26.01.2010 -

Interview with Haif Bannayan, Chief Executive Officer of the Jordan Education Initiative

Haif Bannayan: “JEI is the Arm of Innovation in Education”

Haif Bannayan, Chief Executive Officer of the Jordan Education Initiative, winner of the 2009 UNESCO King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa Prize for the Use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in Education talks to UNESCO about this initiative.   

What is the Jordan Education Initiative?

Developed by the World Economic Forum (WEF) and the Government of Jordan, the Jordan Education Initiative (henceforth the JEI), incorporates over 17 global corporations, 17 Jordanian entities, and 11 governmental and non-governmental organizations as stakeholders in achieving its goals, thus becoming the first global-local, public-private partnership programme in education ever launched by the WEF.

Launched in June 2003 at the Extraordinary Meeting of the World Economic Forum at the Dead Sea, the JEI was set up to accelerate education reform through public-private partnership models that drive innovation and capability.

Today, the JEI is a non profit limited liability company and is considered as the “Arm of Innovation in Education”.

Since its inception, JEI managed to foster and maintain partnerships and launched multi million dollar projects that have had a strong impact on the modernization process of education in Jordan, and effectively contributed to the development of the local private sector in areas of ICT and Professional Development.

How has the educational community in Jordan responded to this new experience? Is it equipped with the necessary technical infrastructure to learn and teach using ICTs?

Jordanians are a highly literate and exposed nation, who place a high emphasis on education. Since the launch of the Education Reform for Knowledge Economy by the Ministry of Education in 2003 and the National Broadband Learning and Resource Network by the Ministry of ICT, people have started realizing the importance of information and the information age. People are also recognizing that in order to satisfy the needs of our 'Digital Natives' we have to provide them with technology as a tool for accessing information and getting a “window to the world”. Naturally it’s not all a rosy picture, there are some people who are apprehensive, but we tend to rely on the early adopters and together we do a lot of coaching and change management in order to help the community see the value of the work we do.

Internet access to the home is still low in Jordan at less than 20 per cent, however, access to computers and to internet is higher through public access (over 50 per cent). Additionally, since public schools are very well distributed across the whole of Jordan, they can serve as community access hubs. That’s why we are working with the Ministry of Education and Ministry of ICT, and the office of Her Majesty Queen Rania on rolling out the JEI Technology and Education model in as many schools as possible.

What will this prize mean to the Jordan Education Initiative? Is it an opportunity to exchange experiences between Jordan and other Arab States?

The prize is an outstanding recognition especially coming from highly credible organizations (UNESCO, King Hamad Award, and the distinguished jury). It has always been one of the key strategic goals of the JEI to create a replicable model of reform that can be spread into the region. Since the setup of the JEI, the management has been actively seeking to do that, and so far some projects have been carried out in Dubai, Palestine, Abu Dhabi, Oman and Rwanda. We are already starting to feel the strong effect of the prize from the reaction of neighbouring countries, and having delegations from Arab countries wanting to visit Jordan, mainly to visit the JEI. We certainly will leverage the UNESCO King Hamad Bin Issa Al Khalifa prize, to harness stronger support from global partners, and also to promote the role of the JEI and spread the good work we do.

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