Dubai: Traditional models of rote learning and purely-academic schooling are failing to equip “Gen Z” students to today, who need to acquire skills-based education at “hyper hybrid” campuses, heard the ‘Qudwa-PISA Global Competence Forum’ at Expo 2020 Dubai on Saturday.
The forum heard from global and local education leaders who raised concerns about an increasingly irrelevant education model and suggested new forms of learning.
Held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, the event was hosted and organised by the Education Affairs Office at the Crown Prince Court of Abu Dhabi, in collaboration with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Bussola Institute.
Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, attended a ministerial session that was held on the sidelines of the forum. The session was a platform that brought together a diverse spectrum of best practices from around the world as international policymakers and decision-makers exchanged ideas to help advance the education agenda to ensure students are well equipped to tackle the challenges of the present-day and the future.
Sheikh Abdullah thanked the organisers of the Qudwa Forum, lauding its impact as an inspiring global platform that serves to further the education agenda and enhances the skills and capabilities of professionals working in the education sector. He also praised the participation of a large group of experts and decision-makers at the Qudwa Forum, noting its role in contributing to the sharing of experiences and creative solutions that support global efforts to establish an innovative and collaborative educational system that prepares future generations to live an interconnected and changing world.
‘Critical decade of action’
Mohamed Al Nuaimi, Director of Education Affairs Office, Crown Prince Court of Abu Dhabi, said: “From the pandemic to climate change, it is clear that we are living in a world that is interconnected and facing challenges that impact each and every one of us.”
He added: “To grapple with these challenges, global competence systems must be integrated into learning that incorporate worldwide dynamics with local contexts, as the students of today are the citizens, leaders, and solution-providers of tomorrow. The 2022 Qudwa-PISA Global Competence Forum has delivered thought-provoking discussions and new ideas, for countries to be inspired from, as they seek to transfer their education systems in this critical decade of action.”
‘Hyper hybrid' campus
Dr Abdul Latif Al Shamsi, President and CEO of the UAE’s Higher Colleges of Technology, delivered the welcome address, wherein he said: “To attract the Gen Z generation to campus is to bring an excitement to learning, so that’s why we’re introducing the concept of the hyper hybrid campus. COVID-19 has accelerated the use of technology, perhaps faster than ever before in the last 20 years. But now we need to think beyond it and see how we engage and retain the learnings from the pandemic and attract students to campus.”
Call to overcome fear
In her opening address, Dr Mary McAleese, the former President of Ireland, and current chancellor of Trinity College Dublin, said: “The UN convention on the Rights of the Child has said the world’s children have the right to equality, safety, and education. This should be our ambition and it should be our legacy to them. We need to commit to a pedagogy that engages our students’ hearts and minds. If we stay fearful and sheltered in our sealed bunkers, then we waste every single day and life of the human diversity of which we are part of.”
New education report
The OECD, an intergovernmental economic organisation representing 38 countries, released their latest global competence report entitled “Big picture thinking: How to educate the whole person for an interconnected world”, on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) at the forum. PISA is a framework that focuses on a 15-year-old’s reading, mathematics, and science knowledge, with a focus to prepare students to meet real-life challenges.
The report concluded that education needs to move away from memorisation and knowledge transmission towards curricula that focus more on local-global interconnectedness, attitudes, values, and skills.
‘The future will always surprise us’
Andreas Schleicher, Director for the Directorate of Education and Skills, OECD, said as part of his keynote presentation: “We can educate our young people academically, but we need to teach them how to live with themselves, with other people and with the planet. The one thing we’ve learned from the pandemic is that the future will always surprise us. Climate change will impact us more than this pandemic. And AI [artificial intelligence] will fundamentally change the way we live and work.”
He added that “we are born with curiosity and an open mind and an open heart. But some of the most advanced education systems are not doing well on openness”, while mentioning that the UAE is an example of success. “While other countries struggled to integrate global competence, this country [UAE] did it and showed results.”
The forum’s agenda included a panel titled ‘How can we introduce global competence into education’, with Emirates School Establishment’s Director-General Dr Rabaa Al Sumaiti; Professor Anne Looney, Executive Dean, Institute of Education, Dublin City University and President of the International Professional Development Association; Veronica Boix-Mansilla, Principal Investigator at Project Zero, Harvard Graduate School of Education; and Fernando Reimers, Professor of the Practice in International Education and Director of the Global Education Innovation Initiative and of the International Education Policy Program at Harvard University.
Making classes culturally relevant
This was followed by an ‘Experience Sharing’ session that examined case studies from school systems around the world to see global competence in action. Keishia Thorpe, Global Teacher Prize winner from the US explained how she redesigned the 12th grade curriculum for the English department to make it culturally relevant to her students, who are first-generation Americans, immigrants, or refugees.
She was joined by Professor Pasi Sahlberg, a former Director-General of Finland’s Ministry of Education, and professor of education at UNSW Sydney, who as a teacher and policymaker, has advised governments on teacher policies and education reforms; and Mike Thiruman, Secretary-General, Singapore Teachers’ Union, who shared his learnings from his 25 years of experience in education research, teaching, and curriculum development, working with OECD and countries around the world to develop professional development programs for teachers and educators.
Organised biennially, Qudwa has the strategic support of many key partners, including the UAE Ministry of Education, Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge, Knowledge and Human Development Authority of Dubai, and the Sharjah Private Education Authority.