The Global Search for Education: 21st Century Skills from the Middle East

Posted by: C.M. Rubin, The Global Search for Education

August 14th, 2015

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The Global Search for Education (GSE) is a regular contributor to the Edmodo Blog. Authored by C.M. Rubin, GSE brings together distinguished thought leaders in education and innovation from around the world to explore the key learning issues faced by today’s nations. Look for a new post every Friday and join the Global Search for Education Community on Edmodo to share your perspectives with their editorial staff.

2014-08-05-cmrubinworld8500-thumbHow can we better structure our education systems to ensure that the future working population can prosper in the labor market? Today’s technology has already endangered a large range of 20th century jobs and will continue to impact tomorrow’s jobs. So how do we ensure that the investment in education ultimately leads to a workforce equipped with the skills, knowledge, and attitudes to compete in a 21st century world? It’s a challenge we have posed to the most respected thought leaders in education around the world since we started The Global Search for Education series in 2011.

Dr. Amin Amin currently leads ASK for Human Capacity Building (ASK), a social enterprise dedicated to the provision of human capacity building services in the Arab region, including professional development services for professionals, educators, and school community members, women, youth, and entrepreneurs. Under his leadership, ASK has been a driving force in education reform across the region, completing six nationwide and three regional projects over the past few years, all of which have impacted 3,843 schools and more than 161,000 students. In 2013, Dr. Amin was recognized as the Global Endeavor Advocate and the Mentor of the Year by the award-winning Mowgli Foundation. He joined The Global Search for Education to discuss the Middle East.

What kind of educational system will permit a country to have the human skills needed to compete globally in the 21st Century?

Such an educational system would be based on student performance as its cornerstone, with the enhancement and progress of this performance on all levels being a top priority. The need for 21st century human capital is creating new pressure on the existing education systems to be effective and fully capable of catering to the specific needs of each student. Educational systems that embrace differentiated learning spaces are a must today.

2014-08-05-cmrubinworld7500-thumbHow has technology impacted Middle Eastern education systems? What do educators see as the pros and cons from a learning standpoint?

The need to integrate technology in all aspects of life, including education, is a fact today in the Middle East. Decision makers, educators, and students are fully aware that technology cannot be avoided or dismissed. Based on that, technology has penetrated the various educational systems in diverse ways. Modern learning approaches such as student-centered learning and collaborative learning have been accepted and integrated in Middle East and North Africa education systems because they have been enabled by the use of this technology.

Educators do realize the huge access to global knowledge and best practices enabled by technology, but at the same time, they are challenged by their own capabilities to cope with the speed of change and variety of options and tools that are made available by the same technology.

What is your view of standardized testing?

If differentiated learning is a must today for any effective education system, then the need for standardized testing is much less important than it used to be. Nevertheless, in terms of benchmarking and measuring impact and outcomes of interventions in the education systems, there will always be a certain demand for such testing approaches.

2014-08-05-cmrubinworld1500-thumbIf generalization is possible, what elements do you believe are missing from the preponderance of the current systems in the Middle East?

The majority of the education systems in the Middle East are failing to deliver a learning process that results in securing the needed 21st century learners. It is beyond evident today that the labor market and societies in the Middle East are demanding individuals who are critical, analytical, capable of taking initiative, and proactive in responding to the challenges and social needs of their communities. The existing systems are failing to deliver all the above and are mainly stuck in the spoon-feeding approach to learning.

Does your definition of educational excellence take into account the quality of life of individuals and of a society, including its artistic and cultural achievements?

Absolutely. In our definition in ASK for Human Capacity Building for educational excellence, it is all based on the ability of students to transform their learning outcomes into socially relevant actions and interventions. Learning cannot and should not be seen in an abstract form for the sake of learning as such. Effective learning processes and successful educational systems must always pursue social relevance, including artistic and cultural achievements.


Continue the conversation in the Global Search for Education Community on Edmodo



C.M. Rubin with Dr. Amin Amin

C.M. Rubin is the author of two widely read online series for which she received a 2011 Upton Sinclair award, “The Global Search for Education” and “How Will We Read?” She is also the author of three bestselling books, including The Real Alice in Wonderland, is the publisher of CMRubinWorld, and is a Disruptor Foundation Fellow.

(All photos are courtesy of ASK for Human Capacity Building)


20 responses to “The Global Search for Education: 21st Century Skills from the Middle East”

  1. Superb, what a weblog it is! This web site provides valuable facts to
    us, keep it up.

  2. Seth says:

    Very interesting, thank you for sharing!

  3. Linwood Starling says:

    This is amazing. Love global education!!! Keep it up Edmodo!!!

  4. I see where some American schools are not meeting 21 century learners.

  5. Sheryl Place says:

    Thanks for sharing this article. It is interesting to read what is going on in the Middle East.

  6. Caridad says:

    Preparing students for the 21st Century is crucial. I teach ESOL to adult education student from diverse background who have arrived from other countries. So its imperative that they become workforce ready and adjust rapid.

  7. “If differentiated learning is a must today for any effective education system, then the need for standardized testing is much less important than it used to be.” AMEN!

  8. I fully agree that meaningful learning depends on students as proactive agents of social change through 21st Century multifluencies in action and that largely depends on adults’ planning and management in their sphere of action.

  9. Cheryl Jindeel says:

    Good article… Transitioning to differentiated learning is difficult for all schools/educators who have taught the same way for years. Add technology into the mix and that raises the complexity of the situation. This article shows that students with 21st century skills are sought around the world. It’s time to integrate technology and teach to the student if you don’t already!

  10. Carrie Renfro says:

    I come from the Hospitality and Tourism indsutry where catering to a client or clients is vital for business success. Your statement, “capable of catering to the specific needs of each student” made me think about this and the need to cater to the 21st client – student.

  11. Garnet Mayo says:

    What a powerful piece. I was struck by how even in the Middle East teachers are struggling to keep up with technology. I feel like a lot of teachers struggle with how to keep up with all the new technological tools that are now offered for our classrooms. How do we know which tools to use? When do we use them? What if a certain tool works one year, but is not beneficial for the next group of students? These are struggles teachers are now globally facing; integrating technology but in a way that will enhance their students learning – not distract from it.

  12. John Choins says:

    Technology allowing for us all to learn best practices from each other around the world. This is a GREAT time to be involved in the education of our students.

  13. Vanita Vance says:

    Adding technology in countries with developing infrastructure is a huge challenge – best wishes for accomplishing your goals!

  14. Oscar Porras says:

    Great read as well as great initiative in a part of the world in the news for sometimes negative news. Looking forward to updates.

  15. Gabriel Areas says:

    The essence of this great post is when Dr. Amin says -quote, that our school systems need to form demanding individuals who are critical, analytical, capable of taking initiative, and proactive in responding to the challenges and social needs of their communities.- end quote. It is time to stop educating people for getting a job in this competitive labor market, and to start graduating students who will make jobs available in their communities.

  16. Teresa Perles says:

    It is really amazing how technology can help us to differentiate learning! I’m glad you have this initiative!

  17. Kari says:

    Interesting to read about the educational progress in other parts of the world. It sounds as if those 21st century skills are are beginning to travel world wide. 🙂

  18. Irene Bal says:

    Wow! I loved the section on differentiated learning and standardized testing. I wholeheartedly agree! As the shift to the individualized learning goals and grading/scoring based on growth rather than baseline data grows, I too hope the standardized testing grows to meet the needs of the children and assess more growth than across the board.

  19. I enjoyed reading this article! I completely agree that it is of extreme importance that students are taught how to think critically, analytically and proactively. Students should be taught how to apply what is being learned so that it is applicable to real-world skills and development. Learning how to become connected worldwide, collaborate with others and how to utilize technology in its full capacity is a must in this new digital age.

  20. danesensei says:

    Interesting read! “Educational excellence the ability of students to transform their learning outcomes into socially relevant actions and interventions. ” every educator out there should put this always in mind.

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