A plenary discussion on the opening day of the WISE global summit discussed the changing landscape of education and the emerging new scenarios.
The thematic plenary, *Generation Unmute, highlighted thoughts about going beyond the conventional education practices and equipping students with skills to face the challenges.
Sheikha Intisar Salem al-Ali al-Sabah (Kuwaiti social entrepreneur, philanthropist, author and film producer), Mathieu Nebra (co-founder of Open Classrooms, France), and Debora Kayembe, rector at University of Edinburgh, shared their thoughts at the plenary, moderated by Dareen Abughaida, principal presenter and journalist at Al Jazeera English.
Al-Sabah said that while the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has been a catastrophe, it has also been an opportunity for the world.
“Now everyone understands the necessity of mental wellness, not only in education, but also in society,” she said.
“The high school years are crucial for the well-being of the students,” al-Sabah said. “So we have implemented very short exercises in positivity, exercises built in psychology that are fun, engaging the students with the teachers as well as among themselves.”
“These are simple and small one-step exercises,” she elaborated. “We introduced them in 47 high schools with 12,000 students.”
“We had huge growth in academic achievements and there was huge decline in (cases of) bullying,” al-Sabah added. “We don't work with the whole school, but with only a small number of teachers.”
According to al-Sabah, when teachers and students become happier, the whole atmosphere changes.
“This change is measured in several ways, and it is a huge social behavioural change,” she added. “Implementing a fun-based education works. When you add fun into learning process, students learn quickly.”
“We implemented it among students, and within six weeks we found very positive change among these students,” she continued. “The results were published on *Springer Journal, and this helped the government realise that something positive is happening.”
Open Classrooms co-founder Nebra explained the concept of his initiative to making education accessible to everyone.
Open Classrooms is an online platform offering top quality education to employment programmes and career coaching services for students worldwide.
“We are a vision-driven company to make education accessible to everyone,” he said. “We specially focus on the people we help to get new jobs. We teach them, skill and reskill them.”
“We have six-month courses in English and French in several areas,” Nebra added. “I had the opportunity to build and design the curriculum without the constraints of the existing systems. This creates a lot of opportunities that you wouldn’t have thought about.”
Different from all other online learning platforms, Open Classrooms career paths include weekly one-on-one mentorship sessions with a dedicated professional in each field.
The programme also has a curriculum designed around competencies the students need to thrive on the job.
The programmes are project-driven, and there are no tests or studying for exams.
Instead, students learn experientially, the fastest way to become operational, and all courses are self-paced to fit into their schedule.
University of Edinburgh rector Kayembe noted that students always work on something new, particularly in her establishment.
“Students now want more quality, diversity and inclusion. They want to be accepted the way they are,” she said. “They want to explore the weaknesses. The universities have a role to transform the society. Education of truth, fun and revelation is essential."