The seventh annual Global Education & Skills Forum (GESF 2019), a Varkey Foundation initiative, opened at The Atlantis, The Palm, Dubai, UAE on Saturday, March 23.
Under the theme “Who is changing the world?” GESF 2019 brought together more than 2,200 delegates from 144 countries, who unpacked the pressing challenges in the education sector – as well as in society – through 124 sessions.
Seven former heads of state and 40 ministers of education attended the Forum, joined by a new generation of change-makers, including grassroots activists, philanthropists, tech developers and many more, who are shaping the world with new voices, new ideas and new technologies.
Day 1 of the event was opened by 10-year-old Internet sensation, vlogger and presenter Braydon Bent, who set the tone for the day’s events by noting how education and the role of the younger generation has changed along with that of the world’s rapid pace of change. Pointing out the 360-degree wraparound screen in the venue, one of the largest ever used in the Middle East, Braydon said that technologies are advancing at the speed of light, and education had to follow suit or get left behind.
Vikas Pota, Chairman of the Varkey Foundation, addressed the global learning crisis in light of the recent terrorist incidents and natural disasters. With disruption happening in every field, governments need to go down to the grassroots and change the education system and get every child into schools, he noted. “No education system can outperform the quality of its teachers. Improving learning outcomes is the most important thing we will do, and we can only do that by changing teacher status.”
During an interview with IT News Africa at the forum, CEO of Future Nation Schools, Sizwe Nxasana emphasised the importance of skills development in Africa and equipping teachers with the correct tools. “The world is grappling with all sorts of issues in education around quality, relevance and the impact of technology in education. Therefore, it is important to have an understanding of skills development in Africa, especially now as we democratise education. We need to ensure that we focus on quality and relevance of what young people learn.”
“Technology and mobile adoption in Africa is moving at a fast-paced rate compared to those countries who had previously been driving the 3rd Industrial Revolution. What is important is that Africa not only consumes products and services that are going to come out of the 4th Industrial Revolution, but that we are participants of creating solutions. It is important that we are part of the conversation, that we add contributions and value to the conversation and not just be passive players.”
“The solutions have always been there, they have just not been documented. If we are not careful in how we develop African knowledge systems, we will be the subjects of other people, who see opportunities at our doorstep. We need to change this as Africans, policymakers, government and entrepreneurs,” he concluded.