KUWAIT CITY, March 19: The values of global citizenship and inclusivity, and the potential of big data to transform education set the tone for the opening of the fifth Global Education & Skills Forum (GESF), a Varkey Foundation initiative, held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
The opening assembly, attended by over 2,000 delegates from 140 nations, witnessed emotionally charged moments as Sa’a and Rachel, who had suffered atrocities under the Boko Haram militants, shared their stories, and put the world’s attention on the 195 girls still missing. With a call to #BringBackOur- Girls, the ceremony had GEMS students from Dubai on stage, symbolising the Forum’s solidarity with the victims, and reminding the world of the need for inclusivity through education. Uplifting, insightful and focused on driving discussions on ‘How to make real global citizens?’ the Forum also put forth the call for a ‘global anthem’ as Indian visionary master Sadhguru, underpinned the need to include all segments of society in education and to incorporate 50 percent global education. Sadhguru also challenged the conventional understanding of ‘intellect and inclusiveness.’
He said: “Inclusiveness is not an idea, not a solution, not a campaign but it has to happen individually. Words such as society and nation are just words; there are only individual human beings, and inclusiveness must happen in our experience.’ If this concept does not become part of education, we will go on dividing the world.” HE Tariq Al Gurg, Chief Executive Officer of Dubai Cares, highlighted the role of global citizenship as one that ‘encourages people to look deeply and critically about what is just and what minimises harm to the planet. The foundations of global citizenship are laid early on by providing children education about much more than what is in their immediate surroundings and encouraging them to explore their own values, while respecting the values of others.”
HE Al Gurg said that the communications and technology have changed the rules of the game. “The internet is a portal of million possibilities; social media helps make simple two-way conversations into real interactions. We must create global citizens who are flexible, creative and proactive in solving problems, making decisions, communicating ideas effectively and working for peace. These attributes are essential to succeed in the 21st century.” He also highlighted the role of Dubai Cares in nurturing a new generation of global citizens through ‘innovative, holistic, alternative educational models that ensure children, especially girls, have appropriate skills and assets to achieve their personal, social and financial aspirations.”
In his keynote address, Andreas Schleicher, Director for Education and Skills, and Special Advisor on Education Policy to the Secretary- General at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in Paris, discussed the transformation of big data in education, adding that in a world full of challenges but also opportunities, “it is up to us to reimagine education using spaces, people, technologies, much more creatively to address the demand for education.” He said it takes tremendous work to create the binding social capital that is needed to find common ground among people and thus extend the radius of trust – which is the essence of global citizenship.
“Societies that nurture binding social capital are more creative, and we must prepare our students for a world where they can trust other people to build global competency – which is the currency in today’s era of digitalisation.” Sunny Varkey, the Founder and Chairman of GEMS Education and Varkey Foundation, thanked Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, “for his continued wisdom and blessing in nurturing the Global Education & Skills Forum from the seed of an idea to become the ‘Davos of Education.’” Varkey said the Forum draws the world’s eyes to education – the world’s most precious gift of all. “Each of the 130 million children born every year are completely innocent; they have not learnt suspicion, hatred or violence.
They are lives of endless possibilities; the dividing lines of nation, culture and religion are yet to be imprinted in their minds. It is only later they realise that they have inherited the heaviest burden that their parents and grandparents lacked the will to solve.” This generation of young people, Varkey said, “are the first true global citizens,” who are special, born at a special time when technology has put amazing powers in their hands.