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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 17 November 2018

Queen Rania launches award to inspire education innovators

The competition is inviting start-ups that can benefit the MENA region's education sector

Queen Rania is encouraging start-up businesses to help boost the education sector across the Arab world. AFP
Queen Rania is encouraging start-up businesses to help boost the education sector across the Arab world. AFP

Education entrepreneurs in the UAE can fast-track their business plans thanks to a new international award scheme.

The Queen Rania Award for Education Entrepreneurship in the Arab World is offering up to three grants totalling US$200,000 (Dh734,000) to help start-ups in the education field grow their businesses.

The winner will receive $100,000, with the runners-up getting US $50,000 each.

The award was launched this week by the Queen Rania Foundation for Education and Development, which wants to reform school education across the Arab world.

The foundation was set up by Queen Rania of ­Jordan in 2013.

Nafez Dakkak, chief executive at the foundation’s London office, said there is a need for more start-ups in the ­Middle East.

“There needs to be stronger support for entrepreneurial and structured thinking in education,” he said.

Anybody from an Arabic-­speaking country in the Mena region can participate in the competition.

A panel will select the finalists by December and the winners will be revealed in February.

“We want educational start-ups across the entire value chain,” Mr Dakkak said.

Someone who developed a ­literacy app for English learning in the Arab world or a person who has developed an online system for corporate management would be eligible to apply for the grant.

“We want these start-ups to reach hundreds of thousands of learners,” Mr Dakkak said.

He believes there is a need for an entrepreneurial push from the private sector to find solutions.

Applicants must have developed their idea and have a product as well as customers. The start-up does not have to be generating revenue.

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They must be based in the Arab world or focus on learners in the Arab world.

Bassem Saad, chief executive of the Queen Rania Foundation, said the award scheme aimed to help a business sector that is behind the rest of the world.

“The honest truth is that the Arab world is lagging behind other regions in making good use of socially-minded entrepreneurship – that is entrepreneurship that delivers social outcomes as well as a self-sustaining business model,” Mr Saad said.

“This is especially applicable in education and learning, where we seriously need to step up the rate of reform.

“The world is changing faster than our classrooms, too many evidence-supported practices are not going into use and too many students are not achieving enough to thrive and ­prosper.”

The grant scheme encourages people with innovative approaches to make a difference in the lives of learners, whether they are in kindergarten, school or looking to learn new skills to prepare them for their next job.

Queen Rania said the learning challenges faced by Arab nations require entrepreneurial thought.

“The Queen Rania Foundation supports quality education that is fit for the region’s ambitions, but we know we cannot do this alone,” she said.

“Many of the learning ­challenges we face require the energy and innovative thinking of entrepreneurs to prepare our students for a world that is increasingly shaped by smart technologies and address the learning losses refugees are facing.

“I hope this competition can help identify and encourage the kind of innovative approaches we desperately need.”

The foundation previously launched Edraak.org, an online education platform, that sued open-source technology developed by Harvard and MIT to reach over a million learners across the Arab world with free high-quality educational material in less than three years.

Applications for the Queen Rania Award for Education Entrepreneurship in the Arab World are open now and will close on November 10.

To apply, visit educationentrepreneurs.org