The 2017 World Innovation Summit for Education


Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie at the WISE conference. Photo by Inaara Gangji.


The World Innovation Summit for Education is an international conference that has taken place in Doha since 2009. The conference brings together a variety of stakeholders from the education sector, such as policy makers, innovators and educators, to explore various ways to improve education in the world. This year’s two-day summit kicked off with the opening ceremony on Nov. 15, with a special address by CNN journalist Fareed Zakaria at the Qatar National Convention Center. The theme for 2017 was “Co-Exist, Co-Create: Learning to Live and Work Together.”

Below, our Daily Q reporters highlight some of the workshops from the summit.


Day 1: The benefits of failure

By Lolwa Al-Thani

We can grow from our failures by learning to laugh at them, said Fanny Auger, an entrepreneur based in Paris who founded the French chapter of The School of Life, an educational company that aims to develop emotional intelligence.

“The benefits of failure” workshop was one of six workshops on the first day of WISE. The purpose of the workshop was not to teach people how to succeed, but to learn about “noble failure” and grow from it, according to Auger, who conducted it.

“We live in a society obsessed with success. People can talk about death and money, which are two other subjects that are really hard to deal with, but we don’t really talk about failure,” Auger said.

Workshops at this year’s WISE focused on hands-on learning experiences, according to the WISE program book. Auger had the workshop participants join in multiple learning games and experiences. Participants had to hug each other for 10 seconds, share a secret with a stranger or join a silent improvisation game. These exercises were meant to demonstrate how everyone needs support in life, how most already have the necessary resources to succeed within ourselves, and how people can adapt to situations much quicker than they think, according to Auger.

“We need to accept that nothing is going according to the plan and that’s okay, but we have to be honest about it,” she said.

Auger’s ultimate tip for using failure to grow, though, is to be cautious of the way you speak to yourself in private. We are kind to our friends and family when they are feeling down, yet we don’t share that kindness with ourselves, she said.

João Canas, a fire prevention engineer at Parsons and a participant at the workshop, plans to share some of the exercises he learned with his friends and colleagues at work. “Normally people think about the positive side of anything in life, nobody is questioning themselves about failure… these exercises make you think about the real issues; not the superficial ones that most people discuss,” he said.


Day 2: New models of learning: lessons and practices  

By Noor Abunaba

At a session titled, “New models of learning: lessons and practices,” panelists discussed new models for education.

Leslee Udwin, founder and CEO of Think Equal Global, Felix Marquardt, co-founder and CEO of Cities and Planets, Johan Goodwin, CEO of the LEGO Foundation, and Kevan Collins, CEO of the Education Endowment Foundation, discussed how current education models may have worked in the past but now hinder students’ development.

Current education models cannot change violent mindsets, but an education that emphasizes social and emotional learning just as much as math and sciences are currently emphasized can do that, said Udwin. She added that schools should make social and emotional learning a compulsory subject in schools starting at the age of three.

“Schools were not invented to make people grow and flourish. Schools were invented during the first industrial revolution to fill factories with people,” Marquardt added. He criticized how schools till now function the same way they did in the past by developing young job seekers instead of job creators. He added that traveling is one way for people to grow and flourish. There is no better way to learn about the world than to travel, said Marquardt.

Goodwin added to this argument by saying that a change in parents’ attitudes is needed in order to prioritize children’s development. One way to do so, he said, is to manifest playing into learning.


Day 2: Rethinking higher education in the connected age

By Noor Abunaba

Higher education needs to develop and adapt according to the new generation, according to panelists of a session titled, “Rethinking Higher Education in the Connected Age.”

Astrid Tuminez, regional director of Microsoft Southeast Asia, Ben Nelson, CEO of the Minerva Schools, Claudia Costin, director of the Center for Excellence and Innovation of Education Policies, and Carmen Pellicer, president and founder of Fundación Trilema, all shared their views on how they believe higher education needs to develop so that its relevance is better understood.

Tuminez shared an anecdote of how her daughter dropped out of university to become a farmer because she was not convinced of the necessity of a college education. She said this story highlights the current generation’s willingness to question traditional methods of education. She added that she appreciates this attitude but emphasized that teens need to continue with higher education.

All of the panelists agreed on the importance of higher education, but they also criticized the current system. The current system does not encourage critical thinking, resulting in people having fragmented knowledge, Pellicer said. She added that a personalized education that focuses on emotional and social learning is needed. Costin said higher education should reinvent itself so that it can teach people how to think.

“I started a brand-new university program specifically because the evidence shows that college education is terrible,” Nelson said, adding that the Wall Street Journal leaked test results from multiple colleges in the United States which showed poor advancement in critical-thinking skills among many students over their four years of college education. He added that universities should be an engine for creativity and not vocational learning.


Day 2: Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie speaks at WISE 2017

By Inaara Gangji

Your story should not be told by others, said internationally acclaimed author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie at the summit.

Adichie is a Nigerian writer who has published several novels. In 2008, she was awarded the MacArthur Genius Grant, a monetary prize given to people working in any field to develop their craft because they have shown outstanding dedication towards it. She is a globally recognized speaker known for having one of the most-viewed TED Talks of all time, “The Danger of a Single Story,” in which she asks the audience to challenge stereotypes and seek more than one perspective. In 2012, Adichie gave a talk titled “We Should all be Feminists,” which started a worldwide conversation about feminism and was later published as a book in 2014.

Adichie’s panel at WISE focused on the topic “from knowledge economies to knowledge societies.” She said she believes education should teach people how to consume information in the digital age, rather than simply be used as a means of profit.

Our primary avenue of getting information, the Internet, is ridden with lies, according to Adichie. To combat the impact of fake news, people need to start looking at education in a broader sense; literacy should be incorporated in social media and children should be taught how to navigate the complex realms of the online world, she said.

Adichie’s dream is for African children to have access to quality education and for the art of writing to be encouraged there. In her opinion, Africa’s stories are currently being told from a Western perspective and Africans must learn to tell their own stories. She gave an example of how Europeans taught children in Nigeria that the West discovered the Niger River.

“When you’re taught these stories, stories about your own history, and you internalize them, you’re learning to diminish yourself, to diminish the contribution of your own people,” Adichie said.

Adichie annually hosts a workshop in Nigeria for young writers to discover their talent and find their own voices. She said she believes writing teaches people empathy.


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