Board of World Links Commited to Building on the Success of First Phase of World Links Arab Region

June 13, 2006

(Office of Her Majesty, Press Department- Dead Sea) - Her Majesty Queen Rania Al-Abdullah hosted, on Monday morning, the second joint annual meeting of the World Links Arab Region (WLAR) Advisory Council and Board of Directors at the Dead Sea, Jordan where they discussed the regional progress of World Links.

Her Highness Princess Zahra Aga Khan; Bahia Hariri; Elaine Wolfensohn; Syrian Minster of Education, Ali Saad who was representing First Lady Asma Assad; and Khaled Toukan as well as the Board of Directors of WLAR were all present. The Queen welcomed the group and the latest member of the advisory council, Princess Zahra, who brings with her valuable experience from the Aga Khan Development Network. World Links Arab Region was launched in 2003 and is expected to go to Palestine, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia soon. The increased presence of World Links in the Middle East allows for more dialogue between students of different nations. This student interacton leads to more content development in Arabic as the students continuously upload and update their projects.

By forming an Arabic learning network and supporting Arab teachers and students, WLAR helps acquire the needed skills and knowledge to enable teachers to be better educators, and for youth to be innovative and critical thinkers. World Links uses the power of the web to build bridges between nations and cultures. Her Majesty said she had visited the Let Us Celebrate Our Differences website when she attended the Creativity Festival on May 24. The website was created by students and teachers from Jordan, the Dominican Republic and the United States. The Queen invited everyone to look at the site as it paints a powerful picture of intercultural tolerance and respect.

When the Advisory Council last met approximately two years ago, the World-Links Arab Region Program had just been launched in Jordan with the aim to improve educational outcomes, economic opportunities and mutual global understanding for youth in developing countries through the use of technology and the internet. To date, WLAR has reached 600 schools, 3,450 teachers and 440,000 students with strong plans of expansion to cover additional Arab countries with the goal to reach 5 million Arab youth by 2010. Queen Rania commended the project. "I have looked at the fruits of this project at Jordan's Creativity Festival and saw how children are working together across geographical boundaries," she said. Her Majesty said that she had personally interacted with the teachers and finds them enthusiastic and rejuvenated by the program. She noted that "a large part of [World Links'] success is that it targets the heart of the classroom: teachers." At the meeting, the board also discussed various fund raising possibilities and possible ways of sustaining the project.

The board commended Executive Director Hala Lattouf on her achievements over the past year. To date, the Advisory Council has guided and facilitated the work of the World Links Arab Region through providing strategic guidance and helping WLAR become a leading organization specifically devoted to bringing out the full potential of Arab youth through better education, sharing knowledge and learning. The council directs the WLAR work in sharing of experiences, knowledge and educational innovations within the Arab countries and the world and provides a pool of vast knowledge to students.  WLAR's three year strategic plan aims to consolidate all the initiatives and programs executed during the ‘start-up phase’ and move into the ‘expansion phase’. Close attention will be paid to further support the Ministries of Education institutional implementation capacity and to ensure that quality is maintained and there is a significant transformational impact of WLAR programs. The Board noted that the combination of World Links and various Ministries of Education is an important partnership.

The most unique feature of WLAR is that it is currently connecting teachers and students in a global learning network, linking thousands of students and teachers around the Arab countries via the internet for collaborative projects allowing them to develop education-focused resources and share their knowledge, perspectives, hopes and dreams with their peers. Thus a robust virtual online learning community for teachers and students within Jordan, Arab countries and world-wide has been created, communicating across borders, countries and cultures.