Where students once carried laptops and stacks of books, they will now need only one slim tablet, announced the Institute of Applied Technology (IAT) on the closing day of the Transforming Education Summit (TES), hosted by Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC) under the patronage of General Shaikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces and Chairman of ADEC.
“IAT has completed making all arrangements for the academic year 2012-2013 for the use of iPads which contain simulation forms, a multi-lingual dictionary and other means of high-tech explanatory video,” announced Dr Abdul Latif Al Shamsi, Director-General of IAT, at the TES session dealing with how to engage students in education reform.
The tablet computers will be distributed to all students and teachers in IAT’s secondary schools at the beginning of the new school year, replacing textbooks with e-books and paper assignments with Internet-based activities. In addition to more effectively engaging ‘the generation of the Internet’, iPads will also reduce the health risks associated with carrying heavy schoolbags and purses, said Dr Al Shamsi.
“The new initiative has been taken according to the instructions of IAT’s council of trustees, to implement the recommendations of the International Technology Education Conference the institute recently held. Technology has not been used completely to develop the education environment in the UAE, which impedes the present educational system from catching up with those based on advanced technology,” he explained, noting that the initiative was the first of its kind in the Middle East.
Other TES delegates also identified technology as a powerful means of engaging students and educators in reform, improving both the quality and accessibility of education. Province of Buenos Aires Minister of Education Silvia Gvirtz spoke at the summit about Argentina’s ‘Conectar Igualdad’ initiative to provide all secondary students with netbooks. “This programme is not about computers. It is about connectivity for schools, accessibility for students and, most important, teacher training,” she said.
TES delegates agreed that teachers alone cannot bring about education reform at sessions focusing on how to involve governments, communities and other stakeholders in the process.
“Transforming education is a dynamic process,” said Muhyiddin Yassin, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education of Malaysia. “Because education impacts everyone, the success of educational transformation depends on the level of involvement and support it receives from its main stakeholders. An effective government must not only drive transformation and hope to deliver results, but also make every stakeholder feel they are part of the transformation process itself,” he said.
Bringing interested parties around a common goal can be challenging for countries with diverse populations such as Malaysia and the UAE, Yassin added, but falls to the government’s responsibility.
Tarja Halonen, former president of Finland, also addressed the central role held by government actors in achieving education reform.
“The main part of the work must be done at the level of individual countries, and we need national policies to do this. At global level, we should also be able to put policies that cross the boundaries between states and sectors of administration,” she argued.