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Across the world, most governments have temporarily closed educational institutions in an attempt to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus. At present, UNESCO estimates that these nationwide closures are impacting over 90% of the world's student population.
But in Abu Dhabi the challenge is becoming an opportunity, with EduTech players and the country's top schools stepping up to the plate to provide new, innovative solutions for distance learning and even AI-driven tailored instruction. Education providers are also upping their offerings in areas such as respiratory care to satisfy new demand, while counselling professionals are tackling the impact lockdown can have on mental health.
But Abu Dhabi was not caught unaware; it has invested considerably in smart learning over the last decade, helping to give it an edge today. This allowed the Emirate to announce quick and effective lockdowns, safe in the knowledge that education would not suffer substantially.
As the world now ponders a way out of lockdown, the lessons Abu Dhabi has learnt will allow us to continue to respond quickly to change, as well as disseminate solutions around the world and to remote locations, where EdTech could truly transform societies.
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Dr. Kenneth Vedra is the Director General at Emirates National Schools (ENS), a leading group of private schools in UAE owned by the Ministry of Presidential Affairs. Dr. Vedra has more than 40 years' experience in the field of K-12 education, management, school operations, and higher education. He joined ENS in 2009 as schools director and in 2010 was appointed director general.
He also served on the Board of Governors for the International Baccalaureate, completing his terms in 2014. While on the Board, he served as IBO treasurer and chaired the finance committee for IBO. During his professional tenure as an educator, he has served in a multitude of roles, including teacher, coach, high school principal, deputy superintendent, and superintendent of schools.
Dr. Assem Al-Hajj is an experienced international leader with a 27-year career spanning the UK, Africa, and the MENA region. A civil engineering graduate from Beirut Arab University, with masters and PhD degrees in construction management and economics from the UK. He is currently President of KIC and the Group CEO for Khawarizmi Holding Company (KHC). He was previously VP for academic affairs and development at Applied Science University in Bahrain. Prior to that, he established the School of the Built Environment at Heriot-Watt University's Dubai Campus and was the academic head for nine years. Al-Hajj also worked at the Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen and Nigeria. He is a senior fellow of HEA (UK) and a fellow of CIOB and AIQS.
Geoffrey Alphonso is the CEO of Alef Education. He brings a wealth of experience in strategic thinking with over 20+ years of experience in enabling business transformations across the North American, Australian, and Middle Eastern markets. Prior to joining Alef Education, he was general manager and head of PMO/solutions at Pearson Education's Middle East & Africa business practice for over nine years. He has also held senior leadership roles in Toronto, Canada, and Brisbane, Australia across the EdTech, telecoms, and financial sectors. He holds an MBA from London Business School.
Neslihan Aydagul is the Managing Director for The Business Year in the UAE. Ms. Aydagul's experience in the research field pans to the early 2000s where she lead research projects in Qatar and Bahrain as well as opening her employer's offices in South East Asia, particularly in Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam. After successful launches, she switched her focus to the GCC, and has been based in the Gulf for the past 10 years, Saudi Arabia and the UAE particularly Abu Dhabi, during which time directed the production of 12 annual investment manuals and gained a wealth of knowledge and experience in the Gulf.