KUWAIT— Ahoud Alasfour, an educational reform activist and researcher, has been president of the Gulf Comparative Education Society since 2018, and the group’s conference this year is more vital for education in the Gulf than ever, she says.
After a year in which educational institutions around the region have been forced to rely on online learning because of the coronavirus shutdowns, she says reforms are urgently needed and now impossible to ignore.
The society’s latest biannual conference, to be held online March 21 to 23, will offer a dedicated panel on Covid-19 to focus on the new challenges the pandemic has brought to education, from psychological effects felt by teachers and students, to learning methodologies. (See a collection of articles about how Covid-19 is affecting higher education, research, and arts and culture across the Arab world.)
Among the top priorities for discussion at this year’s conference is teacher education. “The social recognition of teachers as professionals and teacher preparation programs are key elements to any educational reform,” Alasfour said.
“There are regional experiences in reforming teacher education programs like in Bahrain, and the introduction of teachers’ licenses in Qatar and the U.A.E., to mention a few, so we are hoping to hear more in the conference about regional experiences” across the Gulf Cooperation Council countries.
A Range of Issues to Be Discussed
The conference will deal with issues and challenges for education from kindergarten to higher education, bringing together a range of institutions and professionals of different backgrounds across the Gulf countries. Though the society, known as GCES, is still relatively unknown in the region, Alasfour hopes to bring academics together to encourage dialogue and shared experiences.
The gap between higher education and the workplace, she says, is one challenge which must be on the agenda: Graduates are still seriously under-equipped for the world of work.