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Public, private and social sectors urged to integrate efforts in providing access to quality education

Governments, civil society and private sector need to forge effective and integrated partnerships to make the best use of new technologies to provide access to quality education to children around the world, emphasised speakers during the opening plenary session at the 2nd annual Global Education and Skills Forum (GESF) in Dubai.

Organised under the patronage and graced by the presence of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the event has brought together more than 850 world leaders, business leaders, government ministers, and education experts including President Bill Clinton and Tony Blair in the efforts to tackle the global education crisis.

In his keynote address to the Forum, President Bill Clinton, Honorary Chairman of the Varkey GEMS Foundation, said that the goal of the conference was to elevate education as a global concern on par with health, poverty and climate change.

“Young people who are educated are likely to earn greater incomes, resist conflict and support democracy," said President Clinton. “A high quality education is profoundly important to get children off to a good start.”

Clinton also championed the cause of teachers, saying that children who had a great teacher for just one year of their education would experience an increase in earning potential for their whole life.

The GESF has been organised in partnership with UNESCO, the UAE Ministry of Education, GEMS Education, the Varkey GEMS Foundation and Dubai Cares, in support of the United Nations Secretary General’s Global Education First Initiative.

Describing the issue of inadequate access to education as ‘serious’, Irina Bokava, Director General, UNESCO, said lack of access to education is costing countries around the world $29 billion every year. The issue is not just about access to education but access to quality education, said Bokova. Stressing the enormity of the challenge, Bokova pointed out that three out of four teachers in some of the poorer countries have not received formal training.

“The innovation in the private sector offers considerable potential and has helped immensely in overcoming the challenges. However, inclusive access to education can only be achieved through adequate teacher training,” Bokova said.

Marwan Al Sawaleh, Undersecretary, Ministry of Education, UAE, said a long term vision and strong leadership are key to achieve success in providing quality education. “The UAE leadership has identified quality education as a top priority for the country. Based on the vision of the leadership, the UAE is focused on providing equal opportunities for boys and girls,” Sawaleh said.

While the private sector has been playing a key role in the area of education, there is still greater scope for the sector to contribute more efficiently to the delivery of education services, Sawaleh pointed out. The private sector benefits from the availability of qualified employees and therefore needs to come forward to support the cause of providing quality education, Mr Sawaleh added.

Stressing the importance of effective partnerships, Tariq Al Gurg, CEO of Dubai Cares, UAE, said: “Integrated educational projects not only provide cost-efficient education but more importantly offer the right solution to the challenges in access to education.” A coordinated effort in which every partner brings something on the table is of paramount importance in achieving the mission, Al Gurg added.

Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International, said the world must recognise that education is a fundamental right of every child. “There has been some progress achieved in providing education to every child, yet the number of children who have no access to education is staggering. More fundamentally the biggest challenge is the growing inequality in the access to education, particularly in the case of girls, and minorities in several countries.”

Dr Rebecca Winthrop, Senior Fellow & Director, Brookings Institution, USA, stressed the need to identify how the private and public sectors can work together in providing the right support, particularly in areas such as financing, in the effort towards access to education. Stating that corporates have a big role to play, Rebecca said: “Public and private sector partnerships can help reach the marginalized and more significantly contribute towards improving the quality of teachers.”

Describing how new technologies allow access to connectivity in education, Seok Pil Kim, Chief Citizenship Officer, Samsung Electronics, Korea, said: “The traditional education system needs to be revitalized. Traditionally teachers have been the key source of knowledge for children. However, today children are more familiar with mobile devices than their teachers.” Kim said in the new situation, if the world continues with the teaching methods followed in the last 50 years it will be difficult to expand knowledge at the scale it is required today. “With the adoption of the new technologies currently available, teachers can monitor students in real time and students can learn more efficiently.”

The Forum concludes tomorrow at the JW Marriott Marquis.

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