The 9th Award Ceremony for the 2017 edition of the UNESCO King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa Prize took place on 7 March 2018 at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, in the presence of the Director-General of UNESCO, Ms Audrey Azoulay and H.E. Jawad bin Salem Al Arrayed, Deputy Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Bahrain. The ceremony gathered over 500 participants including high government representatives, private companies and experts to attend the awarding of the two wining projects, from Morocco and India, designated by the international jury for their remarkable achievements in the field of the innovative use of ICTs in Education. Ms Zohour Alaoui, the President of the General Conference, Mr Lee Byong-hyun, Chairperson of the Executive Board Mr Saïd Amzazi, Minister of Education of Morocco and Mr Hussain Ibrahim Al Hammadi, Minister of Education of the UAE also attended the event.
In her opening address, Ms Azoulay, congratulated the two prizewinners, the Ministry of National Education, Vocational Training, Higher Education and Scientific Research of Morocco for the GENIE project and Tata Institute of Social Sciences for The Connected Learning Initiative project (CLIx) reminding that innovative solutions in leveraging ICTs in Education are needed for achieving Agenda 2030 educational goals: “In a world where technology carries impact on every facet of our lives, we cannot conceive education without innovation. With increasingly powerful capacities and declining cost, Information and Communication Technologies have enormous potential, particularly in low-income countries.” Ms Azoulay thanked His Majesty the King of Bahrain for the creation of the Prize in 2005 acknowledging that “this award is a demonstration that technology can - and must - serve all and open up new opportunities to live together and learn”.
Reaffirming the relevance of the King Hamad Prize and its impact, Mr Majed Bin Ali Al-Noaimi, Minister of Education of Bahrain, stated that Bahrain will remain faithful to the values that UNESCO seeks to achieve as part of its great humanitarian mission at all levels, including its global strategy 2015-2030. Advocating for universal, compulsory and free education as a basic human right, he called on education as the cornerstone of building and preparing qualified national capacities that possess the skills and expertise required for the 21st century. He also reiterated the substantial and continuous cooperation between Bahrain and UNESCO in various areas of the Organization’s competences reminding that Bahrain currently hosts the Arab Regional Center for World Heritage, the Centre of Excellence for Technical & Vocational Education, and the Regional Center for Information and Communication Technology, all working in cooperation with UNESCO. “We believe that peace and the rejection of violence and extremism are nurtured and cultivated primarily through education and in minds”, the Minister concluded.
This yearly event was organized alongside a Laureates’ Seminar and the exhibition showcasing best projects from six countries: Morocco, India, Latvia, UAE, Croatia and Ghana, and presenting Bahrain’s programmes and activities on digital empowerment in education, assuring both professional and cultural experience for all attendees.
Underscoring the role of ICTs in teaching and learning, Ms Ilham Laaziz, director of the GENIE program, said: “The introduction of ICT and their progressive integration to support national school curricula are two important steps in the implementation of education sector reform.” She added that in March 2005, the Government of Morocco adopted a strategy aimed at mainstreaming ICT in public school education and that the program aims to contribute to building knowledge societies for sustainable development of the country. Ms Padma Sarangapani, director of the Clix project from India held her presentation together with Mr Vijay Kumar, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIP), USA. They focused on the importance of connectedness and how the project aims to provide expanded access to and participation in quality secondary education through intelligent integration of technology, leading to further opportunities of education and work and the productive and responsible digital citizenship.
Both projects include multilingual, innovative and holistic approaches and reflect well this year’s theme entitled “The use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to increase access to quality education,” with a view to promoting innovations in leveraging ICTs for lifelong learning opportunities and for achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal for education, SDG 4.
The ceremony comprised of dynamic elements including a film, Digital Schools’ Reporters of the Kingdom of Bahrain, which demonstrates the achievements of country’s Digital Empowerment in Education initiatives, as well as a live orchestra performed by students from Bahrain. After the musical introduction, the Chair of the International Jury, Ms Lucia Dellagnelo announced the winners and the the Director-General of UNESCO together with the Deputy Prime Minister of Bahrain presented medals and diplomas to the laureates who then took the stage to thank the organizers.
In her final remarks, the Director-General of UNESCO, Ms Azoulay, congratulated the Laureates once again and concluded: “At a time when education is challenged to respond to and benefit from the changes in the labor market and to meet the requirements of the "fourth industrial revolution", to transmit values, we must share the most innovative and efficient pedagogical practices to live up to this challenge - that of quality and access.”