Dubai Cares, part of Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives, has announced the launch of the “Educate, Learn and Innovate through an E-platform” (ELITE) program which is set to provide professional development for teachers as well as support 50,000 students across Paraguay with access to quality education. The program is a result of the Global Council on Sustainable Development Goal’s (SDG 4 – Quality Education) meeting held in Dubai during the World Government Summit (WGS) in February 2019, where members discussed innovative solutions for current education challenges globally, some of which can be overcome through a teacher training platform. The Government of Paraguay connected with Dubai Cares at the Summit to explore potential support towards the country’s education system. The discussions resulted in designing an educational program, which is in line with the Paraguayan digital learning strategy and the goal that has been set by the Global Council on SDG 4, chaired by Her Excellency Irina Bokova, Former Director General of UNESCO, and co-chaired by His Excellency Dr. Tariq Al Gurg, Chief Executive Officer at Dubai Cares.
The AED 11,020,500 (USD 3 million) program, which took almost a year and a half in negotiating and design, is being implemented in partnership with Paraguay Educa, and aims to foster learning among children from primary and secondary schools and support teachers’ professional development by providing access to an educational cutting-edge portal known as META. The portal is developed and designed to provide resources, methodologies and online communities to support and enhance the teaching-learning process. With the COVID-19 pandemic leading to government closures of schools, forcing teachers to conduct lessons virtually and students to learn remotely, the META portal is set to play a pivotal role in helping vulnerable learners overcome the barriers raised by social distancing and self-isolation.
Commenting on the vital role of the program in supporting education in Paraguay, Dr. Al Gurg said: “On both the global and regional levels, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum has played a pivotal role in creating an environment where people can prosper. His Highness’s belief in education as a universal human right, has always inspired us to push the boundaries and invest in educational programs even in the farthest areas in the world. His farsighted vision in harnessing the power of innovation to solve the world’s challenges, has enabled us to launch an innovative edtech program in South America. This program represents a viable strategy to promote access to literacy as well as numeracy for all, and is in line with SDG 4 on quality education to develop the skills that Paraguayan teachers and students need to thrive in this connected and ever changing world. This program also seeks to foster educational equity by offering free and open access to META’s digital content. I am confident that META portal under the umbrella of the ELITE program will do much more than supporting teachers’ professional development and disadvantaged students learning journey, as it empowers them to pursue their education and create a brighter future for themselves and their communities.”
Highlighting the UAE’s key role in achieving the SDGs, H.E. Abdulla Nasser Lootah, Director-General of the Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Authority (FCSA) and Vice-Chair of the UAE’s National Committee on SDGs said: “We are proud that the UAE has become a role model for developing plans and innovating strategies to achieve the SDGs. This program in Paraguay, which represents an effective collaboration between Dubai Cares and the Global Council on SDGs (SDG 4 – Quality Education), is one of the successful examples reflecting the UAE’s global efforts in accelerating the global implementation of the SDGs. The current health crisis has heavily impacted education worldwide, causing further disruption to SDG progress. We must seek to turn this crisis into an opportunity and ramp up new global solutions necessary to achieve these global goals. We need to come together to convey a message of hope and trust to achieve a better future and bring about peace and prosperity for everyone.”
Set to run for five years, the program represents a means for continuous professional development for pre- and in-service teachers with references to the national and international contexts in order for them to improve their pedagogical skills and teaching practices. It also aims to be an important support for the Ministry of Education and Sciences in Paraguay, and the whole educational community with its cutting-edge educational content in a variety of formats, such as: texts, animations, videos, games, workshops, and courses. It is also linked to other portals and Ed-tech organizations of the region and worldwide.
META also aims to eliminate linguistic barriers that would prevent an important part of the Paraguayan population from accessing the resources and will intend to offer the same opportunities to all, by making content available in different languages. It also addresses the low school attendance, while providing access to online education or remote learning, which means that learners will access resources and assignments from home. Moreover, the portal is culturally responsive as it takes into consideration the inclusion of vulnerable groups like women, children, adolescents and young people, natives, people with disabilities and migrants. It includes content for the minorities and underserved population, not only as a source of information to be consumed, but as a space to hear their voices through online communities, meet ups and links to governmental institutions and civil society organizations that support those populations.
“We are developing an inclusive, accessibility conscious EdTech platform, that will make quality educational content and methodologies available in both official languages of Paraguay, Guarani and Spanish”, said Eugenia Peroni, the Portal Manager from Paraguay Educa. “The Platform will offer resources that raise awareness of the value of technology in the teaching-learning process. These educational materials, as well as permanent pedagogical innovations developed according to the national curriculum, will be freely accessible on mobile and desktop devices. We thank Dubai Cares, and the Global Council on SDG 4, for their support and we look forward to see the positive impact of the program on both students and teachers.”
According to the 2018 Household Survey from the General Directorate of Statistics and Census, Paraguay had a population of 7,052,983 inhabitants with a very young population given that 50% are 25 years old or less; 62% live in urban areas and the distribution by sex is 50.4% men and 49.6% women. Currently in Paraguay, poverty affects 26.4% of the total population, which directly affects the opportunities of girls and boys. Those who finish the education process in a public institution do not receive the necessary tools to develop the skills of the 21st century. Based on the survey in 2017 by the National Secretariat of Information Technology and Communication, it was reported that the majority of households have ICT devices.