggle to write reasons when learning English since such details often do not appear when they are communicating in Japanese.
When Ms Okada started teaching students these cultural differences in communicating, her students’ feedback made her realize that Japanese collectivism was always portrayed as inferior to Western individualism in the teaching of the English language. In recent years she has conducted more research on the topic and nowadays she has adjusted her program to teach Engish as an International Language, where there is space for indigenous cultures to influence a student’s English. Ms Okada emphasises the importance of Japanese culture and accentuates the fact that students shouldn’t feel they must compromise their culture when speaking English. She teaches students that your messages in English should convey your values and shouldn’t be adjusted to follow Western patterns with which you are not comfortable. The Japanese sense of modesty, for instance, is not something negative and their language practices should reflect their moral codes and logic. She also accentuates that students don’t have to feel that they have to speak like native speakers.
It is, however, still important that the English spoken by students is intelligible and that it meets a core standard. One comment from the floor was that more research needs to be done on the complexities of EIL when students start engaging with English at an academic level. There is definitely room for further research on the topic, but these are interesting concepts to ponder upon. Even if Japanese students are simply made aware of these differences and complexities that are at play when learning English, it will already increase their confidence to engage with the English language.
WISE Learners’ Last Day at EDC Conference
Already it is the last day at EDC. Today everyone got a chance to find out about WISE very clearly as Ali gave a wonderful presentation about what WISE and WISE Learners’ Voice stand for. Esther introduced her DUENDE project, and she met Ms Snezhana who is working for children’s emotional regulation at EDC. She got a chance to talk to Ms Snezhana about her project, and she thinks her research will help DUENDE as it aims to work for children born in times of war.
The presentation that I liked most today was Ms Reiko Okada’s on Japanese students’ motivation for learning English. Her research is very interesting and she has designed some wonderful exercises that help the audience to understand how communicating in, and learning, a foreign language is mostly a cultural process. She explained how she is influenced by her culture to react when she answers the same question in Japanese and English. For example, if somebody says to her, “You did a great a job” in Japanese, she will reply, “No, I didn’t prepare well.” However, if a foreigner tells her the same thing in English, she would reply, “Thank you!” She points out how difficult it is for the Japanese students to learn English, and why they don’t want to go abroad because of their poor English speaking skills. However, she thinks the situation is changing as Japan is very active in the global market and there is a need for native Japanese speakers to learn English. She suggests that it is okay to accept cultural norms when learning a foreign language. Instead of having a specific mindset about how to speak with people from different countries in English, she thinks being natural is completely fine, which is also necessary for an effective learning process.
It has been a good experience so far at EDC. The conference could be more effective if there were more chance for discussions and feedback after the presentation.
We had a great chance to roam around Bangkok and experiencing a new culture always opens the door for learning that enriches lives. Thanks to WISE and the WISE Learners’ Voice team for giving me the chance to participate in this conference. Also, thanks to Ali, Ahsan, Esther, and Khalid, for all the wonderful memories.
Education and Development Conference: Reflection on Day 2
On the second day of the Education and Development Conference in Bangkok, we were excited as today WISE Learners will start presenting their projects.
Ahsan started his presentation by introducing WISE Learners’ Voice to the audience first. Then he wonderfully explained why his project is important and how it can provide access to education to the children in areas where they do not have any option to go to school. Then Khalid introduced his group’s project, iSTEAM, and how it will help students to discover their passion through the use of 3D printers. I presented our project P2P on career counseling.
Asides from the Learners’ presentation, there were few interesting and very relevant topics related to issues of quality education. Professor Greg from Australia highlighted the quality of the teacher in his presentation. He strongly believes that a teacher doesn’t necessarily need a PHD to teach in university; it is most important that the teacher is equipped with the necessary teaching skills rather than a degree.
Also, I was very motivated by Ms. Anyikwa’s presentation on adult literacy in Nigeria. Her story gives us the hope that as long as we keep our motivation alive and work hard, we will be able to implement our project successfully. She went to a very rural place in Nigeria to help the kids to get access to education. However, because the kids were contributing to the family’s income, it was not accepted by the parents. Then she realized she needed to educate the parents first to make them understand the need to educate their children; she had to create a sense of belonging with the parents before she started teaching them. She built a sense of respect and cooperation between the parents and herself that helped her to implement the project in that rural area.
This tells me that we need to be careful about local people’s expectation and norms when we try to implement our project in rural communities in the future. Also, need to be very critical about providing solutions to a problem. Ms. Anyikwa’s goal was teaching the kids, but she couldn’t do it without teaching the parents. Therefore, we may face situations like her in which we will need to solve other problems before tackling the issue that we are interested in.
WISE Learners on the first day at Education and Development Conference organized by Tomorrow People in Bangkok, Thailand.
Dr. Brenda Peters from Czech Republic talks at Education and Development Conference in Bangkok, Thailand about how segregated schools for SEN (Special Needs Student) is expensive and fails most of the time to provide an effective learning environment. She thinks it would be more realistic and effective to inspire parents, institutions and teachers to welcome SEN students in regular school. Her research outcomes and argument is mostly related to what we learned during our residential session in Doha with Wheelock college.
Today was the second day of the Education and Development Conference and another humid day in Bangkok. The agenda for the day was extensive with many fields and areas of expertise covered, including Educational Leadership and Ideas, Innovations, and Trends.
The first talk that really grabbed my attention was by Ms. Brenda Peters. Although she was born and raised in the UK, she is currently living and working in the Czech Republic and her research is based on children with special needs. This linked back to our residential session in January in Doha with Wheelock College where we heard about education for children with disabilities. Both these talks touched on very sensitive issues, and together they have provided me with enough knowledge to understand the specific requirements of children with special needs. Previously, I had little knowledge of this field due to low exposure to it. I now believe it is a very important issue and that it should even be taught to children in school to make them aware of it.
Mr. Ahmet Demir, from the Kurdistan region of Iraq, argued that there should be many forms of assessment, rather than just examinations at the end of a semester or school year. His proposed forms of assessment included monitoring class attendance and participation in classes that would go on to contribute to one’s final grade. This research proposal led to an interesting debate in the room. Mr. Ali Al-Mahmoud argued that this method could penalize some students, such as those who are too shy to speak up in class. I also respectfully disagree with Mr. Demir’s proposals since if they had been implemented at my university I would most certainly have failed! In my personal experience, I found it difficult to learn in lectures and thus there came a point where my attendance was minimal. Instead, I used my spare time to teach myself the content concerned as I found this was a much more effective form of learning for myself.
Mr. Seki from Japan gave a talk about the exchange program he launched to help Japanese students improve their English. His research showed that when his students went to countries where English was the first language, they would remain quiet. However, when they went to countries such as India and Thailand, where English was spoken as a second language, they were very active speakers. The reason for this is that, in the latter countries, people speak English with many mistakes, unlike native-speaker countries such as America. As a result, the Japanese students experienced less fear of making mistakes, which they felt would be embarrassing. After gathering this data, Mr. Seki now only sends his students to countries where English is not a first language. I really agree with his approach, as for example, when I am in Pakistan, I am shy about speaking Urdu because I fear I may also make mistakes.
As the day continued, it was time for the first presentation by a member of the WISE Learners’ Voice Program, which happened to be myself. I was slightly nervous and this showed through in the fact that I spoke a little too fast! However, my presentation on Increasing Access To Education Through Container Schools aroused a lot of interest with many questions and comments from the audience, as well as keen interest afterwards. The general feedback was that the project could be successful if we keep the costs low and provide good teaching. Khalid and Jyoti also gave very impressive project presentations to wrap up a very interesting day.
The second day of the Education and Development Conferences was exciting as I presented our team project along with my fellow Learners Ehsan Malik and Jyoti Rahaman. I talked about how our project could offer students an opportunity to discover an array of disciplines through STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) and business thinking in fun workshops. They could discover their passion and make better choices with respect to their future studies. I also explained about how our team developed a three-week plan for workshops for students, starting with “Build Week”, then “Learn Week”, and finally “Do Week”.
The feedback I received from the audience was mainly about technical aspects of the 3D printer, the material it uses and its mechanism. I tried to answer from an educational point of view saying that our group focus was on STEAM and the printer is just a tool to promote this type of education.
Regarding the other speakers in the conference, I really agreed with Dr. Greg Shaw on how teachers should be taught teaching skills rather than just acquiring a degree and walking into the profession. He said that in Australia one can become a university professor just by obtaining a Ph.D. However, in his opinion as well as mine, this is very problematic. A Ph.D. reflects high quality research, not an ability to teach others. Therefore, teaching standards can be lowered because of this since those with just a degree will not have the skills needed to teach others.
I believe that there needs to be a newfound emphasis on providing teaching skills before one becomes a teacher of any sort. Mr. Ahsan Malik, who is of Pakistani origin and was born and raised in the UK, gave a great project presentation. Ms. Jyoti Rahaman also gave an interesting demonstration about her team project idea.
Implications of Emotional Regulation on Young Children’s Emotional Well-Being and Educational Achievement
From March 5 to 7, four WISE Learners - myself included - are attending the 9th Annual Education and Development Conference hosted by Tomorrow People in Bangkok, Thailand. One of the highlights of the first day’s program was listening to Ms Djambazova–Popordanoska from Australia speaking about the link between emotional regulation and academic achievement.
Ms Djambazova–Popordanoska believes that social and emotional skills are a basic human right and that they should be taught in schools as life skills. According to her research, effectively managing one’s emotions and controlling one’s outer expressions are skills that can be learnt. Emotionally competent children are able to induce and sustain a positive mood in various situations and a symbiotic relationship therefore exists between emotional regulation and emotional well-being. Emotions can either facilitate or impede a child’s learning and an inability to regulate emotions can have a very negative influence on their academic achievement in school.
According to research in the field of neuroscience, emotions compete for space in the working memory of the brain. Children experiencing intense emotions during class are therefore unable to concentrate effectively on what is being taught. For this reason, there is a direct correlation between the emotional well-being of a child and the child’s cognitive achievement.
Being a teacher myself, I find that this field of research has been neglected in teacher training and I believe it can add great value to teachers’ interventions with regards to children facing learning barriers. Ms Djambazova–Popordanoska emphasizes the fact that training to develop children’s social and emotional skills is not only important for teachers, but also for parents, who are the main source of support for their children. Social and emotional educational programs could include a variety of different life skills such as basic social skills, problem-solving skills, conflict resolution skills and also tools to express and regulate emotions effectively. Three important channels should be utilized in the teaching of these skills, especially when working with children from an early age. Teachers and parents should focus on the example they set for children, the way they respond to children’s emotions and educational conversations about how to express and regulate emotions in a positive manner.
Ms Djambazova-Popordanoska has been involved in developing programs for teaching social and emotional skills in schools in Australia. I’m looking forward to learning more from her research in the upcoming days of the conference.
Today, March 5, 2014, is the first day of the 9th Annual Education and Development Conference (EDC 2014). The build-up to the conference has been exciting as Ali, Esther, Jyoti, Khalid, and myself get used to the bustling city of Bangkok.
The purpose of the EDC is to provide a platform for participants to present their ideas and research in an interactive manner so that all participants at the conference - from a variety of cultures and backgrounds - can contribute.
After a brief introductory talk from the hosts, the day was swiftly under way with the first talk by Dr. Richard C. Hunter on “Racial Discrimination in Public Education in the United States.” He gave a lot of historical background concerning how education has improved for ethnic minorities in the United States with his timeline stretching from the days of slavery, to the Jim Crow laws, to the landmark decision in the Brown case. However, he argued that despite such developments discrimination was still prevalent in the education system today.
Other notable talks that were interest of to me included a comparative study of how education in China has changed in the last decade by Ms Shuling Li, and “Dealing with Change in Zambia” by Ms Mukuka Lydia Mulenga. Both talks gave me a thorough insight into the education systems of countries that I previously knew little about.
To close the day, my evening will be spent preparing for the presentation that I have to give tomorrow on our group project which is entitled “Increasing Access to Education Through Container Schools.” I am both excited and nervous!