International Education: On Location in Qatar
CISCO Executive Bill Fowler Speaks
VICKI COBB, EDUCATION UPDATE: What is the thinking behind the leadership initiatives in education taken by the Arab states culminating in the WISE conference?
BILL FOWLER: I think the Middle East countries — and of course it’s not fair to talk about them as a bloc because each one has its individual needs, wants, idiosyncrasies — but what they’re doing as a group is creating a level of excitement. You need only to drive over to Education City here in Doha and see the degree to which their international partnerships in higher education and the way that that is turning into how they want to innovate and solve their problems in elementary and schools education. So they’re actually creating waves of people rethinking — in essence, they’re not new players, 34 years old, but in terms of being on the world stage and going from other countries that are developing, to countries that genuinely want to be, and that are, investing in being leading in terms of education. It’s created this nexus, that’s why WISE [was created] in the first place — to bring people together to talk about these things.
They are doing what every system does, which is wrestling with their own problems of tradition and culture, and how you create a 21st century workforce. Unlike most places in the world they are dealing with a resource-based economy that is finite, so that they know the clock is ticking. And when the clock strikes 12, they have to have globally competitive economies that are information based or exchange based or relationship based, because when the oil is gone, nobody will be here unless they have successfully created that. And therefore they have to have the workforce as educated in the same way that Singapore has educated its workforce.
If you think about what Singapore had to do based on no resources — they import their water — it’s a little different here, and Doha is one level of that, you go to Abu Dhabi it’s another, go to Dubai it’s a whole entirely different thing. But all of them are working in different ways and that’s why I say each of them is unique. They’re working in different ways to get to that point where they have a viable economy for their citizens post-oil. And it’s a fascinating job. #