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Story | Research
26 September 2019

Human innovation as important to education as tech, says QF think-tank leader


CEO of WISE tells global affairs summit in US that education systems must allow people to “experiment and innovate”

Technology is not a “magic solution” for the world’s educational ecosystems and must instead be a gateway for people to innovate through using their initiative, the head of Qatar Foundation’s global education think-tank has told a leading global affairs forum in the US.

Speaking at the 2019 Concordia Annual Summit in New York City – one of the world’s largest gatherings of decision-makers and thought-leaders from government, business, and non-profit organizations – Stavros N. Yiannouka, CEO of the World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) also explained why education programs across different sectors have to be “weaved together” rather than operating independently if nations are to offer the best learning experiences.

QF has been involved in a 25-year journey to build a local education ecosystem that goes beyond formal education.

Stavros N. Yiannouka

As a programming partner of Concordia, QF organized a panel discussion titled ‘Building Resilient Economies on the Basis of Education, Technology, and Access’, which saw Mr. Yiannouka outline a research report produced by WISE – an initiative of Qatar Foundation (QF) – into learning ecosystems and how new ideas that move education away from purely conventional models can be brought into play.

“QF has been involved in a 25-year journey to build a local education ecosystem that goes beyond formal education,” he told the Concordia audience. “It started with K-12 education and has grown to encompass a very rich ecosystem that includes a national library, research centers, branch campuses of international universities, sporting facilities, think-tanks, and a science and technology park.

The idea is to weave the whole into something that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Stavros N. Yiannouka

Mr. Yiannouka said the WISE Report discussed at the Concordia session had revealed that effective education ecosystems have “strong philanthropic or private sector involvement in funding and governance”, and programs that “are comprehensive and envision new roles and organizations whose explicit role is to weave difference pieces together”.

“If you want to supplement formal education with active museum, library, and sporting programs, it’s not enough to just have them independently developing programs,” he said.

“And while you have technology playing a part, it is not in itself a provider of a magic solution. What it can do is enable access to programs and information. But what is just as important is a willingness to experiment and innovate in real time and adjust programs as you discover new information about whether they work or not.”

The panel discussion also featured Sylvia Constaín Rengifo, Minister of Information and Communications Technologies, Republic of Colombia; Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Executive Governor of Lagos State, Nigeria; and Dr. Kostas Bakoyannis, Mayor of Athens, Greece, who said: “Technology is not an end – it’s a means to an end, and while many of us would like to talk about it as if it’s something new and innovative, it’s not.

Stavros N. Yiannouka, CEO of WISE, spoke at a QF-organized panel discussion on how education, technology, and access can build resilient economies.

“It enables three things: promoting transparency, strengthening accountability, and being closer to citizens. Our goal is to make people’s lives easier and we can do that through technology. But tech does not exist for tech’s sake.”

During the Summit, WISE hosted three roundtable events focusing on Africa’s role in the ‘global education revolution’, bridging gaps between education and the job market in Latin America, and the use of Artificial Intelligence in combating child abuse.

The Summit also saw His Excellency Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, speak on ‘Rethinking the Role of Small State Actors in International Politics’; and His Excellency Hassan Al Thawadi, Secretary General of the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, speak about ‘Sport’s Transformational Power: The First FIFA World Cup in the Middle East’.

Concordia is a non-profit organization whose aim is to build partnerships between the public and private sector that identify solutions to the world’s most pressing needs.

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