The need to move from traditional memorisation-based education to creative new methods is clear, but a range of obstacles lie in the way, speakers said during a recent panel on creative thinking in education. They called on education leaders and policy makers to work hard to overcome those difficulties.
The panel, held at the Knowledge Hub in Egypt’s New Administrative Capital in early December, was part of the Wharton-QS Reimagine Education conference.
Tarek Shawki, Egypt’s former minister of education, talked about his attempts to change his country’s education system, specifically the basic education from kindergarten to high school, which qualifies students to enroll in the university.
Shawki, who is also a professor emeritus of engineering and a former dean of the School of Sciences and Engineering at the American University in Cairo, said Egypt direly needed to introduce new systems based on creative thinking to transform the society into a successful educational environment.
Such a change is necessary to carry out Egyptian political leaders’ wish to create a different educational system that keeps pace with global changes, he said.
“Parents totally refused the change. We tried to change their mind and convince them that it is in the interest of their children at the end of their education, to help them to be creative and able to meet labour market requirements. However, the parents completely rejected the proposals.”Tarek Shawki, Egypt’s former minister of education.
“Egypt implemented an official mandate to establish a platform that delivers educational materials to students in a modern and innovative way, unlike the old methods,” he said. It also introduced new, automatic mechanisms for grading exams “with no human intervention, to avoid former mistakes,” he said.
The changes constituted “a revolutionary step,” he said. “The new system targeted over 14 million students.”
Students responded well to the new processes, Shawki said. “The biggest problem was parents’ rejection of the new process,” he said. “They adhere to the old memorisation-based system, without considering the value of thinking.”
He added: “Parents totally refused the change. We tried to change their mind and convince them that it is in the interest of their children at the end of their education, to help them to be creative and able to meet labour market requirements. However, the parents completely rejected the proposals.”
Shawki said he believed, based on his experience, that Egyptian students urgently needed to benefit from mew education methodologies and called for efforts to change parents’ perspectives.
“They must understand the need to change from the old education systems to online ones that benefit students and help them acquire the required skills, far from the useless traditional curricula,” he said.
Shawki concluded by saying that the changes he wanted for Egypt’s basic education system were aimed at “creating innovation, using technology to measure educational outcomes, and measuring students’ creativity, instead of using the traditional method.”
Integrating Basic and University Education
Another speaker, Professor John Latham, Vice-Chancellor of the Coventry University Group in Britain, suggested merging basic education with higher education so that the academic perspective focuses on students’ skills. “This leads us to the stage of correct and continuous education, without separating the different educational grades,” he said.
“After putting a new educational system for students in place and it takes its course, final results will be impressive in the labour market. Graduates will be skilled workers who can think in new, creative ways, away from traditional ideas that do not meet the needs of the modern world.”Jawad Yousaf, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, Abu Dhabi University.
He added that the hoped-for integration would allow students to join universities equipped with skills that help them better respond to labour market needs.
He also noted that Britain’s educational system is always training teachers and university professors on various new experiences to transfer to students. This helps provide students with modern skills that enhance their capabilities, he said.
Latham also called for equality in educational opportunities, within a specific framework with standards known to all. “This would be the beginning of a professional educational path that would help students achieve positive results that enhance their skills in the future,” he said.
Breaking Down Barriers to Change
Jawad Yousaf, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Abu Dhabi University, called for breaking down barriers to modern, curricula, to achieve a creative education system based on innovation and thinking outside the box. The old educational methods are no longer compatible with the global labour market’s requirements, he said.
Yousaf admitted that changing the educational system at the level of schools and universities will not be easy.
But “after putting a new educational system for students in place and it takes its course, final results will be impressive in the labour market,” he said. “Graduates will be skilled workers who can think in new, creative ways, away from traditional ideas that do not meet the needs of the modern world.”
The Wharton-QS Reimagine Education Conference 2022 was held December 5 through 8. Organised by the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and the British higher-education analytics company QS Quacquarelli Symonds, the event featured sessions that took place online, at Egypt’s Knowledge Hub, and at the Wharton School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
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