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Jack Ma Foundation announces grant for Queen Rania Foundation to support education

By JT - May 08,2018 - Last updated at May 08,2018

Her Majesty Queen Rania meets with lead-founder and executive chairman of Alibaba Group, Jack Ma in Amman, on Monday (Photo courtesy of Royal Court)

AMMAN — The Jack Ma Foundation (JMF) on Monday announced a first stage grant of $3 million to support the mission of the Queen Rania Foundation for Education and Development (QRF) and its work in education in Jordan, with a particular focus on Edraak, the free online platform for Arabic open educational resources and the Queen Rania Teacher Academy (QRTA), a statement by Her Majesty's Office said. 

The grant was announced by lead-founder and executive chairman of Alibaba Group, Jack Ma, during his visit to Edraak’s new offices, where he was joined by Her Majesty Queen Rania. 

This step marks the beginning of a fruitful relationship between JMF and QRF, and demonstrates both Ma’s and Queen Rania’s passion for education and the mutual belief in the power of innovative methods and new technology to address global educational challenges. 

JMF general secretary, Xiuhong Yu recognised the challenges faced by young women, girls, refugees and students in Jordan’s rural areas, expressing her hope that the grant will strengthen the foundation’s ability to improve education for these vulnerable groups. 

“The vision and leadership of the Queen Rania Foundation to improve the quality of education for Jordan and the region through its world-class and innovative programmes is truly inspiring,” she said, adding “in China, the Jack Ma Foundation is focused on improving the livelihood of rural communities through education and we look forward to learning from and sharing best practices with the Queen Rania Foundation on headmaster and teacher training.”

The announcement comes at a pivotal time for the MENA region, where more than 15 million children are out of school due to armed conflict and displacement, and many lack access to quality education, an issue exacerbated by the region’s refugee crisis. 

Education systems in Arab host countries like Jordan, which has taken in large numbers of refugee students, are currently stretched beyond their limits, compromising the quality of education offered to both local and refugee children. 

In answer to this critical challenge, the K-12 Edraak platform, an initiative of QRF, was created to harness the power of technology and bring free quality learning opportunities to Arabic-speaking children across the region, whether in or out of school, including those in refugee camps and conflict zones. The platform, which is accessible to more than 100 million children, will offer tools and resources for parents and educators in all major subjects, empowering them to guide children’s learning journey.

QRF CEO Haifa Al Attia thanked JMF, noting that the grant will provide educational opportunities to learners in Jordan and across the Middle East, both through Edraak and QRTA. 

“We are extremely grateful for the generous support of the Jack Ma Foundation, which has once again distinguished itself as an invaluable champion of education across the globe,” she said, noting “through this grant, we will continue to not only deliver quality education to young Jordanians, but also to children across the Arab World through our digital platform Edraak.” 

Her Majesty and Ma were welcomed by Edraak CEO Shireen Yacoub, and were briefed by the company’s team on its most recent work and its plans moving forward.

A group of ten Edraak learners, who have used the Edraak platform for adults, also gave accounts of how the platform has had an impact on their personal and professional lives. 

Among the learners were some who joined the meeting virtually from various Arab countries including Syria, Saudi Arabia and Algeria. 

The Queen and Ma toured the offices and met with a number of engineers from Google, who were on a visit from the US. They also stopped by Edraak’s studio, where school teachers were filming educational content for the K-12 programme. The teachers and content creators explained to Ma the need for high quality open educational resources in Arabic, while stressing the potential that Edraak’s new platform has to revamp K-12 education in the region. 

Queen Rania also accompanied Ma to the King Hussein Business Park, where he joined a group of 20 Jordanian venture capitalists, incubators and enablers in a closed meeting to discuss the entrepreneurship ecosystem in Jordan. The meeting was followed by an open interactive Q&A session with 60 Jordanian startups and entrepreneurs. 

While in Jordan, Ma also visited QRTA, where CEO Haif Banayyan briefed him on different programmes implemented by the academy. 

Ma, who taught as an English language teacher for six years and runs several programmes on rural education in China through JMF, met with teacher trainees at the academy and discussed the impact that QRTA’s programmes have had on their professional development. 

Launched in 2009, the QRTA is committed to the vision of Queen Rania to empower educators with skills, recognition and the support needed for them to excel in the classroom. In partnership with the Ministry of Education, the academy offers training programmes for teachers that align with local and regional educational needs, and has so far trained 60,000 teachers across Jordan. 

The Queen Rania Foundation, founded by Her Majesty in 2013, aims to be a leading regional resource and incubator for new and innovative ideas and initiatives in education. The Foundation’s main regional initiative, Edraak.org, is the premier online learning platform for adult learners in the region, reaching more than a million Arab learners with free high quality Arabic educational content (since its launch in 2014).

Jack Ma founded the JMF in 2014 to promote human development in balance with society and the environment.  The mission of the foundation is to support a world of bluer skies, cleaner water, healthier communities and more open-minded thinking. The foundation is currently focused on promoting education through four specific programmes: Rural Teacher Initiative Rural Headmasters Initiative, Rural Pre-Service Teacher Initiative, and Rural Boarding School Pilot Project. Over the past three years, the Foundation’s programmes have positively impacted over 8,000 rural headmasters, 40,000 rural teachers and 2 million rural students.

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