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WISE prizes for educational innovation

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WISE prizes for educational innovation

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Doha’s World Innovative Summit for Education (WISE) 2011 has awarded six prizes to educational projects from across the world. The winning projects include BBC Janala in the UK, Connexions in the USA and SueñaLetras in Chile.

Another prize-winner from Morocco is the Al Jisr organisation, which is getting the business community to help improve the education system through direct investment. It is a kind of adoption scheme in which individual schools benefit from the expertise and resources of private companies. They, in return, hope to gain from improved education standards in the future.

Funding education is not always just a question of having the money, but often an ideological question of where education funding should come from.

A good example of how the project works is an ex-pupil (who wishes to remain anonymous) who became a director of a telecoms outfit and who persuaded the company to sign a three-year sponsorship deal with the Idriss 2 School in Casablanca. The school was falling apart, even the wiring needed replacing.

The school was completely renovated and re-equipped and the children at this school like it so much now, that they don’t even go home when classes finish.

For the head teacher of the school, the sponsorship deal went far beyond a simple financial transaction. It demonstrated the importance of their environment to the children, leading them to take better care of their school.

Doha, a student at Idriss 2 said: “When I grow up, I’ll come back and renovate it too. Like that, the pupils in generations to come will be able to study in their turn in a properly equipped school. Then when they grow up they’ll also go on taking care of the school.”

It is an example of where forging a link between today’s schoolchildren and tomorrow’s entrepreneurs is paying off.

A British initiative to encourage young people to make the most of their creativity was another WISE award winner. In Slough, just outside London, the Priory School has been running Creative Partnership programmes for the past nine years.

Since the programme was launched in 2002, professionals working in theatre, dance, cooking and landscape design have visited the school to give children skills that they would not normally acquire in school.

Headteacher Jacqueline Laver said: “For us as a school, being part of the Creative Partnership programme has been very much about the whole child development. Being in school isn’t just about academic studies, it’s about preparing children for adult life, and working with creative partners really helps children to develop their self-confidence, their self-esteem, to understand themselves as a person, by working with individuals who they wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to work with.”

The reasoning behind the programme is that since developed economies cannot compete with emerging ones in areas like manufacturing, they have to excel in creativity.

Paul Collard, the Chief Executive of Creativity, Culture and Education, told euronews: “These creative skills sit at the heart of the kind of skills that 21st century employers are looking for and if young people come out of school or university without this side of them properly developed then they’re going to be at a huge disadvantage. There will not be jobs for the kind of people with the traditional skills anymore.”

But it is not a one-way street. The creative professionals say that working in schools is hugely inspiring.

Dean Soden from 4 Motion Dance Theatre said: “They pose questions that you wouldn’t normally be able to make up in your head. You sit in there and try to write a script, try to come up with the next creative idea, you go into a school and these children have these imaginations you can bring to life. You can help facilitate that and when they do, they leave you thinking how did I not think of that: such an imaginative idea, and you go back and redevelop your workshops, redevelop your professional work and it makes so much sense.”

In sub-Saharan Africa teachers are in short supply and because of that standards are sometimes not very high. The TESSA project aims to give teachers advanced training to help them cope in the classroom. Thirty eight African universities contribute to the programme and today 700 teachers all over the continent use TESSA methods and tools for free.

The aim is not to revolutionise education in Africa but just to strengthen teaching techniques so that what is available is of higher quality.

TESSA provides a range of training opportunities in four different languages via the internet so that everyone can benefit.

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