Around the world, innocent people are victimized daily by the ravages of civil war. Approximately 100 million people are homeless, while many others live in substandard housing conditions. For millions of primary school-age children, the sanctity of learning is also violated.
Now is the time to make a difference in the lives of children whose life circumstances are compromised by such conditions. How long must they wait?
The current state of education in the world cannot continue. Standing still is not an option. We must not underestimate the challenges or rely on outmoded methodologies. Supporting and improving our education systems and growing access to learning must, therefore, become an international imperative.
In 2009, the first World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) was convened as an initiative of the Qatar Foundation, inspired by the vision of its chairperson, Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser.
In convening the summit, she emphasized, "We have a shared responsibility to put forward the best and most innovative ideas for delivering high-quality learning for all, particularly to the most deprived, such as those living in conflict zones."
In its four years of existence, the WISE approach to innovation has brought significant progress to the global education and human development arenas.
"It has evolved into a global collaborative platform which seeks innovative approaches to the major challenges of education, drawing upon expertise and experience from around the world and from many sectors," says the chairman of WISE, H.E. Sheikh Abdulla bin Ali Al-Thani.
The fourth WISE event was held November 13–15, 2012, in Doha, Qatar. I was pleased to be among the 1,200 invited education, corporate, political, and social leaders from more than 100 countries who came together for a comprehensive program of multisectorial debate, creative thinking, and networking under the theme "Building the Future of Education."
Majlis is the Arabic word for "sitting place" and is used to describe various kinds of special gatherings. The WISE majlis was the vibrant heart of the summit—where participants could meet old friends, make new acquaintances, and converse with people from around the world who are involved in education. These decision makers, practitioners, and thought leaders from different sectors shared and debated ideas, discussed new ways to address major challenges, and deliberated how to promote purposeful action.
Although the annual summit is a landmark event, WISE works year-round to implement a growing number of education initiatives. The Qatar Foundation created the $500,000 WISE Prize and gold medal to reward an individual or team of up to six individuals for an outstanding, world-class contribution to any level or area of education, in any part of the world.
The 2012 WISE Prize for Education was awarded to Madhav Chavan, the founder of Pratham, a nongovernment organization headquartered in Mumbai, India. Chavan's effect on helping millions of children to read expands to Africa and other regions of the world.
The WISE Awards recognize innovative education projects that have had a transformative influence on societies. These projects are an inspiring and diverse collection of best practices that are shared throughout the WISE community. Award winners for 2012 were Cambodian Children's Fund—Generational Change Through Education (Cambodia); Cristo Rey Network Corporate Work Study Program (USA); Prueba de Selección Universitaria Educarchile (Chile); RoboBraille, National Center for Blind and Partially Sighted Children (Denmark); Satya Bharti School Program (India); and Solar-Powered Floating Schools (Bangladesh).
Today, new kinds of education systems are needed to meet the demands of our complex and rapidly changing world. Young people must be healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged. To create a learning environment where this is possible, we need to collaborate and recognize the inextricable link between education and the well-being of people throughout the world.
Education is vital to any propositions of peace and sustainable development. The global community is starting to take notice of the attacks on education that conflict and poverty inflict. WISE is promoting collaboration and the future of education.
Let us join the global community in revolutionizing the way we learn, teach, and lead.
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