Our guest blogger today is Gerri Burton of New Learning Ventures. She works with the Jordan Education Initiative to invite ed tech companies to help address the educational challenges facing Jordan and other host countries in the Middle East as they attempt to serve more than 13.7 million refugees who are out of school.
I was delighted to address the Education Business Forum last week and even more delighted to introduce an honored guest, Nermine Nabulsi, CEO of the Jordan Education Initiative. CEO Nabulsi described the current education situation in Jordan that impacts Jordanian children and Syrian refugee children alike. As she spoke, I noticed the rapt attention in the room. Everyone was listening intently. Afterwards the outpouring of interest by attendees was plentiful, heartwarming and impressive.
For Syrian refugees who have lost their education system and for Jordanian children in the process of sharing theirs, this is, perhaps, the most important educational issue of our generation. It is also a challenge of the highest order. The advancements we have seen in educational technology are robust and profound. Today education architects have at their fingertips a multitude of diverse tools only dreamed of before. Thanks to digital learning technology, we can begin to embrace a complex project like this one and address it with thoughtful design and scalable implementation.
With great gratitude to ETIN Senior Vice President and Managing Director, Christopher Lohse, and the entire SIIA team, I have had the opportunity and pleasure of speaking with SIIA board members over the past few months describing this education crisis in detail. Jordan presents itself as the perfect place to begin to solve the long term education crisis caused by the Syrian War and the consequent displacement of Syrians in nearby countries. There are currently over 600,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan. For the first time, this year, all Syrian refugee children were invited to attend Jordanian schools – an influx of 90,000 students over last year. There is a shortage of teachers, materials, technology, facilities, staff. But these are only the tactical aspects of the crisis. The strategic aspects are far greater. Among the nearby host countries, 13.7 million refugee students are out of school. We must seek to achieve “no lost generation.”
For Queen Rania of Jordan, the clear need for long-term developmental thinking, is an opportunity. In her words, “what the Arab world needs is an education revolution” and Jordan is the perfect place to start the revolution. Through Queen Rania’s efforts, advanced thinking on education has been at the forefront in Jordan for a long time initiating with Queen Rania’s invitation to Teachers College, Columbia University to open the first teacher training academy in 2009. Queen Rania’s education and child development initiatives include the Queen Rania Foundation for Education and Development, the Jordan River Foundation, Edraak, the Jordan Education Initiative, the National Council for Family Affairs, Madrasati, and more. These initiatives serve as a lightning rod for education advancement throughout the Gulf region. The goal is to spark an education revolution which addresses the refugees and all of their host countries in the Middle East advancing education systems holistically for all students. The urgency of the approach is now. According to the UNHRC, “We are now witnessing the highest levels of displacement on record.” An unprecedented 65.3 million people around the world have been forced from home. Among them are nearly 21.3 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18.
The Syrian refugee education crisis is a call-to-action to deploy all that we have learned about education technology, education achievement and education innovation to solution an approach that will result in successful well-integrated societies and diverse 21st century economies focusing on information and financial services sectors. I cannot imagine an organization more suited to take on this challenge than SIIA. I am grateful and honored to join you.
Gerri is the Managing Principal of New Learning Ventures LLC. She can be contacted at email@example.com