15 November 2012

Africa: Wise Book Probes Education-Employment Gap

Doha — The World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) has launched Learning a Living: Radical Innovation in Education for Work, a 160-page book that explores ways to improve links between education and today’s rapidly changing job markets.

The publication is based on 15 case studies and personal stories emerging from forward-thinking educational projects around the world that were identified through the WISE community, including winners of the WISE Awards which showcase and promote educational projects that have a transformative effect upon society.

The book focuses on a critical issue: the failure of education systems to equip students adequately for today’s labour market, and consequently to become productive members of their societies. In Kenya, a UNESCO report found that more than 1 million children were not enrolled in primary school education. In a nation where more than 75 percent of the population is less than 30 years, these numbers will have a gripping effect on Kenya’s economic future. This illustrates the disconnect between education and employment, and reinforces the need to find new ways to bridge the skills gap.

Through statistics, interviews, case studies and photographs, the latest WISE Book highlights the need for innovation in preparing students for work and life in Kenya in 21st century. Learning a Living argues that change is necessary in both education systems and the workplace, but the implications go further and readers are drawn to a suitably important conclusion: Making it easier to acquire skills is no longer enough; today’s students must also acquire entrepreneurial values in order to create the opportunities that will make a real difference for themselves and society.

The book covers a diverse range of projects, including the network of schools created by the NGO BRAC, whose Founder and Chairman, Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, was the first WISE Prize for Education Laureate in 2011. It also includes several WISE Awards winning projects, such as Widows Alliance Network for Sustainable Economic Development in Ghana; The Smallholder Farmers Rural Radio in Nigeria; and Al Jisr School-Business Partnerships in Morocco.

The authors are a team of innovation specialists: Valerie Hannon, Sarah Gillinson and Leone Shanks. WISE also commissioned photographer Reza Deghati (known as Reza) to create vivid images that bring the case studies to life.

“WISE is committed to showcasing new approaches to educational challenges and promoting practical solutions, and this book adds to our track record,” said His Excellency Sheikh Abdulla bin Ali Al-Thani, Ph.D., Chairman of WISE, Qatar Foundation. “In many parts of the world outstanding initiatives have broken the status quo and given young people the prospect of a better life. The gains extend to entire communities. We want these good practices to be recognized and replicated. However, the book is not only for the education community.

It is essential that the messages reach decision-makers and thought-leaders who are in a position to introduce change, and we also want to raise awareness among the general public that change is both necessary and possible.”

“The latest WISE Book explores one of the most important challenges of our times – the gap between the worlds of work and education,” said Valerie Hannon, Board Director of the Innovation Unit (London, UK).

“Yet, in the face of this challenge, the WISE Book instills optimism – because these are truly brilliant educational initiatives which we hope will be replicated elsewhere. The people behind the selected projects are inspiring models of human creativity and of how innovative thinking can respond to current challenges.”

“The time we spent on the ground learning about these projects made me realize the importance of the WISE Book – its global vision and potential impact,” said Reza, photojournalist for National Geographic since 1991 and founder of Webistan Photo Agency. “Throughout this project, we never underestimated the importance of our task. To be the voice and the eyes – and to share these stories that will ultimately inspire the world.”

The first WISE Book, Innovation in Education: Lessons from Pioneers Around the World, was launched at WISE 2011. It examines 16 pioneering projects that have succeeded in transforming people's lives through education, and it looks at some of the common features of innovation, how innovation happens, and when and how to scale up.

WISE invited writer and innovation expert Charles Leadbeater and photographer Romain Staros Staropoli to visit the people behind the projects in order to find out how ideas have been turned into actions that work at scale. This inspiring publication brings to light the stories of how these initiatives developed and grew to benefit both learners and communities, and it raises awareness of the crucial need for innovation in education worldwide.

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