U.S. First Lady Laura Bush joined forces with her Egyptian counterpart, Suzanne Mubarak, at the World Economic Forum on the Middle East in May, to celebrate the success of the Egyptian Education Initiative (EEI), and announce plans for the project to go international.
Under the umbrella of the Global Education Initiative (GEI), the EEI was launched two years ago, designed to cross national boundaries and support educational reform in developing countries such as Rwanda, which has already shown interest in the Egyptian model.
It is a partnership between the government of Egypt and the World Economic Forum's IT members’ community. The initiative supports Egypt's overall education reform efforts, and maximises the potential for collaborative public-private partnerships to achieve its goals.
Over the past two years, more than $80 million [USD] has been invested in professional training of students. EEI programme activities also include developing curricula, certification, content digitisation, infrastructure deployment, and hardware and software.
““The EEI's third year will be dedicated to impact assessment and exploring means of making the programme sustainable,” said Hoda Baraka, Director of the EEI and First Deputy to the Minister of Communications and Information Technology of Egypt. So far in schools and universities across Egypt, some 40,000 PCs have been installed, and more than 185,000 training sessions have been delivered. In all, 2000 schools, 17 universities and 400 educational centres have directly benefited from the EEI.
The EEI has already received two international awards: the Project of the Year Award from Cisco in October 2007, and the first Technology in Government in Africa (TIGA) award, presented by the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa and the Canadian government. These awards came in recognition of achievements that have led to changes at national, regional or provincial levels.
At the same forum, key delegates emphasised the importance of the development of Middle East educational standards, warning that a failure to address the problem would lead to a crisis across the region.
“Imagine yourself 20 to 30 years in the future where we have a Middle East that is highly productive, everybody is working and we have peace. In order to get there you have to acknowledge that today, we collectively have failed to serve our people and failed in equipping them with the right skills,” said Shaikh Mohammed bin Essa Al-Khalifa, Chief Executive, Economic Development Board of Bahrain.
Shaikh Mohammed noted that 60 percent of the region’s population is under the age of 30 years, and the region’s leaders must increase their investment in education for this large demographic. “We must admit we have failed in meeting our challenge and equipping the people of the Middle East with the right skills they need,” he added.