x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Help from private partners is needed for quality education

In order for education to improve, public private collaborations are the way forward, says former US president, Bill Clinton.

DUBAI // The former US president, Bill Clinton, last night urged governments to join private partners in providing access to quality education for all children.

Mr Clinton was speaking from New York via a webcastto more than 500 delegates at the Atlantis Hotel in Dubai on the second day of the Global Education and Skills Forum.

He advocated the need for Public Private Partnerships (PPP) to improve education and alleviate issues of economic inequality, financial and political instability, cyber terrorism and global warming.

"By 2050, 86 per cent of the world's children will be living in what are now developing countries," said Mr Clinton at the four-day forum organised by Unesco, the Commonwealth Business Council, the UAE Government and Gems Education.

"There is no way governments alone or international aid flows alone will be able to provide those children with the quality of education they need to be full participants in global society."

Mr Clinton said the design that utilises the expertise of the private sector and non-governmental organisations to provide better teacher training and teacher resource was essential in poorer sections in Africa and South East Asia.

In the Middle East, he said, there was a need to commit to such partnerships to reduce dependance on foreign labour.

"In the Middle East ... there are children who have been left out or behind, who can be part of serious efforts governments are making to diversify their economy," he said.

"To use their wealth today to create a whole different society tomorrow. This different society will have many different kind of skills requirements, many different kind of jobs and will not be able to rely simply on imported labour to do routine things."

A public private partnership model to revamp the Government education system was first tested by the Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec) in 2006. More than 180 state schools in the capital participated in hosting international education consultancies, which managed the schools with the financial backing of the authority until 2011. Though the programme was discontinued, Adec continues to use the services of private education companies that provide intensive training to build local capacity.

Mr Clinton said public private collaborations were the way forward in the 21st century.

"The great thing about public private partnerships is that you have the dedication of public interest with government bodies and the dedication to keeping score and getting concrete results that is necessary in the private sector," he said.

He said the private partners need to work closely with local authorities and education ministries to identify the biggest needs and shortcomings. "It is important to get the teachers involved and create a virtual community," he said.

VIkas Pota, the chief executive of the Varkey Gems Foundation, which has 11,000 education professionals and 130,000 students and families working in underprivileged countries to improve quality, said the growing number of children out of school was an indicator that the education task cannot be left to a single entity.

"We know there are a billion people illiterate and we also know today we need 1.2million new teachers in schools," Mr Pota said. "PPP's have often been taken without context and seen in a vacuum. When we talk about PPP, we must talk about meeting challenges together."

Mr Clinton said a year of school could add up to 10 per cent a year to earning capacity for life.

"We cannot build a world of shared prosperity when the vast majority of the world's people over the next 30 years are going to live in what are now developing countries," he said.

He said good citizenship had to be rethought.

"We have to create a world where we share prosperity and share responsibility. A world in which we can work together, to push back all the threats we face. It should begin with education."

Mr Clinton also answered some questions from the audience and those sent to him by Twitter users.

In response to a question from a Dubai based 15-year-old pupil on strengthening girls' education in South Asia, he said more non-government organisation work must be supported in those countries.

aahmed@thenational.ae