Cisco Is Instrumental in Launching Model of Global Educational Reform in Jordan
Features: John Chambers Plays Leading Role in Discussing Global Prosperity and Security at World Economic Forum Cisco VP of Philanthropy Discusses Leadership Role in the Jordan Education Initiative Related Links: Jordan Education Initiative to Roll Out e-Learning across the Kingdom and Beyond John Chambers bio World Economic Forum Article: How Technology Can Lift the World (article by John Chambers) Live Webcasts: How to Create a Framework for Sustained Global Growth Partnering for Prosperity and Security Related Site: Community and Philanthropy
January 21, 2004
Recent progress on the Jordan Education Initiative (JEI), an ambitious e-learning project that is expected to serve as a model in many other nations, will be one of the many topics of discussion when world business leaders gather at the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting this month. The JEI supports the Jordanian government's vision of building a knowledge economy by providing lifelong learning opportunities for all Jordanian citizens. It represents an opportunity not only to improve the lives of Jordanians and serve as a model for educational reform around the world, but also to contribute to long-term stability in the Middle East.
During an IT Governors dinner at World Economic Forum in January 2003, Cisco CEO John Chambers proposed that companies interested in corporate citizenship around education join forces and collaborate with government and non-profit organizations to create a focused education program in one country. The result was the JEI and in just one short year, the initiative has made great strides. News@Cisco spoke with Cisco vice president of corporate affairs, Tae Yoo, about the program's progress.
Is the JEI primarily an initiative of Cisco and the Jordanian Ministry of Education?
Tae Yoo: John Chambers certainly spearheaded the idea and Cisco is providing substantial funding, technology and resources. But, this is far bigger than any two participants. In fact, one of the JEI's main strengths is the number of different groups involved and the level of collaboration among them. The list of collaborators is truly impressive and includes local companies, World Economic Forum companies, international organization, global non-governmental organizations as well as academic institutions.
What is the JEI trying to achieve?
Tae Yoo: Its overall purpose is to leverage technology and to transform the development and delivery of education in Jordan through new models of public/private partnership. Specific objectives include accelerating educational reforms and empowering teachers and students, building the capacity of the local information technology industry and taking advantage of the environment of strong government commitment and corporate citizenship in Jordan to build a model of reform that can be replicated elsewhere.
The JEI is organized around three tracks - Discovery Schools (through in-classroom technology, e-curricula and teacher training), lifelong learning and IT industry development - all of which are advancing well.
How does this project compare to other educational initiatives around the world?
Tae Yoo: One of the JEI's attributes is that it was designed from the start to become a model that can be replicated in other parts of the world. Also, it's a true public/private partnership, overseen by the WEF.
Another important distinction is the Jordanian government's solid commitment and vision to integrate online and blended learning throughout every school in the entire kingdom.
Can you talk about the plans to transfer this model to other countries?
Tae Yoo: Once the pilot program is up and running, we'll look at best practices on all levels - including curriculum development, the most efficient ways to wire schools and methods of engaging local and international companies and improving collaboration. We'll be able to produce documents and tools to help others take advantage of these best practices.
Neighboring countries have already been in contact with the Jordanian Ministry of Education, expressing an interest in beginning similar initiatives. So it seems very promising that this educational model will expand beyond Jordan in the not-too-distant future.
Have you made any interesting discoveries based on your experience to this point?
Tae Yoo: One thing that has become very clear is that the high level executive support this initiative enjoys - both in the private and public sectors - is, in fact, critical for success. The personal involvement and support of His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan, John Chambers, and leaders from other government bodies and global companies have enabled us to move forward as quickly and successfully as we have.
What kinds of results are you seeing so far?
Tae Yoo: There has been tremendous progress in all three tracks. As just a few examples, international IT companies like IBM, Sun Microsystems, Intel and HP are actively working on in-classroom technology; a comprehensive math e-curriculum matrix, aimed at young children to teenagers, and 500+ math lesson plans have been developed; Ministry of Education teachers and supervisors have received training on the new pedagogical approaches in the JEI.
But perhaps the best indication of the JEI's impact is its human dimension - what it has meant to Jordanian children and teachers even at this early stage. Rubicon CEO Randa Ayoubi, who is intimately involved in this project, reports that in schools where JEI conducted pre-pilot tests, children practically begged the teachers for more lessons. Teachers are helping to develop these lessons and in the process learning how to design curriculum for online and blended learning environment. Those that are involved in developing the math e-curricula are thrilled to be able to work on concrete solutions to problems within the educational system, and they testify to a renewed enthusiasm and pride in their profession.
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