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Saturday, January 28, 2006

"Global Education Initiative - WEF "

Davos, Switzerland

“Beyond Boundaries”

Thank you, John, for that kind introduction.  It is great to be here with you and other visionary leaders to talk about the importance of education and our experience with the Jordan Education Initiative.  And I would like to thank you for your belief in Jordan, and commitment to JEI.  Your support, and that of all our partners, has enabled us to grasp an exciting opportunity.

Twenty years ago today, a woman named Christa McAuliffe died  aboard the U.S. space shuttle Challenger, which tragically exploded after lift off.  Christa McAuliffe was not an astronaut.  She worked in a New Hampshire high school.  And this is how she described her job:  “I touch the future.  I teach.”

I know I do not need to persuade anyone here about the role education can play in individual and social empowerment.  

Like Christa, all of us here appreciate the power of education – and the way it elevates the lives of young people, the “future” of which she spoke.  

We have seen, in our countries, communities, maybe even in our own lives, the way education lights up the sky with new constellations of opportunity.  

Yet if we are to unleash that power worldwide, we must tackle three critical challenges:  ensuring access… improving quality… and providing the right teaching for our times.  

 Traditionally, education has been a government responsibility.  But just as globalization has reshaped our economies, it has revised the education equation.  

The same technological revolution that has enabled business to reach beyond geographic boundaries has also created rich opportunities to expand educational boundaries – combining technology with a new way of teaching, to expand our young people’s horizons.  And at the same time, there are incentives for public-private collaboration – because improving education is a smart investment for corporations whose success hinges on their ability to attract and nurture talent.

Jordan, led by His Majesty King Abdullah, has embraced these opportunities.  Education, innovation and information technology are the watchwords of our reforms.  We may be a small country, but we have big ambitions for our young population.  
That is why, in 2003, we proposed a bold educational experiment to the WEF – combining public sector commitment with private sector creativity… and using new technology to inspire new ways of teaching.
 

Almost three years later, we can all be proud of the Jordan Education Initiative’s achievements:  100 Discovery Schools… new e-curricula in subjects like Math, Arabic, Science, IT, English and Civics… more than 2,000 teachers trained… and more than 50,000 students taught.  
 

But the JEI’s true impact goes well beyond just wiring schools.  

As one of our corporate partners put it, it is about equipping young people with skills that will serve them throughout their lives – leadership, self-confidence, creativity, ambition, and a desire to connect and contribute to the wider world.  And having visited Discovery Schools myself, and watched Jordanian children at their laptops, exploring familiar subjects like algebra in entirely innovative ways, I realize that Marcel Proust was right when he said, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”
 

And just as importantly, the initiative has gone beyond the classroom into the private arena, enabling the growth of successful IT companies and galvanizing the local industry.

And just as JEI encourages students and entrepreneurial corporations to reach beyond familiar boundaries, so it obliges the rest of us to constantly stretch our own limits.  Technology advances quickly.  E-curricula must keep up – and all who are committed to educational reform must stay on the cutting edge of the cutting edge.

Likewise, reaching beyond our boundaries means forging new partnerships with different sectors and creating new ways of reaching our students.      
 

I want to thank Jordan’s private sector partners from around the world – many of whom have pledged to continue our educational alliance.   
 

Just last week, I met with the board of JEI to discuss ways in which we can evolve our model, accelerate the momentum of our work and take JEI to the next level…and as we learn, we will continue to share that knowledge.

And we are delighted that Palestine, Rajasthan, and now Egypt have adopted the JEI model…and we look forward to learning your ideas for adaptations and improvements, and importing your innovations in turn…so that it is a truly global educational initiative.
 

Because after all, the Education Initiative is itself a voyage of discovery – a constant process of experimentation, evaluation, trial and error.  The more we communicate with one another, the more efficient we will all be… the more successes we will find… and the more all our children will benefit.  

As a wise man once said, “Knowledge is the only commodity that increases by diffusion and grows by dispersion.”  Let us pledge to chart this exciting new terrain together – driven by the same passion that led Christa McAuliffe to reach for the stars.

Thank you very much.