Time to get ‘wise’ and reinvent education for life

Time to get ‘wise’ and reinvent education for life

Doha is the rising city of the Gulf region in many respects, above all through its wholehearted support of education. The World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) was initiated in 2009 by Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, chairperson of the Qatar Foundation. The 2013 WISE Summit, “Reinventing Education for Life” explored how innovation can close the gap between education, learning and life.

WISE could be identified as “an international, multi-sectorial platform for creative thinking, debate and purposeful action in order to build the future of education through innovation.”

WISE upholds its values through programs including the WISE Awards – recognizing innovative educational projects; WISE Learner’s voice – a platform for 18-to-25-year-olds to share their views on innovation in education and the WISE prize, recognizing a luminary with a “world-class” contribution to education.

WISE: A global reference

WISE is becoming a global reference for new approaches in education and aspires to provide mechanisms to embed innovation into education. In his keynote address, Edgar Morin, the famed French philosopher, reminded us that we need a “civilizing education and an education for civilization.” Innovation in education is in its contextualization; “it is essential to teach and learn to see a bigger picture.” These sentiments were also echoed in Her Highness Sheikha Moza’s remarks; it is time to “embed innovation into education.”

Indeed, there are challenges. WISE polls revealed thought-provoking findings pertaining to the current trends and demands on education. For instance, 41 percent of 15-to-24-year-olds in the Middle East region are neither in work nor in education. Some 43 percent of those polled agree that handheld devices are the last truly important innovation in teaching and learning while 84 percent want radical changes in the education system, particularly in the professional development of teachers. Access to education remains a priority, but the quality of education, especially at the primary-school level, is paramount according to 47 percent of those polled.

 Australia’s former prime minister, Julia Gillard, has continued to advocate for national testing as a means for ensuring transparency in the education system, while UNESCO’s director general, Madame Irina Bokova, maintains that innovation in education must emphasize its centrality to any global agenda that aspires to “build equitable and just societies.”

An innovative approach to basic education is what brought Vicky Colbert, co-creator of the Escuela Nueva education model, the 2013 WISE prize laureate, to the limelight. With an emphasis on “cooperative pedagogy,” this model transformed the traditional roles of learning, by making teachers facilitators and students the main actors in a learning matrix that involves the daily lives of the students and their larger community. This model has transformed the quality of education in Colombia and in 16 countries where it has been adopted.

Implications of WISE for Turkey

The Escuela Nueva education model is of the utmost importance as it makes teachers a focus for enhancing and improving learning environments. If a culture of positive appreciation is implemented, Turkey can draw lessons from this model as well as from the message of the WISE Summit.

The report on the “Teaching and Learning International Survey of 2010 in Turkey” clearly shows that 45 percent of teachers never receive feedback or evaluation from the principals or their peers. More than half of the teaching force in Turkey have less than 10 years of teaching experience; 18 percent have less than two years of experience; the percentage of young teachers is very high vis-à-vis other OECD countries.

In an educational climate where recognition of good practices is fairly low, WISE is a pioneer in the acknowledgment of good practices and the expansion of innovative models. As an example, the representatives of the Creative Partnerships Project of Creativity Culture and Education (CCE) UK, which was awarded a WISE award in 2011, took part in the Best Practices in Education Conference 2013 organized by the Education Reform Initiative of Sabancı University, thus reaching out to a broader public in another country. Initiatives like WISE promise to facilitate a transition toward a culture of positive appreciation of education.

Ajarat Bada is a graduate research assistant in the Public Policy in Islam Program of the Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies at Hamad Bin Khalifa University Qatar.

Evren Tok is an assistant professor in the Public Policy in Islam Program of the Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies at Hamad Bin Khalifa University Qatar.

Çiğdem Tongal is a research associate at the Istanbul Policy Center, Sabancı University.