The Bett Middle East & Africa Conference and Exhibition (Bett MEA) Kicked off in Abu Dhabi yesterday under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Hazza Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Vice Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council.
The Bett MEA is organized by the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge in co-operation with Microsoft Corporation. The theme the fourth edition of the Bett MEA is 'Building a Successful Change Culture to Meet the Evolving Needs of 21st Century Citizens' and is aimed at stimulating and spreading the change culture that will help develop the educational environment by adopting smart education and meeting the requirements of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
The Bett MEA was inaugurated by HE Hussain Ibrahim Al Hammadi, Minister of Education, in the presence of HE Sara Musallam, Chairperson of Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge, and Fahd Al Niyadi, Undersecretary of the Department of Community Development. The event saw the participation of 100 exhibitors from 60 countries and is expected to receive 3,000 visitors.
Al Hammadi thanked His Highness Sheikh Hazza Bin Zayed for sponsoring this special event, paying due attention to education and pushing efforts to build an educational base in the UAE that forms a starting point for our students to excel by virtue of their skills, aptitudes and talents.
"We are all aware that it is modern education that opens the door for our students to move forward in their careers on the way to success and excellence. With this in mind, the UAE leadership has made it imperative that the UAE continue to be competitive and that education be our top priority based on its belief that education is the foundation of progress, the tool of urbanization and a human lever that takes us to advanced positions in a highly competitive world", Al Hammadi said.
"In this context, we have charted our educational roadmap as represented by the UAE Vision 2021 and the subsequent agenda and deep goals with a view to consolidating the gains in the education sector. Hence, the vision was clear and the goal was purely national: working together to fulfill the ambitions of our beloved country and the aspirations of our prudent leadership", he added.
Al Hammadi pointed out that Bett MEA discusses central issues related to education, particularly the importance of change, digital learning and curricula.
"In line with the national educational development orientations, we have for years been attentive to the importance of these matters for achieving quality education. Hence, our sustainable education trilogy includes 1) empowering teachers as a basis for empowering students, 2) changing the traditional style of education into smart learning and introducing the educational technology to the Emirati school and 3) providing modern curricula and new learning methods for students, who are the core of the educational process, to be innovative members armed with the characteristics of the Emirati School", he said.
"With the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the consequential challenges and changes in the form of the educational equation, it has been incumbent on us to prepare our generations for the future by providing them with advanced skills in many fields. This is necessitated by the process of transformation that we have begun to achieve sustainable education and move to the community of knowledge-based economy", he added.
"According to research expectations, some fields of specialization and jobs will disappear and the Fourth Industrial Revolution will pave the way for new jobs, which we have intensively prepared for. It has been our national task and concern to change the style of education and harness all our potential, human resources and manpower to reach our goal of achieving a radical change in the education sector", he said.
He emphasized that the development of education is a prerequisite for all countries of the world and is an earnest endeavor and a priority for the governments and economies seeking excellence and leading position. "We are part of this world and our noble endeavor necessitates us always to make Emiratis global persons in terms of their identity, citizenship, knowledge, humanitarian mission and 21st century skills. This is our single goal, for which all potential and efforts will be harnessed in order for us to achieve the long-awaited progress based on modern and sustainable education", he said.
Quality of education
"The Bett MEA is a platform for educational technology in Abu Dhabi, where education experts from all over the world share the knowledge and experience associated with the latest trends of digital transformation", said Dr. Najla Al Naqbi, Innovation and eLearning Manager, Department of Education and Knowledge. This provides specialists with opportunities to communicate and helps teachers from all over the Middle East and Africa Region to play an enlightening role in all directions with respect to all the methods necessary to improve the quality of education at all levels and for all learners", she said.
A platform for exchanging skills
Victoria James, Event Director, Bett MEA, said: "We had an overwhelming joy to see this great interest and interaction during the first day of the conference and exhibition. The participants were very keen on exploring the future of education during the Bett MEA Leadership Summit's panel discussion presented by Anthony Salcito, Vice President of Microsoft Worldwide Education. In addition, all the attendees keenly interacted with the K-12 Leadership Workshop, which was run by Dr. Ger Graus OBE, Global Director of Education at KidZania. The workshop included a team of education experts, who discussed the impact of linking children with their future careers in early stages of education."
The second day of the Bett MEA Leadership Workshop's panel discussion is scheduled to discuss the impact of applying assistive technologies in schools with the aim of moving to a more integrated education system for students of different categories in the Middle East.
The 21st Century Knowledge and Skills Theater will host Paola Paulino and Steve Bambury, two pioneers of virtual reality, who will explain how this technology can give students such capabilities as those of Marvel superheroes and familiarize them with how to harness virtual reality for changing the classroom learning environment.
Meanwhile, Mohammed Salem Al Dhaheri, Advisor to Abu Dhabi Education and Knowledge Chairman, said: "Empowering students with technological skills and information to be able to define the future is one of the wise leadership's priorities. The Bett MEA keeps us abreast of the latest eLearning updates and the next stage requirements, taking into account that new jobs are emerging in the labor market and others are disappearing."
Empowering future generations
"The region is undergoing a tremendous transformation driven by new technologies", said Harb Bou Harb, Senior Education Director, Microsoft Middle East & Africa. "This necessitates us to enable students to deal with these technologies to be ready for dealing with the future challenges", he added.
"School leaders and teachers play a crucial role in this transformation by adopting the right techniques, which will become a key part of their efforts to achieve better educational outcomes that enable them to guide students and inspire them to develop the skills necessary for future careers. This is Microsoft's great passion. As a global partner of the Bett MEA, we are proud to continue our support for this important event for the fourth year in a row and to engage in valuable discussions with decision makers and experts to contribute to transforming the future of education in the region", he said.
Drones for serving education
Apart from the 'Furure of Smart Learning' session, the first day of the event also witnessed a workshop on the use of drones for educational purposes. The workshop was hosted by the GEMS Education and presented by Baldesh Nijjar, Innovation Manager at Firstpoint School, UAE. The workshop discussed the industry prospects, the governance rules for operating drones and the real skills offered by this technology in light of the needs of 21st century curricula to effectively integrate and empower learners with these technologies. The program of the workshop included a review of the school's UAV experience, teaching students the skills of building drones, organizing drone races and familiarizing students with how these skills and knowledge are linked to the curricula and used in a positive and useful manner.
The session run by Mads Lemvigh Fog, Education Expert at Denmark's LEGO Education, received equal interaction by the attendees. Fog discussed the company's approach to learning through entertaining practical activities, the importance of adopting cheerful mood and fun methodology in school systems and how this method supports student's capabilities in future jobs.
'Mansour & Mai' robot as assistant teacher
Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge also showcased 'Mansour & Mai' intelligent robot, the latest of its kind, which is expected to be used as an assistant teacher in schools in the future, Al Naqbi said, adding that the robot started to be used recently in Sweden.
The department brought the 'Mansour & Mai', where the male voice of the speaker is changed into a female one as desired by the user, enabling the department's visitors to use it easily to get information about education in Abu Dhabi through a control room designed for this purpose, she said.
She pointed out that the device is connected to the student's information system and is fed with information and languages. The device is able to teach foreign languages including Chinese and is in the process of speaking Arabic, she said, adding that it provides all information related to the education sector in the emirate.
The department is set to apply the device in schools where it is being developed to help students as an assistant teacher, she added, noting that the aim is to develop the uses of artificial intelligence in the emirate and to make a quantum leap in its use in the education sector by keeping students abreast of the latest scientific updates on their way to the future.
'Wathiq' Smart Bus
The Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge also showcased in its pavilion in the Bett MEA the 'Wathiq' smart bus, which is linked to the Geographic Information System (GIS). The bus is connected to an app on parents' mobile phones showing the movement of the student since he leaves home for school and vice versa. Parents can also monitor their children while getting into and out of the bus as well as the route and traffic congestion.
The bus has control devices to monitor the movement inside the bus and how far the driver and supervisor adhere to the route and the regulations in force. The devices can also detect bullying cases inside the bus and any violating cars passing by, thereby providing maximum safety for students.