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FEATURE

Jordan Education Initiative Lights the Way for Global E- Learning Opportunities

January 28, 2005

Strong public and private partnerships can create lifelong learning opportunities for people around the world. A successful example is the Jordan Education Initiative (JEI), an ambitious e-learning project developed out of a partnership between the Kingdom of Jordan and Cisco Systems that is poised to be an educational model in many other nations.

JEI got its start in 2003 at the World Economic Forum, when Cisco CEO John Chambers challenged companies to work with government and non-profit organizations to create a focused educational program in one country. As the 2005 World Economic Forum convenes this month in Davos Switzerland, News@Cisco asked Cisco vice president of corporate affairs, Tae Yoo, for a progress report on JEI and about her views on the next phase of the program.

Why is Cisco involved in the JEI program?

Tae Yoo: Cisco Systems has always championed the cause of educational reform. We have seen how education is a key factor that can influence the standard of living and economic prosperity of countries. Our participation in the Cisco Networking Academies is one area where people are obtaining the training and skills they need to compete and succeed in the global information economy. The Jordan Education Initiative is another example of Cisco Systems' commitment to expanding education to wider audiences. The initiative represents a truly collaborative effort between public, private and non-profit organizations.

What are the goals of the Jordan Education Initiative?

Tae Yoo: There are several significant goals that drive this initiative, especially how well it fits with Jordan's vision for the future of education. An immediate priority for Jordan is to build a knowledge-based economy that will enable citizens to become entrepreneurs and participate in the information communications technology industry. Through a project called E-Readiness for the Knowledge Economy, this goal is already being realized. The mission of the Jordan Education Initiative is to create a model for effective Internet-enabled learning that can be replicated and implemented in other countries in the region—and eventually worldwide.

Why was Jordan the first nation selected for the program?

Tae Yoo: Jordan was ideal for this program, not only because of its location, size and population, but also because of the country's desire to build a knowledge economy and expand educational opportunities through technology. JEI represents an opportunity to improve the lives of Jordanians and serve as a model for educational reform around the world. It also helps contribute to the long-term stability in the Middle East. There is support for the program at all levels of the Jordanian government. Since education is tightly integrated into the planning process within Jordan's ministries, the JEI provides an advantage because policies and programs can be implemented quickly.

How does this program help least developed countries?

Tae Yoo: If we give people the chance to expand their knowledge base, we can help bridge the wide economic and social divide that differentiates the more affluent countries from those in the developing world. Things change so swiftly today. Limitations and hindrances to progress can be minimized through e-learning models and technology advancements. Truly, we believe the Internet and technology are the great equalizers, because they provide people with more access to educational opportunities, wherever they live. Education creates a stronger sense of social and economic stability.

What progress has been made in the JEI program in the past year?

Tae Yoo: During the past year, the initiative has exceeded our expectations. For example, one of Cisco's partner companies on the initiative, Jordan-based Rubicon, completed and delivered the math curriculum for K-12 ahead of schedule. JEI spent much of 2004 delivering curriculum into the classrooms. Right now, the math curriculum is being used in 13 of 100 Discovery Schools. By February 2005, 37 Discovery Schools in Jordan will have the curriculum, with the remainder delivered by the end of the school year. As one of the founding partners in this initiative, Cisco Systems is enthusiastic about the success of the program and the way it is facilitating social and economic stability in the region.

How will this program be expanded in the future?

Tae Yoo: The plan is to set up what we call 'beacon' countries in different regions around the world to serve as mentors and provide assistance to neighboring countries. At this time, expansion areas have not been finalized. The expansion strategy is based on a number of factors. For example, we look at the level of support from heads of state, as well as support from public and private entities. It is also vital that the government has a reform agenda to ensure the level of resources to enable successful implementation. The exciting thing about this initiative is that it is designed to be replicated in other countries. We have learned a great deal from the experience in Jordan - creating the model, finding out what works, and what changes are required. Now we are ready to take this program to other countries where more people can benefit.

 
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