WISE 2019: THE LESSONS, THE BLESSINGS, AND THE CALL TO ACTION.

World Innovation Summit for Education(WISE), an initiative of Qatar Foundation held its 2019 educational summit, in Doha, Qatar, with the theme: “Unlearn, Relearn: What it Means to be Human.” The summit recorded the attendance of over 3,000 educators, 300+ organizations, 200+ speakers, 300+ sessions and 900+ students.

I had the privilege of being one of the 25 young educators selected from 20 countries for WISE Learners’ Voice, one of WISE programs, designed to give young people the platform to contribute towards the development of education in their community and the world at large. The event began with a 3-days residential session for the Learners’ Voice Fellows followed by the main summit which lasted for two days and had sessions spanning across workshops, Panel sessions, Keynotes, Pitch It sessions, Hear My Story, Launchpad, Help Me solve it, Plenary Sessions and Networking Opportunities.

Present at the summit were prominent innovators from around the world — people who are working individually and through their organizations to tackle the most daunting challenges in education, such as; enabling a safe and conducive environment for students’ learning, fostering quality education for the economically disadvantaged kids, helping children maximize their human creativity in learning, and leveraging on the current trend in technology to tackle classroom productivity. It is established that meeting the goal of universal access to quality education remains elusive, particularly for marginalized and vulnerable groups, but getting to attend this summit and listening to these people, what they have done and the winners of WISE prizes, strengthens my hope that it’s only a matter of time and we will get it right.

Over the years, we have not particularly given the educational sector the prominence it deserves, and this is evident in the number of educators willing to go into the field but the good news is that this can be fixed. Imagine a world where everyone sees education as a wheel that drives the economy and brings change to our environment — We need to unlearn and relearn Teachers’ professionalism and expertise. It is only fair to reason that we keep seeing the Educational sector the way we do because the world is changing, but schools are not. And one of the ways to bring about the much-needed change is not just to expedite action in building tools and infrastructure but also in developing human capacity. This seems to be a consensus among participants at WISE 2019.

When we talk about education, the first thing that should come to mind should be the LEARNERS. The way the environment is structured, the curriculum and even how teachers are trained, come from the assessment of the needs of the learner.

WISE Prize 2019 winner for Education, Laureate Larry Rosenstock, points out that students’ natural intelligence should be engaged to develop their skills, which is at the core of what his organization, HIGH TECH HIGH, does. Considering, the issue of out-of-school children, it is a social issue that affects all of us, and we need to employ Empathy and Collaboration to tackle it.

Moreover, teaming up with my Fellows at the Learners’ Voice gave me a different perspective on Collaboration, Social Impact, as well as Leadership, in our collective bid to tackle these challenges confronting education in our country and around the world.

WISE Learners’ Voice Cohort 2019–20

From the perspective I garnered from the summit, I have come to realize that it isn’t a time to come up with ineffective initiatives or birthing out-of-place NGOs targetted at the education sector — a number which is set up for personal aggrandizement — rather it is time to come together, collaborate, and re-strategize to unearth sustainable solutions to issues bedeviling the education sector. Moreover, educators have come to increasingly embrace evidence that creativity, emotional intelligence, flexibility, and collaboration are essential skills for young people. Yet conventional approaches to education have not adequately integrated these skills.

In light of this, we call on our policy-makers, educators, organizations, and individuals to be proactive in upskilling sustainable solutions and reskilling the workforce. And how can this be achieved? let's look at some point from a different perspective of educators garnered from different sessions:

· We need to redefine what we mean by learning and unlearning. When we first unlearn how teachers learn, then we will be able to start the course for a sustainable educational development. And what does teacher learning look like? Knowledge that is based on evidence and experience, it is learning by research and data, teachers need to be provided opportunities to challenge current practices, collaborative learning, teaching practices and team work should be encouraged

Asmaa al-fadala, Director of Research and Content Development, WISE.

How do we unlearn how Teachers Learn? — A panel session.

· Teachers' training should be based on learners’ needs. The number, developmental characteristics, environment, should also be put into consideration. TEACHERS SHOULD BE TRAINED FOR THE CHILDREN, NOT THE CURRICULUM.

· Innovation and creativity are at the peak of everything we do today, the moment we stop innovating and creating, we die. These should be encouraged in classrooms and not restricted because we are trying to go according to what the curriculum says. Children need to be empowered to THINK, CREATE, and INNOVATE. Children learn better in an innovative environment, they get easily engaged and easily follow through other class activities.

8th Graders working as a team on a farm building prototype without talking to each other.

· As observed by Prof. Nicholas Christakis of Yale University, the future of Education as seen in Artificial Intelligence (AI) is designed to improve human to human behavior and affect social behavior, leading to children being smarter, stronger and kinder. However, knowledge emerges through invention and re-invention and children should be encouraged to employ their intellect to use innovation in solving issues in their environment.

· Everything in the environment shapes the way a child learns and thinks; the community, society, books, media etc, all constitute in the acquisition of knowledge. These, however, should be keenly looked into.

I believe in shaping our future, our VOICE is needed; this is the main reason WISE came up with the Learner’s Voice program to bring the perspective of young people in rethinking education. However, achieving this is not the work of one person but a shared responsibility, as observed by Her Excellency, Sheikha Hind bintHamad Al-Thani, Vice-Chairperson and CE0, Qatar Foundation. We all need to see the need for embracing innovation in education, only then can we come together to achieve it.

To sum it all, Education should embrace innovation. This simply means allowing creativity to flourish and giving room for experiential learning — an environment where students are taught and encouraged to use a higher level of thinking to solve problems. Most times, we don’t get it at first trial, but the fact that we fail and learn from it brings us a step closer to our aim.

2019 WISE Awards went to 6 amazing projects birthed by these amazing people to promote quality education.

Finally, What makes us human is that we are open to new ideas, development and best practices. The world is changing and evolving and we have to evolve with it.

The curriculum should not be used to restrict a child’s creativity, but rather amplify it. Kids need to be taught how to think, not what to think; how to learn, not what to learn. And if we put the same effort we put in building tools and infrastructures, to building people, we will be closer to achieving our aim.

And at The innovative Child network, we are committed to promoting and mentoring kids on skill-based education to promote numeracy and literacy and which would substantially increase the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills for employment, decent jobs, and entrepreneurship.

I believe in the future of our children and the hope they bring to all of us, hence my motivation in working to ensure they get the best education. I acknowledge the effort of my mentor, Prince Gideon Olanrewaju Founder of AREAI4Africa in working tirelessly for the marginalized and disadvantaged children in Africa , creating alternative learning systems to improve learning and education in these communities, and for supporting and encouraging my work #ForEveryChild.

I share the same thought with Larry Rosenstock’s —

“Our Children need us, we all need to help, let’s do it together.”

Unlearn, Relearn: What it means to be Human

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Blessing Akpan

Google Certified Educator | Scratch Educator| Social Entrepreneur