The following is the speech given by Sheikh Abdulla bin Ali Al-Thani, chairman of the World Innovation Summit for Education, at the opening plenary session of WISE 2010 in Doha, Qatar, Dec 7, 2010:
Your Highness, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Welcome to WISE 2010. It is an honour to have with us today Her Highness Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al Missned and His Excellency Lakhdar Brahimi. We thank Speaker Nancy Pelosi for her congratulations. Qatar's successful bid to host the 2022 World Cup has inspired us to rededicate our energies to our cause of achieving the highest possible quality of education for all. Twelve years from the World Cup the work has already begun. Not only investment in infrastructure, but also education and youth. In this regard, the World Innovation Summit for Education plays an important role. Her Highness will be participating in our discussions and work over the next three days and will offer concluding remarks at the end of the Summit.
And while most of you will be with us for just three days, we hope that, together, we will create here at WISE a similar determination and spirit of optimism.
It has already been more than three years since Her Highness drew attention to the fact that there was no forum to promote the cause of education on a global scale.
We are all aware that our world today is in a state of profound change, which results in a series of pressing challenges to education. The needs of this new era have prompted us to launch this global, multi-sectoral initiative called WISE.
Yet Qatar Foundation has been pursuing its human development mission for 15 years – in Qatar, the Arab world, and internationally. We have always believed in drawing upon existing experience, and so it seemed natural for us to gather expertise from around the world and focus it on one of the most critical issues of our time – Building the Future of Education – because it means building our future world.
This is why, with Her Highness's support, we marshaled all willing forces from the widest variety of backgrounds to establish a new kind of international platform dedicated to education.
Our aspiration is to bring together multiple stakeholders and to connect theory with practice, because this kind of collaboration is critical in facing such complex issues.
From the outset, WISE has taken an action-oriented approach which produces solutions that can be adopted and adapted.
To fulfill these objectives, a yearly summit would not suffice. It was always our intention that WISE should be a year-round platform for innovative initiatives. But as Her Highness has cautioned us before, the situation has become increasingly pressing. We need to move beyond an annual summit to action.
I am pleased to say that in our first year we at WISE already have taken steps that are making a real difference.
Before I tell you about this year's programme, I'd like you to take a look at this short video.
VIDEO (WISE Awards; Ministerial Colloquium; Leadership education programme; WEF; Euronews Learning World)
Of course we know that success is based on partnerships. This is a unique strength for WISE and creates a network across the global community.
I am very pleased that our five original partners are joined this year by UNESCO, led by Mrs. Irina Bokova.
In fact, our exhibition area is organized around the very concept of partnership and its various aspects – CONNECT, SHARE, INSPIRE and ACHIEVE.
An important role in forging partnerships belongs to the media. They can draw people into the debate and help us make our case in the constant competition for resources.
Let me tell you about how we intend to address some of our challenges here at WISE 2010.
Our Summit is organized around two main themes indicated in the titles of two of our plenary sessions: "Improving education systems" and "Exploring innovative trends". By this, we suggest that we should both improve our legacy through incremental change and seek transformational change which will offer new possibilities.
One of the most important breakout sessions of this Summit will be devoted to "Education and Reconciliation". Unfortunately, it is often our children who suffer most in the many zones of conflict around the world. I'd like to emphasize that every human being has a right to education. The obligation of society is to provide that, and to ensure that its quality meets our needs.
This is why several sessions this year are devoted to the issue of quality. And it's a fortunate coincidence that the latest results of the OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment are to be released later today. We will have a special spotlight session to hear about them.
A word about teachers. Around the world, millions of teachers are doing a great job out of dedication and professionalism. Often they are poorly paid. We must raise their status in society, because they are the architects of the mind and of our shared future.
The second theme of WISE 2010, "Exploring Innovative Trends", looks at the potential of emerging technologies and branches of science to provide radical solutions and to offer new possibilities. Among the breakout sessions are: the impact of ICT; lessons from cognitive science; and games for serious learning.
It's clear that sustainability of education is critical, and so we have devoted a special Plenary Session to funding education.
We want to help find solutions. We are hosting on the sidelines of WISE an important session on the UN's Millennium Development Goals that are fully in line with the WISE mission.
In direct response to your requests, I am pleased to tell you that we have introduced new features at WISE this year. You will find these opportunities at our Workshops, in the Exhibit Area, in networking opportunities and "Spotlight" sessions.
I'd like to mention in particular the Gala Dinner tomorrow where we will celebrate the WISE Awards winners. They have been implementing some of the ideas and theories which we will discuss in our sessions.
Another exciting feature is a live video link between WISE and the TEDx women's conference in Washington, DC, which will be addressed by Her Excellency Sheikha Mayassa bint Hamad Al-Thani.
Ladies and Gentlemen, we are honored to have brought together 1,200 leading thinkers and innovators, from many different sectors and from all around the world.
We thank you for responding to our call to action. We are confident that your combined experience and talent will spark innovative solutions in education.
Our moderators will be collecting your ideas and reporting them back to the WISE organisers. When we get together again on Thursday afternoon I expect that we will have some new plans which can be turned into concrete action.
We are committed to maintaining and developing the momentum initiated throughout the past year. WISE is your platform, so – please – use it. I therefore urge each of you to take this unique opportunity to contribute to building the future of education.