Pearson launches “Intelligence Unleashed: An Argument for AI in Education” in Middle East.

NEW PAPER PUBLISHED BY PEARSON MAKES THE CASE FOR WHY WE MUST MAKE ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE IN MIDDLE EAST EDUCATION MORE SERIOUSLY
10th July, 2016
DUBAI, RIYADH: In a world where digital tools support virtually every part of our lives, why is it that the full power of such tools has yet to be unleashed to those who might benefit most – educators and learners? In the latest of its series of publications concerning digital learning, Intelligence Unleashed: An Argument for AI in Education, Pearson, in collaboration with the UCL Knowledge Lab, maps out how artificial intelligence in education (AIEd) can be used to create learning tools that are more efficient, flexible and inclusive than those currently available; tools that will help learners in the Middle East prepare for an economy that is swiftly being reshaped by digital technologies.

The paper addresses a number of important and provocative questions that hold pertinence for policy makers, educators, parents and students throughout the Middle East region as it rapidly takes up emerging digital innovations. Such questions include: How can teachers and learners benefit from AIEd right now? How might learner outcomes be improved by AIEd in the very near future? And, how can AIEd contribute to systemic challenges facing the education sector at large?
The authors, led by Professor Rose Luckin and Wayne Holmes of the UCL Knowledge Lab, highlight existing and emergent technology that could be leveraged to address some of the most intractable issues in education, many of which are felt acutely here in the Middle East, such as achievement gaps. For example, technology available today could be applied to support student learning at a scale previously unimaginable by providing one-on-one tutoring to every student, in every subject. Existing technologies also have the capacity to provide intelligent support to learners working in a group, and to create authentic virtual learning environments where students have the right support, at the right time, to tackle real-life problems and puzzles.
Pushing the bounds of practice and theory, the paper considers a future where teaching and learning is supported by the thoughtful application of AIEd. Imagine lifelong learning companions powered by AI that can accompany and support individual learners throughout their studies – in and beyond school – or new forms of assessment that measure learning while it is taking place, shaping the learning experience in real time.
Ultimately, the tools of AIEd help respond to the new innovation imperative in education – the need, in a jobs market re-shaped by technology, to help learners achieve at higher levels, and in a wider set of skills, than any education system has managed to date. However, that vision isn’t possible without deliberate efforts to elevate the conversation about AIEd.
“AI is already impacting education. To fully benefit from what AIEd has to offer, we must involve teachers, parents and learners to ensure that AIEd tools are grounded in learning, and that they deliver what is genuinely needed. We call for a radical change in the way that AIEd is currently funded, to break away from the today’s siloed and inefficient environment. It is our hope that this work will spark a positive and proactive debate,” commented Rose Luckin, Professor of Learner Centred Design from the UCL Knowledge Lab.
In their recommendations, the authors hone in on three critical forces that must be managed as the future of AIEd in the Middle East emerges: involving teachers, students and parents in co-designing new tools so that AIEd addresses real needs of the classroom and other learning environments; embedding proven pedagogical techniques in the design of new AIEd-powered edtech products; and creating smart demand for commercial grade AIEd products that work.
Karim Daoud, Managing Director of Pearson in the Middle East said, “Countries in the GCC like to be ahead of the game when it comes to education, with many in the sector keen to embrace the latest and most innovative learning technologies available. Therefore, I think that it is likely that AIEd will have a great role to play in the future of education in this region. Equipping the large and growing population of young people in the region with an education that welcomes the role of AI and uses it to the advantage of learners is important, and this paper sets out ways in which this can be achieved”.
Sir Michael Barber, Chief Education Adviser at Pearson said, “There is no doubt that AI will significantly influence what we teach and learn, as well as how we do it. The challenge is to ensure that it truly supports teachers, learners, and their parents. Many important decisions will need to be made as these technologies develop, mature, and scale; this paper offers some concrete options that will allow us to realize the potential of AIEd at the system level.”
This paper is published as part of the Open Ideas at Pearson series. The series features some of the best minds in education – from teachers and technologists, to researchers and big thinkers – to bring their ideas and insights to a wider audience. Future pieces on digital learning will feature topics including adaptive learning and how we can build efficacy into learning technologies.
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About Pearson
Pearson is the world’s learning company, with expertise in educational courseware and assessment, and a range of teaching and learning services powered by technology.
Our mission is to help people make progress through access to better learning. We believe that learning opens up opportunities, creating fulfilling careers and better lives.
About the UCL Knowledge Lab
The UCL Knowledge Lab (previously known as the London Knowledge Lab) is an interdisciplinary research centre at the UCL Institute of Education, University College London.
Our mission is both to understand and to design ways in which new digital technologies can support and transform learning and teaching throughout the life course, at home and at work.
We start from the belief that new technologies, when we fully exploit their possibilities, will change not only the ways we learn, but what we learn, as well as how we work, how we collaborate, and how we communicate. Based on research and evidence, we are devising new pedagogies, implementing innovative digital systems, developing new areas of knowledge, and informing policymakers and educational stakeholders.
Read the full report here:

HBMSU Chancellor appointed governing board member of UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies in Education.

Dr. Mansoor Al Awar becomes first Arab scholar  to join world’s elite educators for his role in promoting smart learning across Arab World
[UAE, September 27, 2014] – The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN), has announced the appointment of Dr. Mansoor Al Awar, Chancellor of Hamdan Bin Mohammed Smart University (HBMSU), as the newest member of the governing board of the UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies in Education. Dr. Mansoor will be responsible for directing the institute’s efforts and initiatives towards bridging the digital divide in education and the development of knowledge-based societies. He will also be involved in consolidating human resources in the region, particularly through the publication of ePrograms for continuous learning purposes.

Dr. Mansoor will be joining an elite group of the world’s most prominent educators, including 10 officials and dignitaries who have made major contributions in the promotion and dissemination of information and communication technologies (ICT) across the field of education. The HBMSU Chancellor’s appointment is attributed to the pivotal role he has played in the promotion of smart educational resources in the Arab World.
 

Dr. Mansoor Al Awar

This is the first time that an Arab scholar has been nominated for membership to the governing board of UNESCO’s Institute for Information Technologies in Education. The nomination, according to UNESCO senior officials, is in recognition of Dr. Mansoor’s key efforts in spreading a culture of smart learning and disseminating contemporary knowledge to suit the needs of the Arab region.
H.E. Lieutenant General Dahi Khalfan Tamim, DeputyChairman of Police and Dubai General Security and Chairman of HBMSU Board of Governors, commented on the election of Dr. Al Awar for this eminent position, “This appointment is attributed to the patronage of our young state’s leaders, along with the efforts of loyal and creative youths in uplifting the UAE among other nations in the most prestigious international events.”
The UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies in Education was established as an integral part of UNESCO by the General Conference of UNESCO at its 29th session (November 1997). The institute contributes to the design and implementation of the programmes of the organization with regard to the application of ICT in education.
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All six GCC countries rank within the top 10 in Western Asia, Bahrain, UAE & KSA rank under top 20 countries in online service delivery.

GCC countries achieve manifest ranks in the UN e-Government Survey 2014.
  
UAE, July 16, 2014ICDL GCC Foundation, an organization under the authority of ICDL Arabia that promotes digital skills and cyber safety across the region, has shared the recent findings of the United Nations (UN) e-Government Survey 2014, pointing out the excellent performance of the GCC countries.

Bahrainjumped 18 places to earn the 18th rank, while the UAE enjoyed a global ranking of 32. Other GCC countries also figured prominently in the survey with Saudi Arabia at 36, Qatarat 44 and Oman and Kuwaitat 48 and 49, respectively. The UN e-Government Survey is conducted every two years to analyze the progress made by the countries in all regions of the world in digital interactions between governments and people to implement an integrated e-Government platform. This year’s report focuses on the significant investment made by countries in the information and communication technologies (ICT) for a smooth transition to online public services by enhancing efficiency, effectiveness, transparency, accountability, and sustainability.
Jamil Ezzo, Director General of ICDL Arabia and ICDL GCC Foundation.

Jamil Ezzo, Director General of ICDL Arabia and ICDL GCC Foundation, said: “The tremendous rise in the ranking of the GCC countries in their position from the 2012 survey depicts their e-Readiness, which indicates their preparedness to offer its citizens, residents and visitors with seamless, efficient and effective e-Services. The GCC countries ranking among top ten in Western Asia driven largely by the proactive initiatives taken by their respective governments to implement online services as an economic tool to support the knowledge economy.
The GCC governments have made significant investment to build their government portals, which offer swift and transparent services. In addition, the report has recognized the deployment of the Emirates ID Authority’s Biometric Enrolment in the UAE as part of the National ID Registration Program as one of the world’s best biometric programs.”
Bahrainranked first among the GCC countries, while it is 5th in Asia. Bahrain’s progress is attributed to the Supreme Committee for Information and Communication Technology (SCICT) and the e-Government Authority, established to develop and implement a comprehensive e-Government strategy. Driven by a highly advanced e-Government portal, the UAE ranks number two in the GCC and seven in Asia. The results of the 2014 survey also show that Bahrain ranks 7th on the Online Service Index, followed by the UAE and Saudi Arabia at the 12thand 18th position, respectively. Moreover, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwaitare the Arab countries with a score higher than 66.6 per cent in the whole of government.
Driven by a highly advanced e-Government portal, the UAE ranks number two in the GCC and seven in Asia. In fact on emirate level, Abu Dhabi’s Systems and Information Center (ADSIC) the body responsible for e-Government implementation recently won first place award in the ‘Best Application of Information Technology and e-Learning’ category at the recently concluded World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Conference in Geneva, Switzerland for its successful implementation of an initiative that aims at empowering the public with basic ICT skills to be able to use Internet and online services. Dubai, on the other hand, has initiated its transformation from e-Government to Smart Government, a concept of delivering government services through innovative and technologically advanced channels.
Likewise, the report also stated that the GCC countries have established a GCC e-Government committee and organized the GCC e-Government Conference with an aim to provide a platform to the regional leaders to discuss in depth all aspects of the e-Governance programs implemented in their respective countries. The conference also enables them to share their best practices with other GCC countries in order to enhance their respective e-Transformation processes.
The GCC countries have adopted a common goal to enhance their e-Services that will allow them to increase the productivity and efficiency of government and improve their global e-Government ranking.
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About ICDL:

The International Computer Driving License (ICDL) is a global computer literacy initiative developed to provide knowledge about Information Technology (IT) and enhance competence of using personal computers and common computer applications for all the citizens of the world. The ICDL GCC Foundation is the sole body to implement and disseminate the program across the GCC States and Iraq with the support of leading educational institutions and accredited bodies. The Foundation mission is to enable proficient use of Information and Communications Technology that empowers individuals, organizations and society, through the development, promotion and delivery of quality certification programs around the world.

First forum of its kind to promote creativity and innovation in smart learning.

“Hamdan Bin Mohammed Smart University” launches “Smart Learning Best Practice Forum 2014”
 University supports transformation to “smart city” model
]UAE, July 14, 2014[ “Hamdan Bin Mohammed Smart University” has announced the launch of its “Smart Learning Best Practice Forum” for the year 2014. The aim of the forum is to encourage the exchange of best practices in smart learning in educational, academic and training institutions across the world. Moreover, it will promote creativity and innovation in smart learning as an essential factor to ensure successful transformation to “smart city” model. The forum will be held on October 20, 2014 and will include seven trackes namely: “smart learning”, “learner centricity”, “excellence orientation”, “smart partnership”, “technology exploitation”, “resource utilization”, and “process innovation”.

“Smart Learning Best Practice Forum 2014” is the first forum of its kind that encourages the implementation of the best practices in smart learning in educational, academic, and training institutions. It supports the continual growth and development of smart learning including the ability to come up with innovative ideas, evaluate their compatibility with strategic thinking approaches and ensure their implementation rigorously to achieve tangible and intangible benefits. The event is supported by European Learning Industry Group (ELIG), the Swiss Center for Innovations in Learning (SCIL) of St. Gallen’s University, the International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE), and the Association of Arab Universities.

The agenda of the forum includes seminars, discussions and the “Smart Learning Best Practice Award” a first-of-its-kind awards that was launched to honor the best practices followed in the educational and training institutions across the world and to ensure the quality of smart learning as a prominent feature of the modern world based on technical innovations. The “Smart Learning Best Practice Award” has seven categories and will be awarded as per the evaluation of an International Jury comprising world-wide International experts and specialists in best practice thinking with smart learning aspects based on unified criteria of Novelty,  Innovativeness, Sustainability, Transferability, Maturity, Implementability and Compatibility. 

 

 Hamdan Bin Mohammed Smart University – Dr. Mansoor Al Awar, Chancellor

Dr. Mansoor Al Awar, Chancellor, said: “Smart Learning Best Practice Forum 2014” is launched to support Smart Learning Initiative introduced by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai. It is a solid platform that will enhance the learning experience by adopting the highest standards of Smart Learning to boost education as an essential component of the UAE Vision 2021. Likewise, the Smart Learning Best Practice Award will add value to HBMSU’s efforts to encourage the culture of excellence, creativity and innovation in Smart Learning by honoring and promoting the best practices that keep pace with rapid changes in the digital world.”   

 

Participation in “Smart Learning Best Practice Forum 2014” and Smart Learning Best Practice Award is open to any individual or team involved in Smart Learning practices from any educational or training institutions around the world. Individuals or institutions willing to participate in the forum may register by completing the free application form available on the university’s website: www.hbmsu.ac.ae, and institutions that seeks to establish itself as a smart learning institution can apply for any of the awards’ categories by submitting the award application form to the e-TQM Institute before the 1st of September, 2014.

Lack of essential digital proficiency marked as major obstacle for job seekers in GCC.

Ezzo: Being ready for today’s job market requires more than knowledge in Internet, email and common office applications
  
UAE, April 22, 2014 – ICDL GCC Foundation, an organisation dedicated to promoting digital skills and cyber safety for-all across the Gulf region, has announced that fresh university graduates in the GCC are likely to face stiff challenges in securing good employment opportunities due to their lack of readiness with the essential ICT skills required by today’s job market. ICDL further stated that this is due to technology progressing much faster than education, and hence, our region’s education system falls short of providing students with the relevant skills needed in the 21st century workplace.

In a world where even job seeking is increasingly changing, a job seeker must possess the skills to leverage ICT in the job search. A job seeker must be able to use the available online search tools, upload a CV on the various job portals, and utilize the popular social media platforms. According to a digital literacy survey provided in 2013 Prince’s Trust Report, one in 10 unemployed young individuals cannot even send their CV online, while more than one in six believe they would be in work today if they had better computer skills. With this alarming problem facing the world’s job seekers, let alone our own, the education system must prepare teachers to deliver the needed skills to students and must incorporate practical ICT training in the curricula before students graduate.
Major changes in ICT are happening and happening too fast, evidenced by the introduction of technologies relevant to cloud computing, cyber safety, IT security, social media, collaboration, and web meeting. Employers in the public and private sectors are pushing to leverage these technologies in order to become more cost-efficient and customer service oriented. These rapid changes have also brought about drastic shifts in the GCC’s job landscape. According to the European Commission Digital Agenda, 90 per cent of jobs will need at least a reasonable level of ICT skills by 2015.
Jamil Ezzo, Director General of ICDL GCC Foundation, emphasised on the need of equipping the youth with the relevant ICT skills to ensure their readiness for today’s workplace. He said: “Being ready for today’s job market requires a bit more than knowledge in using the Internet, email and the common office applications. Employers are demanding ICT skills that are aligned with the latest technologies, they are employing. The education system in the GCC must keep up with these technological developments and fully understand the region’s job market demands to ensure that graduates are ready with the skills to be able to take the first step in their careers.”   
“ICDL GCC Foundation has been working in collaboration with qualification and educational regulators to implement various internationally recognized computer certification programs that help GCC Nationals to be skilled, re-skilled and up skilled in line with the latest international trends in ICT training and certification. As the GCC moves towards knowledge-based economy, it is imperative the GCC workforce are trained with the latest digital skills for functional industry experience to give a boost to the policy of Nationalization” concluded Ezzo.
Driven by the emerging trends and latest technologies, ICDL has revealed recently a new structure for its ICT certification offering prospective employees as well as employers the flexibility, diversity and relevance to acquire the ICT skills they need. The New ICDL is currently being widely reviewed and accepted by schools around the world and particularly in the UAE, Qatar and Bahrain. 
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About ICDL:

The International Computer Driving License (ICDL) is a global computer literacy initiative developed to provide knowledge about Information Technology (IT) and enhance competence of using personal computers and common computer applications for all the citizens of the world. The ICDL GCC Foundation is the sole body to implement and disseminate the program across the GCC States and Iraq with the support of leading educational institutions and accredited bodies. The Foundation mission is to enable proficient use of Information and Communications Technology that empowers individuals, organizations and society, through the development, promotion and delivery of quality certification programmes around the world. 

Regionally contextualised resources boost student engagement in Gulf region.

Pearson Offers Arab Specific Learning Resources
  
Dubai, UAE, 26 November 2013: Pearson, the world’s largest learning company, has pledged its commitment to providing learners in the Gulf region with culturally relevant and contextualised educational resources.

Mr Nigel Kelly, who leads Pearson’s portfolio for schools in the Middle East, says learning materials that have been developed especially for regional students allow for better student engagement in the learning process and higher achievement levels. He says:
“Students are more likely to reach their potential in the classroom when they are taught using learning resources that take into account their background and experiences. Resources that use examples, images and language familiar to students help them better relate to the learning content, and therefore more likely to assimilate and recall new information”.
Mr Kelly made these comments as Pearson announced its Social Studies for Saudi Arabia series has been adapted so that it now caters for learners from kindergarten to grade eight. The series had previously only been available for students up to grade five. A Social Studies text for the entire Gulf is also currently under development.
Pearson also offers the My Gulf World and Me series, which includes six levels of carefully leveled readers that provide a clear progression path for school-age students developing the basics of the English language. The books feature local, everyday words, visual themes and topics taken from the Middle East to give children the opportunity to engage with key learning areas. The series also offers an activity book for each level to consolidate learning and encourage the application of core skills, grammar, speaking, listening, writing and comprehension.
The author, Kate Riddle says she has seen the difference these texts can make to the learning experiences of students in the Gulf:
“It is fantastic to see how excited students become when they read books that contain photos and information that relate to their daily lives in the Middle East. Immediately their interest is heightened, and they are motivated to continue reading and learning.”
Since 2011, Pearson has also offered a series of academic textbooks especially created for Arab university students known as the Arab World Editions. The collection encompasses 16 titles, across a range of disciplines including Finance, Accounting, Mathematics, Science, Business and Marketing. The collection consists of brand new titles as well as Arab adaptions of popular international texts. The author of the Arab World Edition of Introduction to Mathematical Analysis, Professor Saadia Khouyibaba, says that the collection meets strong demand in the region for textbooks and accompanying resources that are developed and written by academics that live and work in the region and that understand the unique learning needs of regional students.
“For the first time, Arab students have access to high quality learning resources, created by leading international experts that take into account the unique cultural, religious, political and economic circumstances of the region. By using examples taken from Arab companies, interviews with Arab business people and case studies of Arab examples, students from the region are more engaged with their learning and therefore motivated to achieve better grades. Regionally tailored resources also provide students with knowledge that will be more relevant to their future careers in this region”.
Sue Mainey, who is responsible for marketing the Arab World Editions for Pearson, believes that it is not only the texts themselves that have made this collection so popular, but the accompanying materials that have also been tailored to meet the learning needs of students in the region.
“Feedback we have received from lecturers using the Arab World Editions is that the Arabized accompanying resources, which include the online homework and teaching tool, MyLabs, make the whole learning process a dynamic and engaging experience for students. Lecturers have recorded significant improvements to student performance after using these products, which indicates the efficacy of the texts and support materials in make a real difference to student outcomes”.
Mr Kelly says that Pearson is confident these regionally tailored resources, will continue to have a positive impact on the learning outcomes of students across the Gulf region.
“Pearson works all around the world to bring educational solutions to millions of people every day. This far reaching experience has shown us that the best learning takes place when it is relevant to those undertaking it. Therefore, I believe that these contextualised learning tools will make a real and lasting difference to learners in this region, helping them to meet their learning goals and realise their ambitions”.

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HSBC Lends a Hand to 200 Orphans and Underprivileged Kids from the UAE through Digital Learning Summer Camp.

Partners with ICDL GCC, local Education Zones and Charities to Teach youngsters Key Skills in Social Media and Cyber Safety
]UAE, August 19, 2013[ – ICDL GCC Foundation, an organisation that promotes digital skills and cyber safety across the Gulf region, and leading global financial services organization HSBC Middle East have renewed their partnership for the second year in a row to empower 200 orphans and underprivileged youngsters from Ajman, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah and Sharjah with essential skills in social media and cyber safety.

This initiative launched yesterday (18thAugust)runs until 5thSeptember 2013, and is delivered in the form of a Summer Camp; and it is dedicated to educate participants on safety concerns when using social media websites and smart devices. The Summer Camp will offer the students a chance to learn new skills as well as to socialize with others in a fun learning environment and receive gifts.

At the ICDL GCC Summer Camp in 2012, 72 underprivileged boys and girls from the Emirates of Fujairah and Ras Al Khaimah received ICDL computer skills through funding from HSBC Bank Middle East. The initiative represents a unique and sizable public/private sector partnership between a number of educational authorities, charities, ICDL GCC and HSBC Middle East aimed at bridging the digital gap for youth from impoverished backgrounds and helping them to engage responsibly and safely in today’s connected society.
The three week long Summer Camp is coordinated in partnership with (Fujairah Welfare Association; Fujairah Education Zone; Fujairah College; Ras Al Khaimah Education Zone; Ras Al Khaimah Red Crescent; Al Ihsan Charity Association; Sharjah Social Empowerment; and Sharjah Education Zone). The training and test services is delivered by each of Fujairah College and the National Institute of Vocational Education (NIVE) in Dubai.
The Summer Camp will also include a group of national job seekers in partnership with Sharjah Human Resource Department that will go through the ICDL international certification programme.
Director General of ICDL GCC, Mr. Jamil Ezzo highlighted the robust and durable partnership it has managed to create and strengthen over the years with members of the regional corporate community. “We are very grateful to HSBC Bank Middle East for continuously supporting this noble endeavour. We’ve always believed that the task of effectively nurturing the next generation’s talent and upgrading their digital skills is a collaborative effort – a responsibility shared by the government and private entities including educational institutions, non-profit organisations and corporations,” he said. Ezzo added ‘HSBC’s generous help received by our Summer Camp initiative since 2012 is a reflection of its strong commitment to the local society and its support to good causes through CSR initiative’.
Ammar Shams, Regional Head of Corporate Sustainability at HSBC Bank Middle East added “We recognize the importance of sustainable development in this part of the world and young people are key for future success. We are proud to support an initiative that gives youngsters access to learning opportunities that they would not have otherwise and empower them to make informed decisions.”
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About ICDL:

The International Computer Driving License (ICDL) is a global computer literacy initiative developed to provide knowledge about Information Technology (IT) and enhance competence of using personal computers and common computer applications for all the citizens of the world. The ICDL GCC Foundation is the sole body to implement and disseminate the program across the GCC States and Iraq with the support of leading educational institutions and accredited bodies. The Foundation mission is to enable proficient use of Information and Communications Technology that empowers individuals, organizations and society, through the development, promotion and delivery of quality certification programmes around the world. 

Pearson offers new qualification to minimise impact on local learners.

Pearson-Edexcel Respond to UK’s A Level Changes with New Qualification
London, UK, Dubai, UAE, 29th May, 2013: Edexcel, part of the world’s leading education company, Pearson, has announced a new qualification which will help minimise any disruption experienced by schools and students in the Gulf region as a result of the UK Government and Ofqual’s A Level changes.

The UK’s Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove has introduced sweeping reforms to A Level courses and exams which lead to the General Certificate of Education. The systemic changes will change the way many A Level students in the GCC undertake their exams, says Mark Andrews, Pearson’s Regional Director of the UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
Under the changes, the January examination series has been removed, offering reduced re-sit opportunities. Modular assessment, a key feature of A Levels, is being replaced by linear assessment, where examinations will need to be taken at the end of the course.
However, the launch of Pearson’s new Edexcel International Advanced Level qualification will allow schools in the Gulf region to carry on offering both January and June exams, and to continue to offer a modular assessment structure in all the major A Level subjects, except for English.
A Levels,the most common gateway into UK universities and other higher education institutions, are the courses undertaken by students in the final two years of their secondary education, both in the UK, and in many other countries. The qualifications are recognised by universities around the world, making A Levels a popular choice for students in the Gulf region who want an internationally recognised qualification that is valued by universities in both the GCC, the UK and beyond.
Pearson currently offers its Edexcel GCE A Levels in schools throughout the GCC region. A significant number of these schools and their students have voiced concerns over the Secretary of State for Education’sreforms and what the changes will mean for their results.  Pearson is responding by developinga new suite of International Advanced Level qualifications for international customers that closely resembles the structure and format of Edexcel GCE A Levels.
Mr Andrews says that the Pearson Edexcel International Advanced Level qualifications are a positive alternative for schools who do not want to introduce the compulsory changes to the GCE A Levels. The quality and substance of the old and new programmes are almost identical, but the new qualification allows schools to continue to offer modular assessment, as well as June and January exams. He says:
“The new qualifications will allow students to continue to sit modular exams twice a year, and to undertake assessments at the end of each of their units. The subject content of the InternationalAdvanced Levels is closely matched to that of the current Edexcel GCE A Level courses, allowing schools to teach the new qualificationsusing their existing resources and reducing the stress usually involved in introducing new qualifications.
“Edexcel International Advanced Level qualifications have been written to the same rigorous standards as Edexcel GCE A levels, ensuring the qualifications are of the highest quality.”
Pearson has consulted the Russell Group, an advisory group of leading UK universities,during the development of the new International Advanced Levels to ensure they are written to the standard required for entry to universities in the UK and overseas.  Studentsachieving a Pearson Edexcel International Advanced Level will have a qualification that is recognised as a suitable alternative to the current Edexcel GCE A level and therefore valued by higher education institutions around the world.
Mr Andrews was keen to stress that schools currently offering the Pearson Edexcel GCE A Level can continue to do so, and Pearson will work closely with them to ensure the effects of the compulsory changes are kept to a minimum. Schools have the opportunity to offer both the Pearson Edexcel GCE A Level and the Pearson Edexcel International Advanced Level qualification if they wish.
Mr Andrews says: “It’s a question of maximising our partners’ choices.  We want our centres here to know that they can continue to offer the Pearson Edexcel GCE A Levels, and that Pearson is committed to helping them adjust to the linear exam system and the removal of theJanuary examination series. We are communicating with schools regularly and meeting withprincipals, to help them through this transitional periodand to support them in making a decision regarding which qualifications would work best for their school and students”.
The new International Advanced Level qualifications are available from September 2013. For more information on subject specifications, please visit: www.edexcel.com/ial

New global report holds lessons for the GCC.

Governments and Universities Urged to Prepare for an Avalanche of Change in Higher Education
London, UK, Dubai, UAE, 5 May 2013: The next fifty years could be a golden age for higher education, according to a new report published by the UK’s leading progressive think tank, the Institute for Public Policy and Research (IPPR). Sir Michael Barber and his colleagues Katelyn Donnelly and Saad Rizvi, authors of the new report, say this will only happen if all the players in the system seize the initiative and act ambitiously.

Lead author, Sir Michael Barber, is Chief Education Adviser at Pearson and former advisor to the UK’s former Prime Minister, Tony Blair. In the new report, “An Avalanche is Coming”, he and his co-authors describe an era of intense pressure on universities driven by globalisation, technology, rising student expectations, competition for funding and new, disruptive entrants.
The report holds significant meaning for both governments and universities in the Gulf region, as higher education institutions in the GCC face growing challenges in providing relevant educational solutions in an increasingly competitive global environment.
Writing in the report, Sir Michael Barber says: “Our belief is that the models of higher education that marched triumphantly across the globe in the second half of the 20th Century require radical and urgent transformation. Our fear is that the nature of change is incremental and the pace of change too slow.”
Lawrence Summers, former US Treasury Secretary and former President of Harvard, says in a foreword to the report that it “poses profound questions for leaders of higher education.” The report challenges every player in the higher education system to act boldly and urgently.
The report raises important issues for those influencing decisions in higher education in the Gulf, including the need for governments to rethink their regulatory and funding regimes, which were designed for an era when university systems were national. In the era of globalisation, government ministries need to consider big questions, including:
  • How can they fund and support part-time students?
  • How can governments incentivise the connection between universities and cities that can stimulate innovation and economic development?
  • As universities compete on a global stage, do governments have a role in ensuring that their domestic universities survive and thrive?
Finding a niche
The report also stresses the need for each university to be clear which niches or segments it wants to serve, and what will set its educational experience and impact apart. Multipurpose universities with a combination of a wide range of degrees and a broad research programme are likely to face considerable challenges. The report argues that the traditional university faces the threat of being ‘unbundled’ as it competes with more specialised institutions, online learning systems, training providers and consultancies.
Some will need to specialise in teaching alone –and move away from the traditional lecture to the multi-faced teaching possibilities now available:
  • The elite university
  • The mass university
  • The niche university
  • The local university
  • The lifelong learning mechanism
Citizens need to seize the opportunity to learn and relearn throughout their lives. They need to be ready to take personal responsibility both for themselves and the world around them. Every citizen is a potential student and a potential creator of employment.
Region striving to stay ahead of the higher education revolution
Pearson has been working closely with governments and higher education institutions in the Gulf to help them stay relevant to modern students’ needs, and up-to-date with the latest developments in information technology in the education sector.
Pearson’s Vice President of Higher Education and Applied Learning in the region, Mr Fadi Khalek says that there are some key ways universities in the GCC have kept abreast of international developments and student demands. He says: “Firstly, higher education institutions here have maintained the professional development of their staff by offering regular workshops, symposia and conferences, all of which support faculty development in areas relating to academic transformation. Secondly, many of these same institutions have taken up our course and curriculum re-design services, to accompany their moves towards mobile and personalized learning; as well taking advantage of Pearson’s mobile based assessments and adaptive learning solutions.
“We have also been collaborating to offer custom content design, and development and management services to institutions, so they can cater to all future learning needs, including mobile, blended and modular. It is our goal to establish Pearson’s Middle East technology infrastructure so that all our customers across the region have access to the very best of Pearson’s dynamic and innovative solutions for higher education”.
Challenges of GCC Universities Echoed Around the Globe
There are three fundamental challenges facing systems not only in the Gulf region, but all round the world:
1.     How can universities and new providers ensure education for employability? This challenge is pertinent for decision makers in the GCC, where youth unemployment rates are amongst the highest in the world, and employers consistently complain of the lack of relevant work skills amongst university graduates.
2.     How can the link between cost and quality be broken? At present, the authors claim, global rankings of universities in effect equate all inputs with output. They put a premium on research volumes which have little or no impact on the student experience or student outcomes. Only universities which have build up vast research capacity and low student-teacher ratios can come out on top in global rankings. Yet in the era of modern technology, when students can individually and collectively create knowledge themselves, outstanding quality without high fixed costs is plausible and desirable. New entrants are effectively barred from entry and the authors argue that a new university ranking focused on learner outcomes is required.
3.   How does the entire learning ecosystem need to change to support alternative providers and the future of work? The authors cite examples of a new breed of learning providers that emphasize learning by practice and mentorship. It argues that systematic changes are necessary to embed these successful companies on a wider scale.
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Notes to editors
The new report – An Avalanche Is Coming: higher education and the revolution ahead – is co-authored by Sir, 2013 Michael Barber, Katelyn Donnelly and Saad Rizvi and was published on Monday 11th March.
The report is now available at www.ippr.org and www.pearson.com/avalanche.

Global Scale of English will help improve learning outcomes for English language students in Saudi Arabia and wider region.

Conference Discusses Future of English Language Testing in the Arab World
Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 25th April 2013: Leading international thinkers in English language teaching and assessment have gathered in Riyadh with local experts to discuss the best methods for improving the standard of English language training in the Arab world.

The “English Language and Translation Forum” hosted by the Prince Sultan University on the 24th and 25th of April was the first English Language Teaching (ELT) forum held by the University, aimed at increasing the quality of English amongst Arab students. The Conference was supported by the British Council and delegates included experts in the field from within the Kingdom and around the world.
The Conference reinforced the importance of equipping Arab learners with excellent English language skills, as the region’s economies become increasingly globalised. Embedding quality English language training into education systems has been a priority of regional governments who understand the link between graduates with strong English skills and the ability of economies to thrive in a competitive, international market place. Improving the English language capabilities of school and university leavers also has wider socio-economic impacts in Arab countries, where graduates with effective English skills are more likely to find meaningful work, and enjoy higher salaries.
As governments in the region pour unprecedented funding into their education systems, many students want to upgrade their educational level and future prospects by learning English.  This calls for English language teaching and assessment methods to stay innovative and responsive, says Professor John De Jong, Senior Vice President of Standards and Quality at the world’s largest education company, Pearson, and Professor of Language Testing at Amsterdam’s VU University.
Professor De Jong was a leading presenter at the English Language and Translation Forum, using the opportunity to explain the benefits of the Global Scale of English (GSE) to delegates. The GSE has been developed by Pearson to provide a comprehensive and robust global benchmark for English proficiency. The scale has been in use for a number of years as a reliable scoring system for Pearson’s trusted English test, PTE Academic™. But Professor De Jong explained the advantages of the GSE across a range of uses.
The GSE offers a standardised, numeric scale from 10 to 90 which can measure English language proficiency more precisely with reference to the widely known and employed Common European Framework of References for Languages, or CEFR. The GSE is a benchmark for English language proficiency that can be related to other English language tests and national examinations as well as a measure of the level of English needed for a range of academic and professional purposes. The GSE has been academically validated, and when linked to instructional content can be used as a benchmark for English language courses offering a truly global and shared understanding of ELT course levels.
 
Professor De Jong is confident the GSE will help improve the quality of English language education in the Middle East as it allows for a more comprehensive and detailed understanding of a learner’s English language ability and progression. He says: “The intention of this scale is to encourage the profiling of learners, rather than merely classifying them by levels, as the CEFR tends to do. The GSE is more useful for students and instructors because it provides them with the information to understand English language proficiency more precisely within a CEFR band, and to monitor learner progress within course levels, as well as allowing them to make informed choices about teaching and learning goals to improve their English”.
Using the scale to determine the English language level of learners will have significant benefits for English language education in Saudi Arabia and neighbouring countries. Professor De Jong says:
“Pearson is excited to see the changes the Global Scale of English can make to the learning outcomes of English students in the Middle East. Using this scale will mean we can accurately pinpoint the very specific listening, reading, speaking and writing capabilities of a learner, and provide them with a much more accurate and detailed learning plan than ever before. The GSE is less prone to misinterpretation, meaning the course or level the student is studying will be a much more accurate reflection of their learning needs. Ultimately, this should improve the results of English language students in the region, and we all know the far-reaching impacts good English language skills can have on an individual’s future, and the collective benefits this can have on communities”.
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About Pearson:
Pearson is the world’s largest learning company, operating in more than 80 countries around the world, bringing powerful learning solutions to millions of learners every year. Pearson takes learning personally. Our courses and resources are available in print, online and through multi-lingual packages, helping people learn whatever, wherever and however they choose. Our education imprints combine 150 years of experience and include online support for every learner.  Our innovative and dynamic digital learning products and services are changing the learning landscape all around the globe and our qualifications are positively transforming the futures of learners of all ages and backgrounds.  Pearson can boast a comprehensive English Language offering that consists of engaging content and cutting edge testing solutions, including the internationally acclaimed PTE Academic™. To find out more, visit www.pearson.com