In Dubai they don’t seem to do things by half-measures, and conferences are no exception. The Global Education and Skills Forum taking place this weekend is a case in point; You might expect a conference about education – even one attracting over 2000 delegates – to be a rather sedate affair, but this is no ordinary conference. Here, they setup a replica of the UK houses of parliament to host thought-provoking debates on whether low-cost private schools should be banned, or the merits of free speech over political correctness. Around the corner from that, you’ll find an Alice in Wonderland installation where you can chill out on giant armchairs and snack away on “Eat Me” macaroons and “Drink Me” vials of mango juice. Who says school can’t be fun?
Yet this was also about some serious business. Over 40 ministers were in attendance to discuss with teachers, influencers and business leaders in attendance how education can help to create global citizens. This concept of Global Citizenship is something quite close to Sunny Varkey’s heart. He believes that in order to tackle the complex problems the next generation will be faced with, we cannot continue teaching children as we have done in the past.
Varkey was a teacher himself, as were both his parents. As an education entrepreneur he’s built a vastly successful chain of schools under the GEMS brand, so it is hardly surprising that he is passionate about the power of education to change lives. The Varkey Foundation – a not-for-profit organization which he founded in 2010 – embodies his conviction that new problems require new solutions, and that, whatever the problem, the answer is education.
As Andreas Schleicher from the OECD said in his own keynote, “The easiest things to teach and test are also the easiest to automate. The future belongs to more complex thinking, and we need to educate students to create their future, not just learn our past.”
That also entails equipping them with the tools they need to navigate this new reality, and one announcement made early on in the summit reflected that particular focus.
#DQEveryChild is a new global initiative to measure and improve children’s “digital intelligence” – their ability to use digital technology and media in safe, responsible and effective ways – to help them combat exposure to dangers such as radicalization, fake news, online grooming and cyber-bullying . It proposes a standard online assessment to quantify youngster’s digital intelligence quotient (DQ) and aims to reach 20 million children aged 8-12 by 2020.
Not only does increasing a child’s DQ score reduce the risks associated with digital technology, but it also maximizes personal strengths such as higher empathy and global citizenship, and raises their academic performance and future opportunity,” said Vikas Pota, Chief Executive of the Varkey Foundation.
But what does “creating global citizens” actually mean? The concept boils down to preparing students for life and employment in a diverse society in the context of a rapidly evolving technological landscape. This can only be done, however, through a combination of innovative teaching and innovative technology, both of which are in prominent focus here.
The Global Teacher Prize recognizes such extraordinary teaching from around the world with a $1 Million award, while the FutureZone area of the conference showcased an array of EdTech curated by the Carnegie Mellon School of Computer Science, based on cutting-edge theories of how children learn most effectively.
— Alice Bonasio (@alicebonasio) March 19, 2017