TES 2012 concludes in Abu Dhabi (final add)
WAM Abu Dhabi, May 11th, 2012 (WAM)--xxxx. All. Technology was put forward as an important tool for reaching out to young people. Although all agreed that, as Jean-Claude Couture from the Alberta Teachers' Association said, "it is important to remember that pedagogy, not technology, is the source of innovation," there were some efforts to put technology front and centre in the classroom.
From Argentina, Minister of Education Silvina Gvirtz delineated the One to One ICT policy that will distribute 3,700,000 netbooks to secondary students, teachers and special need learners, the largest such distribution of technology in the world.
Gvirtz stated that the main aim of the program is to reduce the digital gap and increase learning outcomes through increased connectivity of schools and access to open source educational software, teacher training, and learning tools such as ebooks to supplement school resources.
Abdullatif al Shamsi, Managing Director, Institute for Applied Technology of the UAE praised such efforts to introduce technology to the classroom. He said, "[Technology] is critical for us to engage students, because the gap is widening between the students and educators. It is scary for the educators because they are not sure how to cope with digital natives. Unlike other industries, we in education have not engaged in research and development on how to utilize technology. We have to come up with the most up to date way to do it in education. We may have to make aggressive decisions at certain points. It could be radical, but we have to make a change and we have to take the students' excitement on board." However, Axel Rivas of Director of the Education Program for Argentina's Centre for the Implementation of Public Policies for Equity and Growth, explored dilemmas that arose from the One to One policy. "Some teachers may get left behind if implementation is too rapid," he said. "If teachers feel they are being pushed beyond capacity, they will not use the computers and the whole program will fail. We need teachers to be convinced that they will gain stronger pedagogical application. We need to identify teachers groups and understand their cultural identity and context so that we can approach them. This is the only way to develop basic common and innovative capacities within all teachers driven by educational aims." The French example was taken as a cautionary tale against adopting too much reforms too quickly. Gerard Aschieri, former Secretary General of the Federation Syndicale Unitaire, described the �serious conflict' that arose after the government tried to reform university teaching in 2007. The result was that "in 2009 a strong movement of universities and presidents of universities protested on the streets. The reform of teachers was...decided brutally with the aim of finishing it in one year.
The focus was actually on reducing employees. To reform there are conditions: take time to negotiate, apply and develop. Also, do not mix objectives--if we want to reform to improve quality, don't reform to save money at the same time...you have to listen to people's experience and professional values and take into account their lived experience and build something together instead of dictating a change to them from outside." TES heard from representatives from the private sector, another major stakeholder group, on the challenges of finding qualified human capital for building knowledge-based industries for which the UAE was a major case study.
Homaid Al Shemmari, Executive Director of Mubadala Aerospace, said: "In the UAE, we have competitive advantages over the rest of the world. We have capital, energy, and the most valuable advantage is our leadership. But the biggest challenge is human capital. Thus I believe that transforming the education system is really paramount. We can create an aerospace industry or a semiconductor industry, but at the end of the day who is managing this process for us? That is the challenge that keeps me and other industry leaders in the UAE awake at night." Dr. Rafik Makki, Executive Director of the Office of Planning and Strategic Affairs, ADEC, outlined the essential role of the state in economic planning--specifically Abu Dhabi Vision 2030--that gives the private sector benchmarks that educators can aspire to: "Abu Dhabi's development vision is to resource specific areas. How do we continue to provide the human capital that responds to these areas? We created an education policy agenda with outcomes we desired to see in the short, medium and long term. It identified the different policy pillars from governance, human capital and learning environment and everything in between." Dr. Rafik concluded with a challenge to today's education stakeholders: "True wealth is the wealth that propagates from one generation to the next, and the only way is to have a society and economy that is built on innovation and that increases knowledge. If your economy is only increasing linearly or not increasing at all, you are falling behind. And you have to do more--a lot more." WAM/MN