By Madeleine White, former teacher and educational writer and Head of Marketing, Whizz Education.
This month’s announcement of closer collaboration between Europe and Iraq, coupled with last month’s WISE 2012 summit in Qatar, provides a great starting point for exploring the role of the Middle East in driving global collaboration and knowledge-share in Education.
It is clear that oil wealth, coupled with the desire to build a knowledge economy, offers a powerful incentive for recycling natural resources into knowledge. For example, the Educate A Child project was launched at WISE as a global initiative, aiming to make high-quality education accessible to all. Might Kurdistan’s difficult history provide equally fertile ground for facilitating a global paradigm shift in education? The enforced isolation of a generation might indeed help leapfrog ‘received wisdom’ in order to serve immediate regional needs.
Leading the Way…
- Plans for major engineering and infrastructure projects (i.e. around Water and Agriculture) have highlighted a significant skills gap. Kurdistan is therefore matching the outputs of the education and training system by 15% per annum to meet the needs of the labour market. This kind of initiative can be used as a model to be shared with other countries.
- There is a genuine desire for support and promotion of education in the international community in order to further develop social equity and economic opportunities. With the help of the Dubai Financial Market for example, Kurdistan will be launching Iraq’s second stock market in the next six months.
… with a little help from some friends
- Development Banks see themselves as knowledge banks as well as funding sources. They are able to use a vast amount of expertise, research and ideas to apply the strategies that they consider to be of the greatest use. This is relevant because EU support, for example, is channeled via the World Bank. World Bank projects that have contributed to Iraq’s reconstruction efforts include the construction of 66 new schools, the rehabilitation of 133 schools and the financing of more than 82 million textbooks.
- NGO involvement is also important. Last August saw UNICEF sending a delegation to meet with the Kurdish region Minister of Education in order to discuss the development of schools in the region. With goals of an 80% literacy rate within 5 years laid out and confirmed by the Regional Government, there is certainly a challenge to be met. Leveraging international expertise will therefore be of great value.
Between August 2006 to February 2012, an estimated $426 million, US dollars, capital private investment has been made in the Education sector in Kurdistan. One thing is clear, it is not easy turning oil and gas profits into knowledge – but Iraqi Kurdistan does seem to be committed to making his happen.
Madeleine White is Head of Marketing for Whizz Education. A former teacher and mother of 3 she is passionate about education, communication and CSR and has written extensively around her experiences.
Since starting in 2004, Whizz Education’s mission has been to raise standards in Maths. Maths-Whizz is used by thousands of 5-13 year olds in 8 countries, with major growth coming from the USA, the Middle East and Russia. By mid-2013, Maths-Whizz is expected to have launched and rolled out into 10 markets. To support this model of sustained, positive growth, Maths-Whizz is supported by Whizz Education offices in London, Seattle and Dubai. Additional support is provided through authorised international partners.Whizz Education is looking forward to other international market entries in 2013 and always welcomes strong partner approaches to support further international expansion.