x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 20 February 2018

Why is Bill Gates thanking Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid? 

Because the Dubai ruler is the patron of a prize that treats the world's best teachers like the rock stars they are

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has thanked Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid for his support for a prize that awards a truly-deserving teacher with Dh3.67 million every year. AP / Ted S. Warren
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has thanked Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid for his support for a prize that awards a truly-deserving teacher with Dh3.67 million every year. AP / Ted S. Warren

In a video posted on Twitter on Tuesday, tech billionaire and philanthropist Bill Gates, 62, thanked the Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid.

Why? Well, because Sheikh Mohammed is a patron of the Dubai-based Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize 2018 - a US$1 million (Dh3.67 million) award that goes to a person, from anywhere in the world, who is working to help educate minds, often against all odds.

The aim of the prize is to treat teachers like the rock stars that they often are.

Bill Gates appeared in the video to announce the nominations for the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize 2018 - there were 30,000 applicants from 173 countries around the world. The finalists are from South Africa, Australia, the UK, Brazil, the US, the Philippines, Belgium, Colombia, Turkey and Norway:

Education is a particular passion for Sheikh Mohammed: “Combating ignorance is the fastest route to combating poverty,” explained Sheikh Mohammed when speaking about another of his initiatives, Reading Nation, which provided 8.2 million books to children in the region. “If we want to open doors of hope to millions, we must open the doors for them to science and knowledge,” he added.

In the Twitter video, Gates explains why the prize is so important: "When you think about what drives progress and improvement in the world, education is like a master switch - one that opens up all sorts of opportunities for individuals and societies. And research has shown that having a great teacher can be the most important factor that determines whether students get a great education."

The Global Teacher Prize was established to give recognition to a teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the teaching profession. It was developed by Sunny Varkey, Founder and Executive Chairman of the GEMS Education Group. Mr Varkey commissioned a study in 2013 to explore global attitudes towards teaching. The study showed that the professions' status had dropped in people's estimations - the Global Teacher Prize was developed in an effort to raise the profession's profile.

The prize-giving ceremony takes place on the final day of Dubai's Global Education and Skills Forum, which this year falls on March 18.

Past winners

The inaugural prize was presented to Nancie Atwell in 2015 by former US President Bill Clinton, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid and Sunny Varkey. Ms Atwell, 63, an English teacher and founder of the Centre of Teaching and Learning in Maine, donated all her prize money to the school, which is a demonstration school (an educational establishment used for training future teachers.)

Nancie Atwell, a teacher from Southport, Maine, U.S., center, poses with former President of the United States Bill Clinton, left, and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, prime minister of the U.A.E. and Ruler of Dubai, after she won the $1 million Global Teacher Prize in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, March 15, 2015. Atwell has been teaching since 1973 and founded the Center for Teaching and Learning in Southport. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)
Nancie Atwell receiving her prize. AP

The winner of the 2016 award was Palestinian teacher Hanan Al Hroub from Samiha Khalil High School in Al Bireh, Palestine. Ms Al Hroub grew up in a Palestinian refugee camp where she was regularly exposed to violence. She entered primary education after her children were left traumatised by a shooting they witnessed on their way home from school. Her approach to teaching inspired her colleagues to review the way they teach.

Last year's winner was Canadian teacher Maggie MacDonnell from Ikusik School in Salluit, northern Quebec. She was given the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize for her role in improving school attendance rates and girls’ registration at the school, located in the Inuit region of Nunavik.

List of nominees for 2018

Nurten Akkuş, Ayvacık Pre-School, Turkey

Marjorie Brown, Roedean School, South Africa

Luis Miguel Bermudez Gutierrez, Colegio Gerardo Paredes IED, Colombia

Jesus Insilada, Alcarde Gustilo Memorial National High School, Philippines

Glenn Lee, Waialua High & Intermediate School, United States

Diego Mahfouz Faria Lima, Escola Municipal Darcy Ribeiro, Brazil

Koen Timmers, CVO De Verdieping, Belgium

Eddie Woo, Cherrybrook Technology High School, Australia

Andria Zafirakou, Alperton Community School, United Kingdom

Barbara Anna Zielonka, Nannestad High School, Norway

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Read more:

World Government Summit: 'Huge leap in education will prepare Emiratis for the next industrial revolution'

Khalifa University's rise through the ranks vindicates the UAE's education policy

Meet the 2018 Zayed Future Energy Prize winners

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