Disruption is ‘a way of life ‘and technology alone cannot be the tool to face the challenges in education, HE Sheikha Hind bint Hamad al-Thani, vice chairperson and CEO of Qatar Foundation, has highlighted.
She was addressing an online panel discussion organised by Qatar Foundation Wednesday as part of its contribution to the 2020 Global Goals Week. The panel brought together several high profile education leaders from around the world.
‘Adapting to online education overnight due to Covid-19 was a huge challenge. However, it has also brought in real opportunity for true disruption in education. Disrupting education means thinking about its true purpose and not solely focusing on technology,” said Sheikha Hind at the opening of the panel discussion on the future of learning.
“We talk about access to technology, but it is just a tool – it doesn’t really look at whether our children are learning or not, or how it will help them prosper in the world. - We have to go back to what we are teaching our children, and for what purpose,” noted, Sheikha Hind.
“Technology is not a fix for everything. Now, we are in a pandemic and we have to make do with what we have, so our reaction is to try to continue education by doing it online. We can’t create technology that substitutes for a learning environment that encompasses so many different elements, and is not just about the content and the knowledge that a child acquires.”
While saying that the world is “not even close to disrupting education to how it should look”, Sheikha Hind explained: “What has happened today, with Covid-19, has allowed us to reflect on how some tools that we thought were so important have actually proved to be irrelevant.
“The fact students didn’t have to sit exams and still graduated from high school and managed to go to university tells us a lot. There are ways around things that we thought were core principles of how education should look.
“Once we figure out what the true purpose of education is, a lot of the issues we face will be resolved. If our ultimate purpose is to nurture self-motivated learners, whether they are children or adults, these issues would be miniscule.”
Speaking about her own vision for the future of education, the QF vice president said, “Moving forward, we must recognise that whatever we have been doing for centuries is obviously not working, and the pandemic has proven to us that even the quick fixes we have had are also not working.
“The question now is how we work in parallel – providing the short-term solutions we do need for children, parents, and teachers who are suffering, but at the same time having a long-term vision to understand what our ultimate goal is. Is it to graduate a number of students every year, or is there really a purpose behind what we do?
“Much more reflection is happening in education today, because we have a feeling that our education systems are not resilient enough. The more we experiment and take risks, the better prepared we will be the future. And we should not be worried about taking risks; we are in a pandemic and people are willing to try new things, because we have seen first-hand that what we have is not working for everyone.”
Danilo Türk, former President of Slovenia, warned that Covid-19 had deepened “fault lines between those who can afford distance learning and those who cannot”, and suggested that countries such as Qatar that have had “a long-term vision for education” can show leadership in this field to the world.
Other speakers on the panel were Achim Steiner, administrator of the United Nations Development Programme; Gabriela Cuevas Barron, president of the Inter-Parliamentary Union; Prof Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Centre for Sustainable Development at Columbia University and Sarah Cliffe, director of the Centre on International Cooperation at New York University.