Comment: Stavros N. Yiannouka

In shaping the future of learning, the need for innovation has never been more urgent

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The Independent Online

Despite the impressive array of technologybased tools increasingly found in our schools, our education systems are still, on the whole, oriented towards addressing industrial-age needs. They have yet to adapt to the challenges confronting societies in the 21st century.

Imparting a core of broad-based knowledge and skills is an essential foundation to any education system; basic skills and facts still matter a great deal. But too often our learners are not given the opportunity to develop critical thinking and creative skills that are necessary in order to assess problems, and design effective solutions. A major reason for this is that our education systems don’t always provide enabling environments where learning can, at least to a certain extent, be personalised according to students’ individual needs.

The sixth World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) will convene in Qatar, 4-6 November, under the theme of Imagine, Create, Learn: Creativity at the Heart of Education. WISE was established in 2009 by Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser. Her Highness has long been a passionate advocate for quality education as our most effective tool for individual empowerment and social transformation, and moreover, that in order to fulfil its potential, education requires innovation. As noted by Dr Abdulla bin Ali Al-Thani, chairman of WISE: “When you take a look at what is going on in the world today, it is clear that the need for innovation in education has never been so urgent. This means we need to think bigger and show more determination in our quest to bring innovation to the field of education. We also need to ensure that the best practices in education are shared and adapted to different regions and cultures in the most effective ways.”

The Summit will explore the degree to which education systems can be redesigned so that creativity is a key feature of both the learning process and what is taught and learnt. Students of all ages thrive when their imaginations are liberated. At the same time, effective teaching has always been driven by teachers’ inventiveness in trying new methods. Education leaders and policymakers are also eager to identify new approaches to assessment, accreditation and credentialing that better reflect the needs of a modern economy.

How can creativity be taught? What can be learned from play to encourage creativity at all ages? How can we enable children (and adults) to explore the freedom of their imaginations, and to take responsibility for their own learning through discovery?

At WISE we take an active interest in identifying and supporting innovative educational projects and movements. The WISE Awards annually recognise six projects that apply novel education practices and bring about positive social change. We have uncovered many emerging models around the world, driven by innovators who are seeking and finding creative ways to meet the practical needs of students at various levels and in different environments. The Awards often lead to partnerships and collaboration among education leaders in diverse communities.

Adverse circumstances are often the context for ingenuity. During the flood season in Bangladesh, one project brings boat schools to students in their villages. In the isolated classrooms of the Amazon rainforests, students benefit from the best teachers by means of technology. In Saudi Arabia, a youth development project supports maths and science camps, and provides a portal for science and reading content for rural and urban schools.

For our societies to thrive, they must nurture the creative energies of our youth who will envision and invent the technologies and methods of the future. For creativity to flourish, it must be part of our education systems. Our economies and societies depend upon large populations of educated people who can combine critical thinking with determination, selfconfidence and curiosity.

No doubt the education challenges faced by communities around the globe are varied, complex and daunting. However, WISE is confident that as we shift our priorities to supporting creativity in all facets of our education systems, and as we encourage partnership and collaboration, we can make a great difference in building the future of education.

Stavros N. Yiannouka is CEO of WISE