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The sixth annual Global Education and Skills Forum (GESF), held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, will focus on the theme of ‘How do we prepare young people for the world of 2030 and beyond?’

GESF 2018, a Varkey Foundation initiative, to be staged at The Atlantis, The Palm, Dubai on Saturday 17 – Sunday 18 March 2018, will once again have leading figures from the public, private, social, entertainment and sports sectors in attendance.  Widely referred to as ‘the Davos of Education’, the GESF will debate new ways for education to transform our world.

Among the key speakers spearheading sessions are Al Gore, former Vice-President of the United States; Nicholas Sarkozy, former President of France; Jennifer Hudson, Oscar-winning actress and Grammy award winning singer; Sir Mo Farah, four times Olympic Games Champion and six times World Champion in long distance running; Julia Gillard, former Prime Minister of Australia; Simon Schama, world-renowned historian and Tariq Al Gurg, CEO of Dubai Cares.

Augmented Reality (AR) pioneer and Blippar CEO Ambarish Mitra will give his six big predictions of the future, as well as showcase demonstrations of how Augmented Reality (AR) and Computer Vision (CV), which is the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) that trains camera lenses to recognise and understand the world we see, are set to transform education.

The climax of the GESF will be the award ceremony of the US $1 million Global Teacher Prize 2018, the fourth time the prize will have been awarded.   Last year, adventurer Bear Grylls parachuted into the ceremony with the trophy, before Canadian teacher Maggie MacDonnell was announced as the winner by astronaut Thomas Pesquet from the International Space Station.

Exciting sessions at GESF 2018 will include:

• GESF Live. Modelled on the popular late-night television talk show format, a series of shows will see a celebrity anchor and prominent guests from the worlds of politics, sport, entertainment, and the teaching profession discuss education and the world of 2030.

• The Coffee House – where some of the world’s most influential leaders, thinkers and opinion-makers will share the secrets behind their success – and what they see as the future of education and skills – in a series of thought provoking conversations before answering questions from the audience.

• The Boardroom will feature the world’s leading CEOs and captains of industry in a boardroom-style discussion on the big business issues relevant to education and employment.

• Public Briefings – flagship addresses from leading experts on topics ranging from “What Can Students And Educators Do To Combat Fake News?” to “The Power of Art: how to not just look but see”. Delegates will gain a cutting edge insight into some of the most important subject shaping education across the world.

• The Debate Chamber – a mock UK House of Commons chamber will host a series of thought-provoking debates, with high profile individuals speaking for and against each of the motions.  Debates scheduled over the weekend will include: “Do Children Sit Too Many Standardised Tests”; “Is The Rise Of Populism A Dangerous Thing For Society?” and “Is Teaching ‘21st Century Skills’ An Educational Dead End?”

• Model UN – A mock UN assembly hall will host young people, over the two days, to deliberate, in a UN debate format, on the key issues they believe are important for the rest of us to prioritise. They will debate the issues that will shape their future – from the challenge of achieving equitable and inclusive education for all, to the refugee crisis, to the growing threat of cyber-attacks.

This year’s GESF will also have a significant focus on technology and will for the first time host Tomorrow, a new Ed Tech Summit featuring the largest ever showcase of innovative start ups set to make a difference in emerging markets and the developing world, where problems of accessing education and getting the best quality teaching are most pressing.

A new purpose-built Futurezone is also set to host The Immersive Learning Showcase, five distinct spaces each housing a different type of interactive experience.  These will include experiencing the life of a refugee, the adversity of living without a home, standing at the foot of glaciers to experience how fast they’re melting, and a VR surgery experience enabling people to perform complex medical procedures without risking any harm to real patients.

The Futurezone will also feature Stark Choices – an immersive, interactive experience offering two very different visions for the future. In a utopian scenario, issues will be explored including whether the rise of machines can free humans to work less and explore their passions; whilst in an alternative dystopian scenario, precarious working conditions and the use of robots leads to fear and anxiety amongst many as to the future. Delegates will be confronted with the reality that both utopias and dystopias are possible, and as we stand on the brink of possibilities, we have the opportunity to make the right choice.

Sunny Varkey, Founder of the Varkey Foundation, said:

“We are delighted to be holding our sixth annual Global Education and Skills in Dubai, held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

“The reason we chose 2030 to focus on at this year’s GESF is that this is when the technologies that are in their infancy will start to chisel our societies into a radically different shape.  Those young people that will enter the jobs market in 2030 are already learning in today’s primary schools.  We must make decisions today on what skills they will need for this new world.

“On the one hand, technology puts within our hands the opportunity to solve humanity’s greatest scourges – from disease and hunger to poverty and climate change.  But the most pressing danger is that these technologies, if not shared, could make the gaps between rich and poor parts of the world even more extreme, fanning dangerous populism and extremism. GESF 2018 is all set to lead the way on how we tackle this challenge head on.”