Shaikh Mohammad, Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad and Lt General Shaikh Saif at the launch of the e-learning portal which will boost quality of education in Arab world. Image Credit: WAM

Dubai: The UAE on Tuesday launched the largest e-learning platform in the Arab world which will benefit over 50 million students in the region, from Kindergarten to Grade 12.

Arabic educational videos are part of the Madrasa project

The Madrasa (school) portal, which can be accessed on www.madrasa.org, was launched by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai in a special ceremony held at Madinat Jumeirah.

The one of a kind revolutionary initiative now gives students free access to 5,000 educational videos— which have been translated into Arabic — in subjects including physics, chemistry, biology, general sciences and mathematics.

Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid launched the Madrasa (school) portal in a special ceremony held at Madinat Jumeirah. WAM

“Building a better future for our region starts in the classroom and e-learning can bridge the knowledge gap in the Arab world,” said Shaikh Mohammad after announcing the initiative. “Technology can offer millions of Arab students the opportunity to develop their scientific capabilities. We aspire to provide world-class education to every Arab child.”

Shaikh Mohammad added that the project contributes to improving the quality of education in the Arab world. “I call on all those who have the ability to do so to launch similar initiatives.”

Inviting all Arab students to use the Madrasa platform, he said: “My message to Arab students is: Education is your future and your weapon to navigate life.”

11 million
words of top quality educational content translated into Arabic

The platform is the outcome of a translation challenge announced by Shaikh Mohammad last year which called on volunteers to help translate 5,000 English videos and 11 million words of high standard academic material into Arabic.

Out of 52,000 applications that were submitted to Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives’ (MBRGI), 300 volunteers from across the Arab world were chosen to take part in Arabising the video materials for the platform.

The ceremony was attended by Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dubai Crown Prince and Chairman of Dubai Executive Council and Lieutenant General Shaikh Saif Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior and a number of government officials.

New competition

applications from volunteers to contribute to the platform through the Translation Challenge launched in 2017

During the ceremony, and in the presence of hundreds of UAE school students, MBRGI also announced the launch of a large competition on the platform called 1000X1000 targeting Arab students who will be using the portal.

The competition gives students a chance to enter a draw to win $1,000 (Dh3,673) for answering one question a day for 1,000 days. A total of $1 million (Dh3.7 million) will be given away in awards under the challenge.

Gulf News spoke to Sarah Al Nuaimi, project manager at MBRGI who said the platform currently provides advanced, engaging and accurate audio-visual educational materials in Arabic for students anywhere in the world.

“The main objective is for this portal to become the number one reference on the internet for all students in the region,” she said. “5,000 videos is just the beginning. We have higher ambitions and will be updating the website frequently to benefit millions of students.”

translators, university students, proofreaders, designers and voiceover artists contributed to elearning portal

Al Nuaimi said the educational videos were selected by a specialised team of educational experts, from the Khan Academy e-library, a non-profit educational institute that provides educational videos online, in various curricula and subjects in 35 languages.

She added that Madrasa is the culmination of hundreds of thousands of hours of hard work put in by translators, proofreaders, designers, technicians, and voice-over artists who volunteered for the Translation Challenge.

“There was an overwhelming response to participate in the translation challenge when it was first announced. The volunteers were assessed in terms of their language capabilities, clarity of voice and number of other criteria.”

In the future, Madrasa will further enrich its content with new educational courses on subjects including Arabic language, computer science, engineering, programming, artificial intelligence, and space science. The platform will also build synergies with relevant leading institutions to advance education on a regional and global level.


Meet some of the volunteers behind Madrasa

Amal Nasser Al Mulla, Emirati, 22 (youngest volunteer)

I heard about this initiative when I first graduated from Zayed university. It was a perfect timing because I was looking for jobs and had a lot of free time, so I wanted to fill it with doing something good and give something back to the community. When I participated in the translation challenge I didn’t know I was going to work with volunteers from the Arab region. I was surprised and very proud to be part of the crew.

I was part of the voice over team for the videos for a whole year. I worked on doing the voice over for videos on math, science chemistry and biology. I worked with a script most of the time. For me, I worked from 10-2 twice a week and completed almost 20 scripts a day.

I do a lot of volunteering and it gives me a lot of happiness and fulfilment because you can see the impact you have on people’s lives.

Hassan Mohammad, Jordanian, Advance Science Programme coordinator with Ministry of Education

I wanted to volunteer in the translation competition because I knew the long-term benefits it would have on students across the region. I heard about the volunteering opportunity on Instagram and I was excited to take part in it because it is similar to my area of experience and the work I do.

For this portal, I translated some 30 math videos in total, but it was not only about translating, we had to make sure the topics are explained well so that the student can understand the content. I worked on weekends most of the time and this continued for a whole year.

Apart from this, I have been doing voluntary work for the last ten years. I have worked with humanitarian organisations to improve the living conditions of poor societies whether in Jordan, Palestine or Syria.

Alanoud Al Braiky, Emirati Senior student at Khalifa University

When I was in high school, most of the subjects were in Arabic and when I went home to find educational videos on the internet in Arabic, I couldn’t find any. I faced difficulties with finding the information I need explained in Arabic, especially in biology and math. I wanted to volunteer in this because I really liked the idea of this project and wanted to help the youth in the Middle East.

I did the voice over for most of the subjects. I used to come from Abu Dhabi to Dubai to do the voice over for a whole year. I feel so delighted that I contributed to this portal. All the hard work we did will now reach millions of students. It will also reduce the pressure on parents in getting private tutors for their children as well because their children can now learn online for free.

What is Madrasa?

Madrasa (meaning school in Arabic) is the largest e-learning project in the Arab world, providing more than 5,000 educational videos to 50 million students for free across the region.

How does Madrasa work?

■ The platform can be accessed on www.madrasa.org and through Android and iOS systems, giving students from KG to grade 12 a chance to navigate through translated math and science material of high academic quality.
■ On the website, a search engine on the homepage allows students to look for what they would like to learn on the platform for the day.
■ Alternatively, they have the option to pick from five different channels, which include general science, math, biology, chemistry and physics.
■ They are then directed to several branches of math and science from which they can choose from.

What is the $1,000 for 1,000 days initiative?

■ As part of the launch of the platform, a competition was also rolled out for students, which will give away $1 million worth of rewards.
■ Arab students have a chance to win $1,000 for answering one question a day for 1,000 days.
■ They can participate through the website and once they submit the correct answer they are eligible to enter a draw.
■ All students have to do is register on the website, read the question of the day, watch its related video, and then submit their answers to enter the raffle draw.
■ The competition gives away $1 million (Dh3.67 million) worth of awards.