A WISE move: reflecting on the recent summit in Qatar

Delegates from 100+ countries visited Doha for the global World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE). UB’s Editor reviews the biennial event

Some of the world’s greatest leaders in the fields of education, technology and media were invited to Doha for the World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE)

This year’s conference theme, ‘Co-exist, Co-Create: Learning to Live and Work Together’, saw delegates discuss the importance of global educational and social challenges in an uncertain world. The main speakers at the conference included influential journalists, professors, chief executives and senior university administrators, who shared their experiences and recommendations with delegates. Several hands-on workshops and labs will also be run by international organisations for both adults and children to encourage interactive debates.

Participants explored and discovered a wide variety of topics shaping the future of teaching and learning, including artificial intelligence, the role of teachers, leveraging social entrepreneurship for innovation, changing attitudes toward migrants, reimagining higher education in the connected world, the impact of nudging, connecting private and public actors and strategies to build future knowledge societies.

WISE is a multi-sectoral platform offering the global education community a unique opportunity to meet, share experiences, build new partnerships and identify concrete innovative practices to address education challenges.

There were many complex subjects discussed and debated at WISE, but a familiar topic that often arises at an edtech conference is the tech vs teach debate – will technology replace teachers? Is it more of a hindrance than a help? And how can the education sector utilise it to its full advantage? In his opening session, CNN journalist Fareed Zakaria asked: “Is teaching children how to spell, when every phone, every tablet, every computer, has a spellcheck on it, or teaching simple maths calculations, when you just put this into Google and you get the answer immediately, the best use of the precious resources of a school?” he asked. Zakaria was later joined on stage by Professor Kishore Mahbubani, dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, to discuss how education should respond to the challenges in a world of fake news, misinformation and rapid technological advances. “In this new world technology has actually played a pernicious role, it has made it very easy to select facts from a vast, undifferentiated mess of information in the internet, with no hierarchy at all,” he said.

Established by Qatar Foundation under the leadership of its chairperson, Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, in 2009, the biennial conference hosts 2,000 top education experts from 100 countries around the world at Qatar National Convention Centre (QNCC).

Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development is a private, non-profit organisation that serves the people of Qatar by supporting and operating programmes in three core mission areas: education, science and research, and community development. 

This year’s three-pillar programME included more than 50 sessions:

Learning to Learn New perspectives and practices in teaching and learning
Discover new and emerging approaches that help learners develop relevant cognitive, social and emotional skill-sets to live and work in the age of disruption.

Co-existing in a Changing World Developing skills, attitudes and values to shape tomorrow
Explore the role of innovation in education to cultivate values, behaviours and attitudes to address complex challenges, and support cultural cohesion and global citizenship.

Co-creating Knowledge Societies Transitioning from knowledge economies to knowledge societies
Examine strategies, policies and practices that empower and enable individuals to become skilled innovators who can drive economic development, contribute to social good and design the future.


ABOVE: Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, Chairperson of Qatar Foundation, presented the prize to Mr Patrick Awuah at the Opening Plenary session WISE 2017.

Patrick Awuah presented with WISE Prize for Education 2017

The prestigious WISE Prize for Education was this year presented to Mr Patrick Awuah, founder and president of Ashesi University College, a private, not-for-profit institution that has become one of Ghana’s premier universities in little over a decade. The WISE Prize for Education is the first distinction of its kind to recognise an outstanding, world-class contribution to education. The Laureate receives the WISE Prize for Education gold medal, and $500,000.

Patrick Awuah left Ghana in 1985 with $50 in his pocket and a full scholarship to Pennsylvania’s Swarthmore College in the United States. After graduating, Patrick Awuah had a very successful career at Microsoft where he spearheaded design for dial-up internet access. Keen to make a difference in his own country, he returned to Ghana, intending to start a software company.

 Arriving back in Ghana, Patrick Awuah quickly understood that fostering ethical leadership would be key to building a generation that is able to bring positive change in Africa. In 2002, Ashesi University College (“beginning” in Akan) opened its doors in a rented house with a first class of 30 students. 

 Today, Ashesi University College has a world-class campus of 100 acres, overlooking Accra, with nearly 900 students. The University offers four-year bachelor degrees in engineering, business administration, computer science and management information systems. The degree is based upon an interdisciplinary curriculum with a continual emphasis on leadership, ethics and entrepreneurship. Before graduating, all students engage in community service.

 Ashesi University College places an emphasis on cultural, economic, and gender diversity with 50% of the students on full or partial scholarships. Half of students are women and over 20 countries are represented on the campus. Additionally, in 2008, Ashesi University College students established an honour code, holding themselves responsible for ethical behaviour, the first of its kind in African universities.

On receiving the WISE Prize, Patrick Awuah said: “This is a crucial moment for Africa – today, one out of six people on earth live in Africa, and this is set to rise to one in four by 2050. We urgently need to boost the education system in Africa to ensure we can tap into this shift to strengthen the continent. Winning the WISE Prize will support the work we are already doing at Ashesi University College to inspire and educate, and build a community of people who can navigate the complexities of

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