The sun sets over a domed building, the Al Wasl Plaza, the centrepiece of Expo 2020 Dubai

Rethinking education for a changing world

Education is everything. But never has it been clearer that ways of learning are not static – and nor are they equitable. The shift to remote study was, for many, a huge success, but it also highlighted that there is much work to be done in providing the right tools, resources and experiences for all. And we have entered a time where learning is for educators and those they educate alike.

A truly global forum recently took place at Expo 2020 Dubai to discuss how to rethink education in the context of a changing world. Moderated by columnist and researcher, Sultan Sooud Al-Qassemi, the panel brought a wide range of viewpoints from government, education, charities and business.

  • HE Aymen Tawfeeq Almoayed, Bahrain’s Minister of Youth and Sports Affairs
  • Denise Amyot, President and CEO of Colleges and Institutes, Canada
  • Professor Renaldas Gudauskas, Director General of the Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania
  • Dr Colin Kennedy, Head of Innovation Education at Creative HQ, New Zealand
  • Wendy Kopp, CEO and Co-founder of Teach For All, USA

  • Adam Pensotti, Head of Canon EMEA Young People Programme, UK
  • Sir Anthony Seldon, former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Buckingham, UK

Putting students at the heart of education

Even before the pandemic, UNICEF estimated that by 2030, 825 million children in low and middle income countries would reach adulthood without the skills they need to thrive in work and life. It is, in and of itself, a staggering figure. However, when you consider that this is approximately half of all young people globally, it becomes not just staggering but frightening. Dr Colin Kennedy believes that we must “listen to their voice” and evolve and adapt current teaching methods to suit their needs. Denise Amyot agrees but notes that “It is essential to tailor the learning to the needs of the labour market and to identify practices that are culturally and socially relevant today.” She also stresses that systems must allow students to learn what they deem necessary. “In Canada, we provide vocational training courses based in this philosophy and so far, it has worked wonders in elevating the life of students without adding unnecessary stress and complications.”

Seven participants in the panel discussion sit on chairs in a semi-circle on a stage, flanked by banners bearing the logo of Expo 2020 Dubai and the words ‘World Majilis’. Above them is a huge white screen with the eighth participant joining remotely.
Global viewpoints from across government, education, charities and business made for a lively and insightful discussion.

Bespoke education for better results

Our world is changing rapidly yet the ways we educate, inspire and equip our children remains largely a legacy of the first industrial revolution. To counter this, the state of Bahrain has implemented a ‘Tertiary Action Plan’, “We need to play to the strengths of teachers in order for them to be able to do their jobs at best,” explains HE Aymen Tawfeeq Almoayed. “Some teachers are good at remote teaching whereas some perform better in a classroom set-up, hence we need to identify the strong points of those leading the students and play it to our best advantage in coaching the generation of tomorrow.” For Sir Anthony Seldon, this must be balanced with “four key characteristics”, which begin with ‘Active Education’, which he explains, is “where students are actively involved by various ways of engagement rather than having a passive or inert system that does not place importance on a student’s level of engagement or contribution in the learning space.” Active Learning is supported by ‘Holistic Learning’, which “places emphasis on the matters of head but also the heart”, as well as inclusivity and the life-long continuation of learning.

Learning as a path to teaching

Wendy Kopp is passionate about working to meet the educational demands of the future by encouraging careers in teaching now. “Our education system at the moment still remains primitive whereas everything else – right from the challenges we face today to the solutions that are needed – has changed drastically,” she explains. “This is the main reason why, at Teach For All, we motivate talented creative people to opt for education as a professional path, as that’s where we can make the difference at a grass-root level – by creating an equitable structure where students can learn to navigate the uncertainties of tomorrow.”

Not just STEM – STEAM

Adam Pensotti is also frustrated by the lack of innovation in education – particularly when it comes to weaving creativity into the curriculum. “What I learned in the school was pretty like what my father learned in his days and unfortunately my children today are learning the same,” he laments. “People often talk about STEM which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics but today we need to make it STEAM to include that A for Arts. We must empower the children to use their creativity, especially in today’s context of developing a sustainable world for all.” When students take part in the Canon Young People Programme, they are taught a balance of vocational skills, in learning how to use complex tools, but also important design theory and the fundamentals of sustainability through the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Together, Adam shares, “we have been able to not only create a meaningful difference in the life of these young people but also kindled hope for a better future.”

Watch the full session ‘Rethinking Education for a Changing World’ at the Virtual Expo Dubai hub

Written by Mai Youssef, Corporate Communications and Marketing Services Director – Africa, Middle East and Turkey.