The 2015 Global Education and Skills Forum Award ceremony.
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The 2015 Global Education and Skills Forum Award ceremony.
File picture of last year’s GESF 2015 event. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai, and President Bill Clinton, Honorary Chairman of the Varkey Foundation, at last year’s Global Education & Skills Forum 2015 award ceremony in Dubai, UAE.
  • Over 70 distinguished speakers, including over 20 Education Ministers, to provide compelling insights on making education everybody’s business
  • Live announcement and ceremony of the Global Teacher Prize 2016
  • Panel discussion on ‘How we address the challenge of ensuring refugee children’ receive a quality education, whether displaced internally or abroad
  • Education technology providers from Silicon Valley to discuss how digital world opportunities can be harnessed for student betterment

Now in its fourth year, the Global Education & Skills Forum (GESF), convened by the Varkey Foundation and 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 debate how education can be made everyone’s business on March 12-13 at Atlantis The Palm, Dubai.

Leading the key plenary sessions are Andreas Schleicher, Director for Education and Skills and Special Advisor on Education Policy at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Irina Bokova, Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and Sir Martin Sorrell, Group CEO of WPP.

Other key speakers participating in the two day event include; Prof. Mohammad Thneibat, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education of Jordan; H.E. Elias Abu Saab, Education Minister of Lebanon; Arne Duncan, United States Secretary of Education from 2009 through early 2016 and Tariq Al Gurg, CEO, Dubai Cares.

This year’s GESF, whose partners include UNESCO, Harvard Graduate School of Education and Dubai Cares, will witness intense debates on reconciling the relevance, excellence and inclusiveness of both public and private learning environments through the collective responsibility by politicians, business leaders, educationalists and media professionals.

Sunny Varkey, Founder of the Varkey Foundation, said: “Half a billion children are currently in failing schools. This is simply not acceptable in a world where we’re now so interconnected.

“This forum intends to tackle this head on by asking the simple question of how we can make education everybody’s business. During the forum we will engage in pioneering debates, discuss fresh evidence and launch brand new initiatives that can help make the goal of providing every child on the planet a quality education a real possibility”.

This year’s GESF will see a key panel discussion on ‘How do we address the challenge of refugee children?’. This will include Prof. Mohammad Thneibat, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education of Jordan, George Papandreou, former Prime Minister of Greece, Global Teacher Prize Top 10 finalist, Aqeela Asifi, a teacher with the Commissionerate for Afghan Refugees and Tom Fletcher, Global Strategy Director, Global Business Coalition For Education.

Vikas Pota, CEO of the Varkey Foundation, added: “Last year, according to UNHCR, there were 19.5million refugees worldwide; of them, 51 per cent were under 18 years old – the highest figure for child refugees in more than a decade.

“With a whole generations of displaced children missing out on education, long-term human capacity issues are only compounded for countries already in crisis. This key panel discussion will provide insights into how, collectively, we can ensure that all children receive quality education, whether displaced internally or abroad.”

The forum will also see the launch of new alliances made up of private businesses, academia, government and the third sector to begin work on drawing up recommendations on education’s most pressing issues – ranging form Girls Education to Education Innovation.

Another Forum highlight is a series of 30 minute EdTalks which will inspire and challenge delegates in ways they can each take responsibility for public education. As part of these sessions, delegates also get to meet education technology providers.

On March 12, pioneers of education from Silicon Valley will discuss ‘The latest edtech thinking from Silicon Valley to Singapore’ and debate how today’s digital learning experts are already redefining responsibilities and success in public education.

Another key edtech session is a powerful short talk with Dennis Yang, CEO of Udemy, where he will share his unique point of view on the online education marketplace and real life experience of forever changing the way Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are made.

Some of the world’s leading EdTech companies including Speakaboos and Brainpop will be in attendance as well as some of Silicon Valley’s edtech specialist venture capitalists such as Reach Capital and Owl Ventures. After each short presentation delegates, school leaders, and journalists will have time to meet each company individually to deep dive and learn more about their products and services.

This year’s Forum will also see masterclasses conducted by the Top 10 finalists of the US$1 million Global Teacher Prize (GTP). These 10 teachers, from Australia, Finland, India, Japan, Kenya, Pakistan, Palestine, UK and USA, will share their teaching models that saw them make it to the final 10 from over 8,000 applicants from 148 countries.

GESF 2016 will culminate on Sunday March 13 with the live announcement of the second annual award of the US $1 million Global Teacher Prize.

The Global Teacher Prize was set up to recognize one exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession as well as to shine a spotlight on the important role teachers play in society.

By unearthing thousands of stories of heroes that have transformed young people’s lives, the prize hopes to bring to life the exceptional work of millions of teachers all over the world. By highlighting their stories the Varkey Foundation hopes that the public will be able to join in passionate debates about the importance of teachers.