Globally Renowned Author Visits Region for TESOL Arabia Event

Arab World Edition of NorthStarlaunched in Dubai

Dubai: Internationally acclaimed author and English language education expert, Dr Carol Numrich, has visited the GCC to take part in the annual TESOL Arabia Conference, held in Dubai on the 12th to 14th of March.

TESOL Arabia brought together educators and academics from around the region to learn about the latest developments in English language pedagogy. The theme of this year’s event, “Theory, Practice, Innovation: Teaching and Learning in the Digital World”, drew attention to the role digital resources can play in improving GCC students’ English language learning.

Dr Numrich, a senior lecturer at Columbia University in the USA, spoke to participants about how learners can get the most out of their English language classes. She said:

“Research shows us that the more profound the stimulation for students while learning, both intellectually and emotionally, the more language they will use and retain. We also know that successful students are active learners, and that the quality of relationships in the classroom is important, particularly in a language class where students are asked to express themselves on issues and ideas. If we can get these fundamentals of language education right in the classroom, student outcomes will be enhanced, both in the uptake of English language skills and in wider academic performance”.

Dr Numrich launched the Arab World Edition of her internationally acclaimed NorthStar series at the event, which has been designed especially for English language learners in the region. The NorthStar series, from Pearson, is a collection of print and online English language resources created to help learners achieve their English language and academic goals.  The new Arab World Edition of North Star has been launched to meet the gap in the market for Arab-specific English language resources. Dr Numrich said of the new edition:

“For the first time, local students will have access to English language learning resources that have been created to reflect their cultural and historical understanding. The use of locally specific references and examples throughout the resources makes it easier for learners to engage with their English language learning, and achieve better grades as a result. The response to the Arab World Edition of NorthStar has been very encouraging, and I look forward to seeing the impact of these new resources on learners across the region”.

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International eLearning Experts Gather in Riyadh for eLearning Event

Social media and digital gaming can be used to promote learning

Riyadh: The Ministry of Education’s National Center for e-Learning and Distance Learning has held its Fourth International Conference on eLearning and Distance Education. The event brought together some of the world’s leading e-Learning researchers and educators, to discuss ways in which new digital technologies can promote quality education in Saudi Arabia, and further afield.

Dr Rob Kadel, Head of the Washington-based Pearson Research and Innovation Network, gave a keynote address at the Conference. Dr Kadel called on educators, policy makers and digital developers to help ensure the digital learning technologies being employed in classrooms were those with the greatest impact on improving student outcomes.

Dr Kadel’s message has particular relevance for Saudi Arabia, where eLearning is becoming increasingly common in higher education institutions. Across the Kingdom, universities are turning to new technology to help increase the availability of online or blended learning options for students, and to simplify institutions’ administration and assessment processes. Riyadh’s Princess Noura University has partnered with Pearson to provide 12,000 preparatory year students with IT and Math course content for tablet devices, as part of the University’s efforts to build a world class digital learning environment for its students.

Dr Kadel told Conference participants:

“eLearning holds great promise for students. However technology in itself is no panacea for the great challenges facing traditional education. If technology is used to merely maintain the status quo in teaching and learning, then we will see no great leaps forward in the education race. Technological solutions must be assessed according to the impact they have on improving learning outcomes, and learners’ lives. Although millions of learners, in all parts of the world, are experiencing online learning, there is much work to be done before eLearning’s potential to make education personalised, powerful and interactive is fully realised.”

Dr Kadel is well known for his research in the field of learning enhancement through social media and gamification. He believes that when used appropriately, these technologies have the power to become ‘game changers’ in education – engaging students of all levels and backgrounds in effective and meaningful learning.

“Using games and social media to help students learn, engage and enjoy the learning process, is key to our modern technological breakthroughs making a real impact on educational enhancement. This is particularly true for Saudi Arabia, which has some of the highest mobile penetration rates, per capita, anywhere in the world. At around 73 percent, mobile penetration in Saudi Arabia is significantly higher than in the USA or UK. The question is, how do we translate these statistics into improved outcomes for learners? We need to give educators the skills and the confidence to embrace the new opportunities that come with digital innovation, and help them find practical ways of exploiting these innovations in the classroom”.

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Global Education Forum Discusses how Technology can Change the Game

Using data from online tools effectively results in better learner outcomes

Dubai: Participants at the 2015 Global Education Forum (GEF) held in Dubai from the 24th to the 26th of February have heard about the opportunities data from online educational tools provide in terms of student assessment, engagement and education outcomes.

Dr Kristen DiCerbo, Principal Research Scientist at Pearson, led a discussion at GEF 2015 based on the findings of her recent research paper, “Impacts of the Digital Ocean on Education”. Dr DiCerbo emphasised how the massive amounts of data now available from student interactions, the digital ocean, can be used to underpin new and more effective methods of assessment and better outcomes for learners.

“We are on the verge of tremendous change, as both the amount of data available increases and methods for collection are increasingly embedded in modern life.  Today’s students interact with digital technology on a day-to-day basis, and their interactions with online learning tools can provide continuous data to educators – creating a more holistic view of the learner’s progress than traditional assessment methods.

The key to harnessing this potential is identifying the most effective ways to capture this data and turn it into meaningful information educators can use to assist their students.”

The session resonated with participants from the UAE, as educators across the country are increasingly turning to e-learning and the use of online resources, including the new wave of game-based learning and assessment tools, for both distance and classroom education.  Dr Di Cerbo cited a specific case study showing the complete cycle from activity integration and data collection to educator decision-making and long term impacts, and invited attendees to consider the possibilities for their own institutions, saying:

“The digital ocean provides educators with a unique opportunity to understand the learning process, to assess the efficacy of different methods and techniques, and to use this new understanding to provide unobtrusive tailored support to individual learners, as well as to improve educational outcomes for all.” 

The Pearson Report, “Impacts of the Digital Ocean on Education” was published in 2014 and is authored by Kristen DiCerbo and John Behrens, foreword by Sir Michael Barber. To view the full “Digital Oceans” report, visit:

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Microsoft Global Forum in Dubai Directs Next Wave of Innovation in Education

Pearson, Steelcase Showcase Classroom of the Future

Dubai: The Microsoft Global Education Forum in Dubai will bring together education leaders, schools leaders and educators from across the Middle East, Africa and Indian regions to discuss the latest technological innovations that will help to overcome the region’s key educational challenges.

To be held from February 22nd to February 23rd, the Conference forms part of Microsoft’s Global Event Series, designed to provide policy makers, school leaders and NGOs with an opportunity to learn about the latest innovations in the education sector and share best practices for utilising newly available technologies. Delegates at the Dubai event will debate how to best drive improvements in the region’s education systems by leveraging current industry trends in mobility, cloud access and learning analytics, showcasing technologies like Office365, OneNote and Azure. 

A highlight of the two day conference will be the ‘Future Classroom’, a joint initiative of Pearson, Microsoft and Steelcase. The interactive classroom will give delegates a glimpse into what the future of learning will look like, where physical learning spaces and technology advancements push new boundaries to achieve maximum student results. 

The pop-up classroom will bring together the latest digital learning solutions from Pearson powered by Microsoft technology, with cutting-edge classroom design and furniture from Steelcase. Craig Wilson, Director Market Development of Steelcase Education said:

“At Steelcase, we believe active learning occurs when pedagogy, technology and space are all carefully considered and integrated to help students succeed. The Future Classroom with Steelcase, Pearson and Microsoft is a great example of how these three can coexist. Effective learning spaces connect students and instructors with each other and content to support learning”. 

Fadi Khalek, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships & Efficacy at Pearson, will lead a discussion at the Conference on the role partnerships between the public and private sectors play in ensuring the successful educational transformations. He says learner outcomes should not be lost sight of as we develop education systems of the future:

“Education, like all areas of modern life, has undergone a rapid technological transformation that has seen changes to almost every aspect of teaching and learning. There is no doubt that many of the technological innovations being rolled out in classrooms both here, in the Middle East, as well as other regions, will bring advantages for students. However, we must be increasingly mindful of the need to ensure that the digital technologies we choose to embed in our education systems are having a positive impact on learner outcomes, and are not being invested in simply for technology’s sake. We need to do a better job of assessing how we are actually increasing learner effectiveness and taking a pedagogy first approach to implementing educational technologies. No longer is it enough to claim “this model is good”, or “this model works”. Rather, we must be able to evidence a positive impact on learning outcomes, measured against rigorous and objective criteria”.

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Education Key to Realising ENDP Employment Goals

UAE’s goal of 1% unemployment requires renewed focus on 21st Century Skills. 

A global expert on workforce education and training has welcomed the commitment of the Emirates National Development Programme (ENDP) to significantly reduce unemployment rates in the Emirates by 2021.  Mr Frank Edwards, Workforce Development Director at Pearson, has said embedding 21st Century skills in the country’s education system will be crucial to realising this commendable goal.

The ENDP has said that it wants the unemployment rate of Emirati nationals to fall below one percent by 2021, in line with the country’s 2021 National Vision. The ENDP believes that encouraging Emiratis to join the private sector in greater numbers, and seek jobs in burgeoning industries such as healthcare, construction, education and logistics, will help to achieve this target.

Government efforts to reduce unemployment rates in the UAE have been largely successful to date, with unemployment falling from 10.7 percent to just 2.6 percent over the past 10 years. However, it is widely accepted that improvements can still be made, particularly in lowering rates of unemployment amongst those under 30 years of age, which are high by both national and international standards.

Mr Edwards, who has significant expertise in Middle East youth unemployment, believes that closer alignment between education outcomes and workforce needs is essential to improving employment statistics in the UAE. He says: 

“What we are seeing as countries seek to align around the world is a clear gap between the skills and knowledge being provided to students in their formal education, and the capabilities that modern businesses require from entrants to the workplace in order to perform successfully in globally orientated, rapidly changing markets. Business leaders have done much, but more needs to be done and employers need to be working more closely alongside policy makers and education providers, across the entire education spectrum, to develop pedagogies, curricula and resources that provide today’s learners with an education that maps more closely to the business and the ever changing workforce needs of the future”.

The Pearson-backed, Effective Education for Employment study looked at the key challenges facing workforces in fulfilling the needs of businesses, industry sectors and economies in 25 countries around the world. As part of the global study, the UAE was selected as one of five countries for special analysis. The authors of a report produced as part of the study identified 10 key traits that business leaders in the UAE were seeking when recruiting employees, which included:

• Self-awareness

• A high level of emotional intelligence

• The ability to do the job they are employed to do

• The ability to communicate knowledge

• The ability to manage well

• Commitment

• Personal accountability

• The willingness to take ownership of the business

• Discipline in terms of delivery

• The ability to learn

Mr Edwards believes more can and should be done to ensure learners not only in the GCC, but other countries around the world, are being given the opportunity to learn, and practically apply these skills: 

“Today’s learners are going to experience a variety of jobs and careers in their lifetime, many of which don’t even exist today. One way we can help them to thrive in the workforce of the future is to give them adaptable, useable skills that can be transferred across professions and industries. We cannot possibly give our current generation of learners all the knowledge and information that they will need for life after they have completed their formal educations. However, what we can do is to prepare learners how to learn, how to apply information and how to adapt. This is what will give them strong employability prospects in both the public and private sectors and maximise their value and potential to future employers”.

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Pearson Makes New Investments to Improve Learning Outcomes

Pearson Affordable Learning Fund to invest additional $50 million to support education entrepreneurs.

New Literacy Project seeks to improve literacy rates.

Pearson, the world’s leading learning company, has announced two new initiatives to increase its support for better educational outcomes in the developing world. 

Karim Daoud, managing director of Pearson in the Middle East says:

“Pearson has announced new plans to invest $50 million (£33 million) in ventures that provide education to low-income learners in emerging markets, through the Pearson Affordable Learning Fund. Through the new $50 million investment, Pearson expects to reach millions of additional students and young people by 2020. In addition – by providing financial backing, good governance, and operational support to education entrepreneurs – the Fund aims to foster and scale innovation throughout Africa, Asia, and Latin America”.

The Fund launched in 2012 with $15 million of capital. It sets improvements in learning outcomes and market-based returns as conditions of continued investment. The Fund has already invested in innovative education start-ups in South Africa, Ghana, India, and the Philippines. Half of the fund is currently invested in companies with female CEOs. 

In a further commitment to education in the developing world, Pearson is launching Project Literacy, a new social impact campaign to improve global literacy rates over the next five years. Despite the dramatic gains achieved in improving the literacy rates in countries such as the UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, global levels of illiteracy have not improved since 2000. Today, nearly 800m people around the world cannot read and write.

Project Literacy will combine Pearson’s expertise in education with financial support from the company with the aim of accelerating improvements in literacy throughout the developing world. Pearson expects to announce its first Project Literacy partnerships in the first half of 2015.

Pearson chief executive John Fallon said:

“Every parent wants the best possible education for their children. Yet, around the world, one in ten children don’t attend primary school because high-quality schools just aren’t available. The Pearson Affordable Learning Fund has already shown it is possible to address this challenge by making low-cost, high-quality schools and services accessible to parents in the developing world. We are tripling our investment in the Fund because we know that this approach works, and makes a transformative difference to lives across the world.

“Through our new investments and the Project Literacy campaign, our goal is to support entrepreneurs and campaigners who want to transform education for millions of students across the world.”

Katelyn Donnelly, managing director of the Pearson Affordable Learning Fund, said:

“The Pearson Affordable Learning Fund supports the brightest entrepreneurs aiming to transform education in the developing world. Our much-needed capital helps improve standards and push for scale to benefit those learners who are most in need of a world-class education.

“We believe that start-up culture can inject innovation and determination into some of the world’s toughest educational systems.”

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GCC Learning Institutions to Benefit from Latest Learning Innovations Showcased at BETT

World’s largest educational technology event draws interest from the Arab region.

Over 35,000 delegates, including representatives from the Arab region, have gathered in London at BETT 2015, the world’s leading learning technology show.

Educators and government officials from the GCC attended this year’s British Educational Training and Technology show, held from the 21st to the 24th January. Delegates learnt about the latest offerings available in the digital education market, with demonstrations from new start-up enterprises along some of the world’s best known and respected brands in the digital learning sector. 

Sue Mainey, Marketing Director of Pearson Middle East said that BETT’s showcase of innovative new solutions should inspire educational institutions across the region as they move to embed wide-scale digital transformation. 

“All across the Gulf we are seeing a mass digitization process in schools, universities and colleges, in line with the SMART learning strategies of regional governments. Content digitization and large-scale deployment of tablets and other mobile learning tools is common place in GCC classrooms as teachers and policy makers seek to bring the benefits of educational technology to learners”.

Ms Mainey says that while this uptake of learning technology across the GCC is impressive, it is important to ensure improving learner outcomes remains the primary goal of classroom digitalization.

“Technology has seen the world change around us at a rate never seen before, impacting all facets of our lives, including education. What is important is ensuring that our education systems are not only responding to this change, but harnessing the opportunities that it brings to improve learning experiences and learner outcomes. All too often, we see digital innovations being applied to external education processes rather than being used as tools for positive, system-wide change. To make good on the promise of digital education for learners, we need to look to the impact of technology on the learning process, and use data to drive the development and implementation of efficacious of digital technologies”.

Pearson used BETT 2015 as an opportunity to showcase how technology is being applied across the company’s latest educational offerings. A new app was developed by Pearson over the course of the Conference, demonstrating to participants the process the company undertakes to create new, learner-driven technologies.

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Teacher Training Key to Preserving Arabic in UAE Schools

Pearson: Government’s moves to safeguard Arabic language depends on optimal teaching standards.

Dubai: Ongoing professional development is essential to maintaining high standards of classical Arabic amongst young Emiratis, says the Regional Chief of the world’s largest learning company, Pearson.

Karim Daoud, Pearson’s Managing Director in the Middle East, has made the comments following the UAE Government’s announcement that it would legislate to preserve the Arabic language throughout the Emirates.

The Arabic Language Advisory Committee, headed by His Highness, Sheikh Nayhan bin Mubarak, Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development, found that 18 percent of pupils in private schools and three percent of pupils in public schools were graded less than acceptable in Arabic – a trend the Government is hoping to reverse through the implementation of a new law devised to protect Arabic as the country’s principal language.

Mr Daoud says that having superior English and Arabic language instruction available to students is of primary importance, both to individuals and the wider community:

“English language skills are becoming more and more important for the region’s young people as they seek to prosper in an increasingly globalised workforce. Research suggests that those with strong English language skills are less likely to be unemployed and more likely to find rewarding, well-remunerated work.

“However, the emphasis placed on English in the modern economic environment should not come at the expense of Arabic language instruction. The preservation of Arabic is of significant cultural, historic and religious importance, and we must strive to ensure classical Arabic instruction continues to be a key part of education in this region”.

The Committee believes that the reduced use of Arabic amongst students in the Emirates could be improved by revising teacher training and pedagogical methods, a point with which Mr Daoud agrees. He says:

“What we are seeing is that teachers do not have the resources necessary to provide their students with optimal Arabic language instruction. Pearson’s Teacher Education and Leadership Academy has developed a special programme designed to equip teachers with the pedagogies and confidence they need to deliver highly engaging and successful Arabic language classes. With an emphasis on creating a student-centered learning environment, the Fundamentals of Interactive Arabic Teaching programme helps educators embed a firm understanding of classical Arabic in learners, as well as a lifelong appreciation and respect of the Arabic language. The programme is part of Pearson’s wider portfolio of Arab-specific solutions, all designed to provide the region with relevant and contextualised learning materials and place the Arab learner at the centre of the learning experience. We also recognise that the delivery of this professional development training needs to be available in Arabic, or delivered using the services of a translator, and where possible we are endeavouring to make this a reality”.

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The Mentor’s Perspective: Pearson’s role in The Arab Mobile App Challenge

The Mentor’s Perspective: Pearson’s role in The Arab Mobile App Challenge

With the 2014 Arab Mobile App Challenge finals in January, 100s of ambitious and talented hopefuls have submitted their apps in what is likely to be a hotly contested final featuring the region’s top 21 teams. At stake is not only a substantial prize fund ($25k for the winner, $15k for second place, and a special $10k prize fund from Pearson for the best Education app and $5k for the app featuring the best accessibility features), but the chance for contestants to put their ideas in front of leading industry experts with the potential to make their ideas reality.

“Having been lucky enough to have some great mentors in the past, I feel strongly about passing that experience on, so when I was approached to be a mentor for the Arab Mobile App Challenge (AMAC), I jumped at the chance. The competition brings together talented and ambitious learners from across the region in a competition to create the best mobile app along with a very healthy prize fund.  The opportunity to work with two teams to clarify their ideas and mentor on their technical and business issues seemed like a perfect fit for me.

Both teams have very different project ideas and approaches, but what is impressive is their passion and commitment to solving real world problems that could have real impact on people’s lives.

The teams decided to work on two very different but equally interesting ideas:

  1. Improving learning outcomes for Human Biology Students 
  2. A location based school bus tracker for parents and schools.

Thanks to patience from all involved, the usual technical and logistical problems that accompany working cross time zones and country soon became insignificant and thankfully language wasn’t an issue – and as a bonus my Arabic skills have increased immeasurably!

Having seen where both teams started out, how they’ve managed to develop their app ideas, think through the financials and tie everything together fills me confidence that both have every chance of doing extremely well in the competition. It’s been wonderful to have been involved with such a fantastic competition with such inspiring participants.”

Rob Anderson
Developer Relations Manager at Pearson, and AMAC 2014 Mentor


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Library Event Draws Global Expertise to Saudi Arabia

The First Scientific International Conference: Modern Developments in Libraries, held on 17th to 18th December at Princess Nora Bint Abdulrahman University

Riyadh: Educators from across the Arab World have gathered in Riyadh to learn about the most important technological innovations available to national, public and academic libraries. 

“Modern Developments in Libraries, Aspirations and Leading Experience” is the first Conference of its kind to be held in Saudi Arabia, helping to meet demand from the country’s educational institutions for world-class innovations in the library sector.

Academics, researchers, educators and librarians heard about the latest research that will help improve library infrastructure and library services. Case studies and examples were drawn from the Arabia region, as well as the USA and Europe.

It is hoped that the Conference will help Saudi’s academic libraries exploit newly available technology, helping to create world-class educational institutions that support educational processes and scientific research.

The event was held at Princess Nora Bint Abdulrahman University, which boasts its own state of the art library, with over 80,000 square metres of storage space and capacity to hold a collection of five million volumes. The library also has specially a designed Automated Storage and Retrieval System, one of only a handful in the world.

Pearson, the world’s largest education provider, sponsored the event, showcasing its digital repository system, EQUELLA which is used by educational institutions, corporations, governments and universities worldwide, including London University, Australia’s TAFE colleges, and Hamdan bin Mohammed e-University in the United Arab Emirates. Dalia Leil, Pearson’s Digital Solutions Specialist in Saudi Arabia says:

“Pearson is thrilled to support this inaugural library event in Saudi Arabia, which is helping to put the Kingdom on the map for innovation in the library sector. Having efficient and effective library services is essential to providing world-class education and research facilities, and is therefore a priority for colleges and universities in this region as they advance their education sectors. 

EQUELLA can assist in this process, enabling collections to be securely stored, while managing controlled access for specific users and groups and incorporating specific security settings. The repository also integrates with existing library management systems, providing additional value and functionality to a library’s existing infrastructure”.

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