Queen Rania Calls for an Urgent Redesign of Education in the Arab World at Google Zeitgeist

May 08, 2017

(Office of Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah – Press Department – Hertfordshire) - During an onstage interview in the UK today, Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah tackled the Syrian refugee crisis, the rising appeal of populist parties and the backlash against globalization in Europe, and the urgent need to redesign education in the Middle East.

Speaking with the Executive Chairman of Alphabet Inc., Mr. Eric Schmidt at Google Zeitgeist in Hertfordshire, Her Majesty insisted on the need to re-examine the impact of globalization on ordinary people, saying that while it has delivered massive benefits, globalization had left too many behind. 

She told an audience of thought and business leaders that many around the world feel alienated and afraid in a fast-changing world, warning that “fear makes people cower from what seems ‘foreign’, and seek comfort in what feels familiar.”

As such, it should come as no surprise, the Queen explained, that a narrative of ultra-nationalism and xenophobia was gaining ground. Many politicians are offering scapegoats, like immigrants and Muslims, and nostalgic slogans about separation as “easy substitutes to real solutions.”

In particular, Her Majesty shared her concerns about rising Islamophobia, saying "If we let fear morph into a wholesale rejection of Muslims and Islam and let if factor into our policies and politics, we would be playing right into the hands of extremists, at a very critical time."

Her Majesty maintained that human mobility is not a modern phenomenon, yet its scale has drastically altered and so has the world's ability to cope through advanced tools and technologies.

The Queen argued that our humanitarian system has failed to keep up with the complex crises of today. As a result, a familiar and tragic scenario of displacement, overwhelmed host countries, global apathy and donor fatigue is replayed with every crisis.

Her Majesty acknowledged that, occasionally “a tragedy or some new horror pricks the world’s conscience”, but that the world's continued exposure to tragic images can sometimes yield a "paradoxical effect of numbing people to it."

She insisted that the world needs to “stop thinking of refugees and migrants as a problem and accept the movement of people as the new norm, a by-product of our current global order,” calling for an upgrade to global humanitarian systems that would make them more future fit and able to respond to 21st century crises with innovative solutions.

On the Middle East, Queen Rania reflected on the state of education in the region, stating that 40% of the school age population – an equivalent of more than 13 million children – is being deprived of an education due to continuous conflict.

"The future of an entire generation of children hangs in the balance. That is the real crisis in our region," she said.

Her Majesty underscored the urgency of devising educational solutions that can go beyond piloting to country wide scale.

"We're seeing disasters happen on scale, it's time solutions did too," she said.

The Queen presented Jordan as "the ideal test bed" for a flexible and scalable education model that can deal with 21st century challenges, saying that the Queen Rania Foundation for Education and Development (QRF) will be piloting contextualized and localized education interventions at scale, with a focus on innovation and learning impact.

“Our ambitions as a country far exceed our resources, but it’s in that gap that innovation happens,” she told the audience.

During the session, Her Majesty announced that QRF and Google.org have joined forces to create an online learning platform for Arabic open educational resources targeting K-12 students and their educators across the MENA region. 

In her final remarks, Her Majesty conveyed hope in the future of the region and the world, despite recurring conflict and tragedy.

The Queen communicated her pride in the creative and motivated individuals of the region, commending their exceptional drive to achieve progressive change, and ended by highlighting how Jordan is her ultimate source of optimism and hope.

"We have defied all odds. Jordan is not only just standing, it’s trying to provide an example,” she said.