Edition 183 - July 2016

Arab world's equitable education foundation partners for online learning

As one of the Arab world’s largest, privately funded philanthropic education initiatives, the Abdulla Al Ghurair foundation, established July 2015, will play a vital role in equipping underserved but highly motivated Emirati and Arab youth with learning opportunities, towards raising a next generation of future regional-leaders.

The foundation holds an opening budget of around 1.1 Billion EUR , to be spilled out over ten years in scholarships and investments in innovative high impact programmes, encouraging successful transitions from secondary to tertiary education and impact a minimum of 15,000 youth to access high quality education.  With the particular focus of its mandate to enlarge access to top educational environments, for students aspiring a future in STEM related fields, the foundation places high value on opportunities offered by open online learning and its potentials for overcoming contextual challenges.  

To build bridges for students facing mobility and access barriers the foundation’s Open Learning Scholars Programme has launched its first and bold partnering initiative with MIT’s Office of Digital learning (ODL), a top player in the open online learning arena.  Making some of the world-wide best education available to Arab youth, the partnership will create two new ‘Micro Masters’ programmes consisting of 12-week courses, in STEM subjects currently not offered in Arab countries. Accredited degree programmes and recognized credentials will be awarded to participating students, through the new MIT - MITx MicroMaster - that follows an approach of innovative online and blended learning. After meeting the requirements for attaining a MITx credential – completion of minimum 5 courses- students may apply for a masters at MIT, another university or seek employment across the world.

Encouraging the Arab world to increasingly embrace new technology based models in education, is seen to encourage lifelong learning, provide access to high quality education for students facing significant barriers, but also to alleviate core challenges in the region such as:

  • Provide access for millions out of school at low cost
  • Bridge capacity lack of top Arab institutions to take up the many students and circumvent an unwillingness to open their doors beyond elites.
  • Align quality assurance, so far uncontrolled, with global standards
  • Introduce innovative teaching and self paced learning
  • Facilitate continuous learning for changing job environments, often reserved for wealthy youth void of family and job commitments.

To achieve these goals, bridge skill gaps, harness the untapped potentials of underprivileged youth and adapt to a fast evolving model of online learning, requires inter-sectoral cooperation in the region and a shift in mind-set of both the civic use of online environments, as well as governmental perceptions towards recognition of open learning.

Bringing Arab education online - Abdulla Al Ghurair foundation

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