Shaikh Mohammed bin Essa Al Khalifa, Chief Executive of the Kingdom's Economic Development Board (EDB), has brought The Education Project to a close.
Thanking the 500+ delegates for being part of the global initiative, Shaikh Mohammed said: "When His Royal Highness Prince Salman Bin Hamad Al Khalifa [the Crown Prince of Bahrain and Chairman of the EDB] had the vision and insight for a forum such as this, we could not have anticipated the level of interest and support that we have witnessed from around the globe. This continued support is vital to our shared cause - shaping the future of education for all."
One example of such support came from Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan, who has played an integral role in stimulating educational advancement across the Middle East. Her Majesty said: "Our children need a quality education to give them the skills and knowledge to thrive in a 21st century economy. They need an education that unleashes their creativity. But too often they get rote learning instead of dynamic inquiry. They get told 'what,' instead of asked 'why'. And they never wonder 'what if...' which leads to 'let's try!' To make the Middle East a vibrant region of innovators, scientists, and entrepreneurs, we need all of us to do even more for our children's education."
Bahrain itself was the first in the Gulf to introduce a public education system in 1919 and to open education to women in 1928. Today, education and training is an important pillar underpinning the Kingdom's Vision 2030, the blueprint for the development of the country's economy, government and wider society over the coming decades. Bahrain is now two years into the process, which the EDB is leading under the guidance of HRH the Crown Prince.
Earlier in the evening Shaikh Mohammed announced the winner of the 'Best Seedling' award. The Maharishi Institute, South Africa, presented by Dr Taddy Blecher, picked up the accolade as voted by the audience. The award recognises new educational models that have the potential to improve education outcomes significantly through an innovative, scalable and replicable business model that can work in different countries and regions. It is hoped that by recognising these seedlings they may be propelled into the broader public domain so that they receive continued funding and support.
The winner, The Maharishi Institute, South Africa, creates large-scale and economically self-sufficient educational institutions, providing free education and salaries from Grade 11 to MBA level.
Other finalists included: - Tinkering School, USA which offers an exploratory curriculum and collaborative environment designed to help children aged 8 - 17 explore building techniques and principles. - Aprendiz City School, Brazil which addresses the needs of the child, their family and the community through interactive, multi-dimensional learning. - The Kelly Yang Project, Hong Kong which is an after-school writing programme for 2 - 5 year olds and an excellent example of integrated learning, teaching, creative thinking and critical reasoning skills.
Further highlights from the final day included a panel featuring some of the region's Ministers of Education. In 'The Government Perspective', Dr Majid bin Ali Al Nuaimi, Minister of Education, Kingdom of Bahrain and Dr Hatem Ben Salem, Minister of Education and Training, Tunisia outlined how the education sector has changed over the last five years and how it will continue to evolve.
An online platform and directory has been built to facilitate knowledge exchange among the community of experts formed at the event. The Education Project 'Portal' will allow educators to stay in touch and reach out for advice, funding, networking and career opportunities. It will continue the momentum that followed last year's inaugural event, with mentoring programmes now being rolled out in Kenya, New Zealand and Bahrain; an international roll-out planned for a South African vocational training model; an online learning programme to be piloted in Pakistan, Kenya, Saudi Arabia and UAE, and partner schools being set up across continents.