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Don’t lose focus on education’s purpose and goal: Sheikha Hind

Don’t lose focus on education’s
purpose and goal: Sheikha Hind

Ailyn Agonia
The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted education across the world, while it has also led to important realisations, including the need to go back to the core of the importance and purpose of education, HE Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al Thani, Qatar Foundation Vice Chairperson and CEO, has said.
Speaking at a global panel discussion organised by Qatar Foundation (QF) as part of its contribution to the 2020 Global Goals Week on Wednesday, Sheikha Hind described the disruption in education as now being “a way of life”. She stressed that COVID-19, which has come knocking at our doors, is also about continued reflection and continued learning journey to know what works in the education of children and not just as simple as putting what we physically do online.
“We talk about access to technology, but it is just a tool – it doesn’t really look at whether our children are learning or not, or how it will help them prosper in the world. We have to go back to what we are teaching our children, and for what purpose. Why don’t we invest our time in a long-term fix rather than a short-term one? It’s not that technology is irrelevant, or that we shouldn’t provide more technology or more internet networks for communities that need them, but let’s not lose our focus on the true purpose of education and what its true goal should be,” said Sheikha Hind.
“Technology is not a fix for everything. Now, we are in a pandemic and we have to make do with what we have, so our reaction is to try to continue education by doing it online. But is that the ultimate for my children? Absolutely not. We can’t create technology that is substitute for a learning environment that encompasses so many different elements, and is not just about the content and the knowledge that a child acquires,” she added.
On her vision for the future of education, Sheikha Hind emphasised the need to move forward and recognise that whatever we have been doing for centuries is obviously not working, and the pandemic has proven that even the quick fixes we have had are also not working.
“Much more reflection is happening in education today, because we have a feeling that our education systems are not resilient enough. The more we experiment and take risks, the better prepared we will be in the future. And we should not be worried about taking risks; we are in a pandemic and people are willing to try new things, because we have seen first-hand that what we have is not working for everyone,” she said.
Former president of Slovenia and President of World Leadership Alliance – Club of Madrid Danilo Turk warned that COVID-19 has had deepened “faultlines between those who can afford distance learning and those who cannot” and suggested that countries such as Qatar that have “a long-term vision for education” can show leadership in this field to the world. He also mentioned the need to establish appropriate financial capacity at the global level.
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Achim Steiner said education is at the frontline of not only trying to manage this crisis, alongside the health crisis, but it is also perhaps one of the most obvious ways in which in the midst of managing this crisis we can invest in a way forward.
Sarah Cliffe, director of the Center on International Cooperation at New York University, urged focus on people-centred education in a broad sense – the education of children and young people as members of society who want to grow throughout their lives, not only people who we want to encourage to be part of the economy.
Speakers also included Gabriela Cuevas Barron, president of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, and Professor Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University.