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!
The 9th annual Tomorrow and Development conference began on March 5, 2014 in Thailand. This is the first international conference that I have attended outside my country, Qatar. So far, the experience has been enriching and exciting. I’m enjoying the hospitality of the people of Thailand and the company of my fellow Learners.
The first day focused on many issues relating to class segregation and racism. Dr. Rchard C. Hunter from the University of Illinois focused on the history of African Americans in the education system in the United States and how it has developed over the past 60 years, from the case of Brown vs. The Board of Education to the ruling in favor of banning segregated education for blacks. His examples came mainly from his own background, working in a Richmond Virginia school which used to be segregated in the past.
The rest of the speakers were mainly addressing economic and socioeconomic differences between the people of their countries, such as what is happening in Zambia: Ms.Mukuka referred to GDP changes that affect families and therefore have an impact on child education in primary and secondary schools. Meanwhile, Dr. Danuvas told us about the different paths taken by Thai families to ensure education for their children.
If we are thinking about education and development today, we cannot avoid the role of technology. It gives us quick access to information that creates a fascinating world of learning. This is why policy makers, professionals, governments, and teachers around the world are trying to develop new systems and curricula to improve the learning environment where technology plays a huge role. However, we must consider how much we want to embrace technology in education.
As a member of the WISE Learners’ Voice Team I am participating in the 9th Annual Conference on Education and Development, organized by Tomorrow People, in Bangkok, Thailand, along with three other Learners, Esther, Khalid and Ahsan.
On the first day of the conference one thing that grabbed my attention was how Ms Shuling Li was emphasizing online learning throughout her presentation on “Chinese Regional University Teaching: A Critically Comparative Narrative Inquiry.” She was comparing the Chinese and Australian education systems to identify the role of the Internet in learning. She strongly believes that the online learning environment should expand and institutions should adopt systems to foster online learning. However, in her presentation she highlighted the relationship between culture and education in China, which raises the question of how online education would be able to replace face-to-face learning which is important to foster cultural values.
Before Ms Li’s presentation, Ms Snezhana from Deakin University presented her research work on why emotional management must be considered as a life skill since her research showed that emotionally competent children have high self-esteem which is crucial for their professional development and success in the future.
These two presentations reminded me of what we discussed and heard from professionals and policy makers during the WISE Summit in 2013 concerning the role of technology in education. With Athanasios Sardellis, I was fortunate to moderate a Workshop at WISE 2013 on “Education and Technology.” In our discussion, we reviewed several main issues that institutions are facing in terms of implementing technology in education. These are the communication and technological skill gap between teachers and students, technological illiteracy, lack of e-contents and technological resource management. In order to develop an effective learning environment, we need to tackle these issues when adopting technology in education. However, we cannot create a whole new learning environment that is completely dependent on technology such as online courses where face-to-face interaction is absent. It is true that online courses give easy access to knowledge, but the concern is that we cannot teach children the skill of emotional management through online courses. This is why I disagree with Ms. Li. The increase in online learning cannot measure educational and human development. It is true that technology-based learning makes the lessons effective and online courses are a great source of knowledge for eager learners. However, to foster real human progress, we need teacher-based learning.
“Technology can replace the textbook, but it can never replace the teacher.” Mr. Yasaar Jarrar made this statement at WISE 2013. I agree with him, and I think that when considering the role of technology in education we need to remember that education is a priority, and technology is not. Therefore, we must not be overwhelmed by the perceived need for ever greater access to technology and adopting advanced technology in educational institutions. As the quality of human-centered learning can never be replaced, we need to adopt technology to improve this human-centered learning system, not to replace it.
Dr Nickel, who now teaches courses on European Parliament at the Europa-Kolleg, Hamburg speaks about his experiences as part of the EU ad-hoc delegation to address the Kashmir conflict, on why he thinks education could be a potential game-changer in resolving conflicts and on the pre-conditions for sustainable peace.
Although the conflict over Kashmir is now more than 60 years old, the process of negotiations between India and Pakistan is still frail and a solution is nowhere in sight. What prevents the Kashmir conflict from being resolved?
This question takes me back to the time when I participated in two delegation visits in 2004. In my work, I had to use my knowledge on the background of the Indo-Pakistan conflict. I was born in 1947 and the conflict is just about that old. This indicates how entrenched the positions still are on both sides. It is alarming that we see little movement on either side to come to a lasting solution. There had been violence just a few weeks before we got there.
Kashmir is an extremely strategic position and lots of rivers flow through the area. Rivers translate into water and energy, and therefore have significant economic value for both India and Pakistan. The area is of strategic importance even to China.
For me having two nuclear powers sit alone to resolve a dispute is not a good status quo. Particularly when the world has seen three wars fought around the question. The international community has made efforts, however UN mechanisms cannot solve this dispute by putting pressure on India or Pakistan, such efforts have in the past been counter-productive, but the parties can be provided with help from the UN, if India or Pakistan wishes to demilitarize the area then the UN could play a role. Lots of Indian soldiers today play an important role in United Nations missions around the world, there could be blue helmets in the area as well.
What tiny steps could be taken by both sides on the road to lasting peace? Is there a recipe for peace that could work in Kashmir?
Fear is the biggest obstacle to peace and stability today. In Kashmir, the violence has created an atmosphere where people on both sides of the border are afraid of their children being kidnapped or prevented from going to school. The existence of these conditions can prevent any conflict from being resolved. If a transition were to happen one day we would hope that it would happen in a peaceful way. It cannot be via a war.
In the meantime the situation can be improved by stabilizing the status quo. If we have a more stability and less violence then we have conditions where a dialogue can take place. Violence is against the interests of the people on the ground. The conflict is an unfortunate situation which cannot be addressed exclusively from outside and any solution can be reached only when all sides renounce violence. There are concerns within India that Pakistan is sending militants across the border to India, if this is true this it has to stop. But there is a very massive presence of the Indian army in the area which is an unbearable factor.
There are many examples of conflict resolution from around the world, but it is often very difficult to take what works in one country and use it as a model in another part of the world. Every conflict needs to find its own recipe for peace. There is a big debate on whether greater democracy could be this universal recipe. In the west we believe that this is the case but at the same time it is said very rightly, that democracy works best when democratic principles are part of a good economic and social performance for everybody.
On the role of education in resolving conflicts.
Education has an enormous role in Kashmir and around the world, if you were to imagine that education systems starting right from basic primary education to vocational education were provided in the area, this would lead to better economic prospects for young people in the region. Along with basic necessities, good teachers have an important role too and there needs to be greater security and academic independence for teachers.
The idea of being able to rebuild their lives, homes and families again in peace is a huge motivating factor for young people. Investing in education and job creation would change everything- the impetus for militancy and discontent is much greater when people lack security over basic needs. Creating better physical conditions to facilitate education, on both sides of the border is necessary. Of course this cannot be done over a year or 5 years, it takes time, perhaps even decades- but if we really want to address the question of intergenerational long term peace then this is of utmost importance. There is no short cut to peace. Internationally, achieving the MDG’s are an important target, and we need to continue working on making education accessible to all beyond 2015.
Having spent the last seven years of my life in and out of education – teaching in six schools in three different countries - I came to WISE 2013 seeking clarity about my capacity and my role in helping to transform education, with a strong focus on Africa. As a young African who has experienced education at all levels in the continent, I am acutely aware of the deficiencies in African education (and I use the word “Africa” very loosely, knowing that there are different cultural and socio-economic contexts across the 54 countries on the continent). I have seen the weaknesses of outdated and ineffective curricula, poor learning environments, under-qualified, under-paid and disinterested teachers, distracted students, poor teaching methods and unproductive assessment models.
I have spent much of the last five years brainstorming about how best to lead/participate in the transformation of education in Africa. I have spoken at conferences and participated in panel discussions on these issues, but none of the talk has culminated in concrete ideas or strategies for moving forward. In the last six months, I have focused attention on collecting data on education systems in Africa, knowing that without adequate information about what exists, it will be foolhardy to propose transformative solutions. I concluded that it will be helpful to know about prevailing student-teacher ratios in different countries, assessment models (A levels, the International Baccalaureate, national examinations, etc.), extra-curricular activities and classroom structures among other things. I dreamt of a web portal where two or three clicks could give an overview of education in Mali, or school retention rates in Tanzania, or professional development for teachers in Egypt. I could picture in my mind’s eye how transformative this tool will be.
I was locked in my cocoon of excitement before arriving at WISE 2013, where I heard Professor Tom Cassidy give an overview of 21st-Century Learning Skills. I was instantly fascinated and determined to read more about them. The Framework for 21st-Century Learning developed by the Partnership for 21st-Century Skills has become a kind of holy book for me since then, as I’ve found myself exploring the extent of Global Awareness or Financial, Economic, Business and Entrepreneurial Literacy as themes of learning, or considering how Critical Thinking and Problem Solving can be effectively taught and imbibed in schools. I have come to realize how deficient my education was, but I have also found myself increasingly scared about the potential widening of an already wide gap in opportunities and intellectual depth between African kids and their peers across the world. This fear is propelling me to take decisive actions to help to address this phenomenal challenge that confronts Africa.
As my thoughts evolve, I am sure that a clear strategy will emerge from this season of exposure and motivation. I have no idea right now what my role will be in transforming African education, but I know for sure that I will not be a back-bencher. I care too much about the future of Africa to be a bystander. I need to get involved, right now!
There were many highlights to my participation at WISE 2013, but meeting Dr. Mamphela Ramphele must rank really high on the list. I have long admired her as one of the brightest intellectuals in Africa and I was very thankful to have a brief conversation with her after her stellar contributions to the first Thematic Plenary Session.