Serv­ing grow­ing need for higher education

The Daily News Egypt - - In-Depth -

The de­mand for higher education around the world is grow­ing. By 2030, ac­cord­ing to UNESCO, the num­ber of en­rolled stu­dents is ex­pected to more than dou­ble to over 414 mil­lion. Serv­ing that pop­u­la­tion and oth­ers re­quires ex­tra­or­di­nary en­ergy and imag­i­na­tion, strate­gic think­ing, and in­no­va­tion.

The need for qual­ity higher education is es­pe­cially im­por­tant in theArab re­gion as a whole, whose youth make up is the high­est pro­por­tion of the youth pop­u­la­tion in the world.While the Arab world ex­pects to widen its ed­u­cated tal­ent pool by 50% by 2030, ac­cord­ing to the­World Eco­nomic Fo­rum, op­por­tu­ni­ties are out of reach for far too many of the re­gion’s 105 mil­lion young peo­ple.

This means think­ing dif­fer­ently about the kinds of in­sti­tu­tions and the ap­proaches to teach­ing and learn­ing that will best ac­com­plish this mis­sion. Given the scale of need, the re­gion could not build enough brick-and­mor­tar col­leges fast enough. How­ever, the ad­vance­ments in on­line higher education make it pos­si­ble to op­ti­mise ex­ist­ing ed­u­ca­tional re­sources and tap into in­creas­ingly so­phis­ti­cated and flex­i­ble on­line de­gree pro­grammes and cour­ses that match or even ex­ceed the tra­di­tional class­room ex­pe­ri­ence.

New dig­i­tal tools al­low us to as­sess and serve the va­ri­ety of ways that stu­dents ab­sorb in­for­ma­tion and de­velop un­der­stand­ing.With a grow­ing body of data, we can bet­ter un­der­stand how to help strug­gling stu­dents and pro­vide in­di­vid­u­alised learn­ing that al­lows stu­dents to work at their own pace and achieve bet­ter out­comes. Far from the early days when stu­dents sim­ply watched a recorded lec­ture, to­day on­line stu­dents ex­pe­ri­ence cour­ses com­prised of short learn­ing mod­ules, dy­namic prob­lem-solv­ing and ex­per­i­men­ta­tion, in­ter­ac­tive sim­u­la­tions, and real-time feed­back.

And we know that Arab youth are well-po­si­tioned for this kind of learn­ing:a re­cent stu­dent sur­vey con­ducted by the Ab­dulla Al Ghu­rair Foun­da­tion for Education (AGFE) found that 90% ofArab high school and uni­ver­sity stu­dents are con­fi­dent in us­ing on­line re­sources for aca­demic work, and over 55% spend at least three hours on the in­ter­net ev­ery day.

Recog­nis­ing the op­por­tu­nity to in­crease ac­cess for the widest num­ber of qual­i­fied stu­dents, the AGFE and Ari­zona State Uni­ver­sity (ASU) joined forces to of­fer 550 schol­ar­ships to high-achiev­ing Emi­rati and Arab youth un­der 30 years old to com­plete their mas­ter’s de­grees on­line. The Al Ghu­rair Open Learn­ing Schol­ars (OLS) Pro­gramme of­fers schol­ar­ships in 28 spe­cial­i­sa­tions, rang­ing from busi­ness an­a­lyt­ics and con­struc­tion man­age­ment, to sys­tems, in­dus­trial, and elec­tri­cal en­gi­neer­ing, to early child­hood education, nutri­tion, and sus­tain­able tourism.

As a global leader in on­line education, ASU of­fers cour­ses de­vel­oped and taught by world-class pro­fes­sors who are fo­cused on stu­dent suc­cess, both aca­dem­i­cally and pro­fes­sion­ally. The mas­ter’s pro­grammes rep­re­sent the on­go­ing com­mit­ment by ASU to ex­pand its di­verse and in­creas­ingly global stu­dent body, as well as the AGFE’s ded­i­ca­tion to help train a new gen­er­a­tion of Emi­rati and Arab youth who can con­tinue to pur­sue their ca­reers while tend­ing to fam­ily and other re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. This flex­i­bil­ity en­ables ac­cess for tal­ented youth who pre­vi­ously lacked the op­por­tu­nity to con­tinue their education in­ter­na­tion­ally.

In ad­di­tion to of­fer­ing a high-qual­ity education, stu­dents en­rolled through the Open Learn­ing Schol­ars pro­gramme also ben­e­fit from aca­demic coun­sel­ing and coach­ing, one key rea­son ASU on­line stu­dents—over 30,000 world­wide—have one of the high­est com­ple­tion rates at over 90%.

At­tain­ment of col­lege and ad­vanced de­grees rep­re­sents the sin­gle clear­est pre­dic­tor of so­cial and eco­nomic mo­bil­ity. Across the OECD coun­tries, adults with a uni­ver­sity de­gree earn on av­er­age 56% more than those with only a high school diploma. Ev­i­dence across the globe also finds that uni­ver­sity grad­u­ates have lower rates of un­em­ploy­ment, bet­ter health out­comes, and longer life­spans.

This fo­cus on education could not be more crit­i­cal, both for the lives of in­di­vid­ual stu­dents and for the pos­i­tive de­vel­op­ment of so­ci­ety more broadly. Given the ac­cel­er­at­ing eco­nomic and tech­no­log­i­cal trans­for­ma­tions around the world, those who will pros­per and mean­ing­fully con­trib­ute to so­ci­ety must be cre­ative, adap­tive learn­ers with the life­long fac­ulty to learn new skills and con­cepts, em­brace new ways of think­ing and learn­ing, and pur­sue new ca­reers. This is both the prom­ise and re­spon­si­bil­ity of higher education.

The con­tin­u­ing evo­lu­tion of high­qual­ity on­line education—and the ex­pand­ing in­vest­ment in new dig­i­tal tools and ca­pa­bil­i­ties—makes it pos­si­ble to pro­vide ac­cess to higher education on a global scale.This is a great rea­son to be op­ti­mistic about dra­mat­i­cally in­creas­ing the num­ber of Arab stu­dents with higher education cre­den­tials.

Michael M Crow

is the pres­i­dent of Ari­zona State Uni­ver­sity, ranked the most in­no­va­tive uni­ver­sity in the US for three straight years by US News & World Re­port

Maysa Jal­bout

is the chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of the Ab­dulla Al Ghu­rair Foun­da­tion for Education, a pri­vately funded foun­da­tion based in Dubai

MAYSA JAL­BOUT

MICHAEL M CROW

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