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Story | Education
4 October 2020

Adapt education to the reality that students live in, say experts as QF hosts Global Goals Week panel

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Adapt education to the reality that students live in, say experts as QF hosts Global Goals Week panel

Virtual discussion focuses on ‘glocalizing’ education to empower young people to be champions for a sustainable future

School curricula are “out of date” in the way they teach children about the environment and too slow to evolve to the way students want to learn, thought-leaders from the world of education have told a Qatar Foundation discussion that focused on how global sustainability goals can be translated into local classrooms.

Glocalizing Education for a Sustainable Future was the last in a series of virtual sessions aligning with Global Goals Week that Qatar Foundation (QF) – which is this year marking its 25th anniversary - organized to fostering dialogue and ideas that help to identify solutions to the world’s key challenges, reflecting its goal of driving local, regional, and global change through knowledge and innovation.

Caption 1 - Mehdi Benchaabane, Director of the Education Development Institute, QF

Mehdi Benchaabane, Director of QF’s Education Development Institute.

It examined ways of empowering pre-university students to take action that helps the world meet vital environmental targets, and how the ecosystems within which they learn have to change if a younger generation is to be given the best chance of making a difference.

Authentic learning is, more than ever, something we need to think about, and it won’t be authentic if it doesn’t have local value as well as global interest

Mehdi Benchaabane

Within education, glocalization blends local and global contexts, placing themes and issues that affect the world into a local frame that enhances their relevance to students and makes learning more effective. As Mehdi Benchaabane, Director of QF’s Education Development Institute, explained: “Authentic learning is, more than ever, something we need to think about, and it won’t be authentic if it doesn’t have local value as well as global interest.

“In terms of what’s not working, the obvious answer is an overemphasis on teaching and not so much on learning. Curricula have no shortage of good examples of environment activities, but they don’t reach the learning level we are talking about reaching today. The reality of the world is that students have to learn in a way that is adapted to their reality, and curricula don’t get changed as quickly as they could be and can’t keep up with the speed at which children evolve.”

The skills we will need haven’t even been created and will need to emerge. It will require the children of this decade to be exceptional, and that, in turn, will require teachers to give them the ability to think beyond the horizons we have today

Sam Barratt

The current state of curricula was also questioned by Sam Barratt, Chief of Youth, Education & Advocacy at the United Nations Environment Programme, who told the discussion: “They are out of date when it comes to the environment – we need to think a lot more deeply about interdisciplinary learning.

“The classroom is key, but we should think about what we can get people do with their head, their heart, and their hands.”

Barratt said the decade ahead will bring “the greatest transition we have ever seen”, adding: “The skills we will need haven’t even been created and will need to emerge.

Caption 2 - Sheikha Noof Al-Thani, Executive Director, Strategic Initiatives and Partnership Development, QF PUE

Sheikha Noof Al-Thani, Executive Director, Strategic Initiatives and Partnerships, QF Pre-University Education.

“It will require the children of this decade to be exceptional, and that, in turn, will require teachers to give them the ability to think beyond the horizons we have today. Young people are coming up with the most amazing ideas, so I believe the next generation are so well-equipped for what comes next. But we need to support them with the foundations, including non-formal education.”

Alison Bellwood, Director of World’s Largest Lesson – an initiative that encourages children and young people to support the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals – explained: “We have tremendous opportunities to nurture very engaged young people who understand global issues and apply them locally, and have the passion to make a difference. But the challenges are equally tremendous.

Teachers have to be enabled to move away from simply imparting knowledge to becoming facilitators of learning, and to bring children into the learning process. That requires a big mindset shift

Alison Bellwood

“Teachers have to be enabled to move away from simply imparting knowledge to becoming facilitators of learning, and to bring children into the learning process. That requires a big mindset shift.

“One way is to allow children to determine what they want to learn about the Sustainable Development Goals – introduce them, see what they discover locally, and let that lead, because children will instinctively be drawn to some more than others. When we are required to dig deep and be creative, we can be, and children can play a huge role in that. We need to be more aware of the need to trust them to be creative, and give them the framework and the tools to do that.”

The session was also joined by Dr. Nicole Bien, Director of Learning & Teaching at the International Baccalaureate – a provider of education programs focused on critical, independent thinking for learners aged 3-19, who said: “Global issues can be relevant to many local contexts, and how this is exhibited differs from region to region.

Connecting our schools with innovation, culture, heritage, and values at a local level is a way of creating engaging, personalized education for our students

Sheikha Noof Al-Thani

“We provide a framework for local schools and communities to make these issues relevant for their own contexts and encourage students to, for example, think about how they can make an impact in their local environment. When schools address environmental issues that relate to their local setting, it’s much more relevant to them, and we’ve seen incredible creative actions and service projects result from this.”

During the discussion, Sheikha Noof Al-Thani, Executive Director, Strategic Initiatives and Partnerships within QF’s Pre-University Education, gave the audience an overview the ecosystem of learning that QF has created in the 25 years since its establishment, and how it connects children and young people with research, cultural heritage and the Arabic language, and community development.

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Caption 3 - Sam Barratt, Chief of Youth, Education & Advocacy, UNDP

Sam Barratt, Chief of Youth, Education & Advocacy, United Nations Development Programme.

Caption 4 - Dr. Nicole Bien, Director of Learning & Teaching, International Baccalaureate

Dr. Nicole Bien, Director of Learning & Teaching, International Baccalaureate.

Caption 5 - Alison Bellwood, Director, World's Largest Lesson

Alison Bellwood, Director, World’s Largest Lesson.

“Our vision is to not only immerse students in the world around them, but also in local learning opportunities and experiences,” she said. “Connecting our schools with innovation, culture, heritage, and values at a local level is a way of creating engaging, personalized education for our students.”

And as Benchaabane explained: “What we need to cultivate is hope, and the hope we cultivate in children comes from their reality, so we have to combine what we teach with the local reality that they live in, and empower children to understand concepts that will help them to take action in the future.”

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