UNESCO Director-General launches series of initiatives to promote Arab knowledge societies during visit to Egypt

On 30 June 2009, the Director-General of UNESCO, Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, launched at a ceremony in Cairo, Egypt, a series of major initiatives aimed at promoting knowledge societies in the Arab world.

The event, organized by the UNESCO Cairo Office, was held under the patronage of Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif, with the participation of the Minister for Higher Education and Scientific Research, Mr Hany Helal, the Minister for Education, Mr Yousri El Gamal, and the Minister for Communication and Information Technology, Mr Tarek Kamel. Also taking part in the launch were senior representatives of private sector partners in the initiatives, including Microsoft, Intel, Cisco and Apple, as well as Wolfram Research and the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE).

“UNESCO is working with its Member States to put in place mechanisms to facilitate the building of people-centred, inclusive and development-oriented knowledge societies based on four principles: quality education for all; universal access to information and knowledge; respect for cultural and linguistic diversity; and freedom of expression. […] The three initiatives we are launching today contribute to realizing this vision”, Mr Matsuura stated in his address at the ceremony.

The Director-General went on to introduce these initiatives, which comprise: (1) the second phase of UNESCO’s ICT Competency Framework for Teachers, aimed at equipping teachers with the skills needed to effectively integrate ICTs in education; (2) the first Arab e-courseware digital library, part of an international initiative to establish a global network of content creation centres; and (3) the scaling-up of IT Literacy in Arab States, a project conceived by the UNESCO Cairo Office to set a basic standard in computer skills and promote computer literacy across the region.

Commenting on the ICT Competency Framework for Teachers, the Director-General stated: “The seeds for this global initiative were sown by the UNESCO Cairo Office in 2002. It is therefore my pleasure to attend its regional launch back where it all began”. He went on to underscore that, “increasing the skills of teachers through the ICT Competency Framework and making high quality, multilingual content available through e- courseware digital libraries will empower educators to create truly innovative learning models adapted to 21st century needs”. Mr Matsuura also highlighted the tremendous success of the IT literacy initiative, which he had first launched in Cairo in 2001. Since 2001, 500,000 registrants have obtained the International Computer Driving License (ICDL) at one of 500 UNESCO accredited centres in 8 Arab countries for which UNESCO-Cairo carries out quality assurance services. In 2007, Egypt alone committed to training one million students over a 5-year period. Looking forward, the Director-General welcomed the special focus on ensuring that women enjoy equal access to ICDL certification and equal opportunities for participating in knowledge societies.

The launch ceremony also provided an occasion to share the preliminary results of the national education reform review, recently undertaken by UNESCO with the financial support of the World Bank. Commissioned by the Egyptian Minister of Education, the review has three core objectives: to analyse educational policies and reforms between 2003 and 2008; to evaluate the effectiveness of basic and secondary education; and to develop the capacity for such analysis within the education ministry. The Director-General referred to the review as part of Egypt’s constant efforts to raise standards and ensure the education system responds to changing needs and demands. In particular, he congratulated the Government on its decision to invite other countries from the region and the group of E-9 high-population countries to the review’s formal launch at the end of July. “This is another sign of Egypt’s commitment to exchanging good practices and strengthening international cooperation in education”, he said.

In closing, Mr Matsuura affirmed that, “the initiatives being launched today underscore the important role of UNESCO as a standard setter and the benefits to be gained from strong public-private partnerships. It is my sincere wish that more will follow so that we can extend our work to develop human capacities, invest in better learning models, and use the power of ICTs to build sustainable knowledge societies”.

While in Cairo, the Director-General met with Prime Minister Nazif to review UNESCO’s cooperation with Egypt. They focused in particular on education, science and research and the role of knowledge sectors in driving development and economic growth. Mr Matsuura reiterated his pleasure at being back in Egypt, saying that this was his 6th visit to the country as Director-General. “Since 1999, I have been proud to see our bilateral cooperation go from strength to strength. The new initiatives launched today are a clear sign that it will continue to flourish in the future,” he said.

The Egyptian Minister of Higher Education and Research and the Ambassador of Egypt to UNESCO, Ms Shadia Kenawy, accompanied the Director-General throughout his visit to Egypt.

  • Author(s):Office of the Spokesperson
  • Source:Flash Info N° 127-2009
  • 03-07-2009
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