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‘Knowledge is key to unleashing creativity, innovation in Arab countries’

By Camille Dupire - Apr 22,2018 - Last updated at Apr 22,2018

Participants in the knowledge forum speak at the opening of the five-day event in Amman on Sunday (Photo courtesy of Knowledge4All)

AMMAN — A knowledge forum bringing together representatives from ministries, journalists, researchers, students and representatives from the private sector kicked off on Sunday, marking the opening of the Knowledge Week organised by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the Dubai-based Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation (MBRF). 

Speaking at the opening of the forum, which was held under his patronage, Education Minister Omar Razzaz stressed the importance of critical thinking and constructive criticism in schools and universities, saying “these skills are key to unleashing innovation and creativity in Arab countries and knowledge is a crucial means to empower people”.

The minister was speaking alongside Khaled Abdel Shafi, director of the UNDP’s regional Hub for Arab States (HBAS), Saif Al Mansoury, MBRF representative and Hany Torky, chief technical advisor of the UNDP Knowledge Project.

Abdel Shafi briefed the audience on the Global Knowledge Index (GKI), an advocacy tool aimed at highlighting the strategic role of knowledge and the importance of developing objective and scientific tools to measure and evaluate knowledge, commending the “long lasting partnership between the UNDP and MBRF” in this regard.

First announced during the Knowledge Summit 2016 in Dubai, the GKI encompasses seven sectorial indices: pre-university education, technical and vocational education and training, higher education, research, development and innovation, information and communications technology (ICT), economy and a supporting index on the general enabling environment, according to the website Knowledge4All.

Commenting on the index, Razzaz said: “The GKI is a tool that will help the government of Jordan improve its knowledge system, especially the education sector.”

His remark was echoed by Al Mansoury, who talked about the contribution that the index and knowledge in general can bring to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. 

“Through the Knowledge Forum, our foundation wanted to provide an opportunity for stakeholders in the Arab countries to see the results of the GKI and the most important topics tackled at the Knowledge Summit,” the MBRF representative said, noting the importance of continuity and annual reviews in the field.

The opening session was followed by discussions on the results of Jordan in the GKI, the fourth industrial revolution and Jordan’s experience in facing illiteracy, which saw the participation of various experts such as the Secretary General at the Ministry of Youth Thabet Al Nabulsi, former head of the University of Jordan Ekhleif Tarawneh, former minister of culture Lana Mamkegh, Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation’s Director General Valentina Qussisiya, Director General of the Banks’ Association Adli Kandah and officials from the chambers of commerce and industry and the Amman Stock Exchange. 

“One of the main reasons of unemployment in the Arab States nowadays lies in the lack of skills,” said UNDP official Tokry, stressing the need to “invest in future skills to meet new job market requirements in light of the index’s findings”. 

First launched in Egypt in March 2018, engaging 2,100 students, professors, and researchers, the Knowledge Week will be held in different cities in the Arab region and beyond to “drive active conversation and raise awareness on the importance of knowledge and knowledge-based policies for sustainable development by targeting students, professors, academics, researchers, journalists, media figures and policymakers”, HBAS Research Officer Diana Assaf told The Jordan Times.

Running through Thursday, the Jordanian Knowledge Week will be followed by a series of gatherings and discussions with professors, academics and students of the University of Jordan, Yarmouk University, and Mutah University, in addition to a meeting with the Department of Statistics.

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