New forum a step towards Vision 2040
September 10, 2019 | 11:07 AM
by Times News Service
Photo for illustration purpose only

Muscat: A government expert has said that a new forum coming to Oman next week is aligned with Vision 2040.

The MENA Innovation (Middle East and North Africa ) forum, which will be hosted by His Highness Sayyid Haitham bin Tariq Al Said, Minister of Heritage and Culture, will take place at the Kempinski Hotel Al Mouj from September 15-17.

The forum will include 15 regional ministers representing MENA, young innovators from both Oman and MENA countries, over 100 students from 35 academic institutions across Oman and abroad, as well as NGOs and companies from 45 countries around the world.

Dr. Abdullah Al Sarmi, the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Higher Education said: “Vision 2040 is based on a knowledge economy and innovation, and this forum is focused on bringing new methods and technologies into education in Oman. This will lead to more advanced technical skills in students, and in fostering the thinking skills and innovations that are needed for SME development.

“SMEs will support Oman’s economy and its diversification efforts in general, but they will also do so in the field of digital solutions in education.

“Furthermore, companies coming to this forum will learn about Vision 2040. It is possible that these meetings will lead to agreements that bring innovative tools to schools in Oman, which would be a step towards fulfilling the goals of Vision 2040,” he added.

According to the Undersecretary, global businesses, the ministers and SMEs will showcase technologies and innovations that could be implemented in Omani higher education.

Asked by Times of Oman about whether the forum will mean a shift in the subjects being taught in Omani colleges and universities, the undersecretary said: “Higher education in Oman has to keep pace with all the changes that society goes through. It cannot stand still because education prepares students for the future. A college education prepares the student for what happens four years from today as a minimum, not for today’s society.

“The future is changing rapidly, and it can be extremely difficult for institutions to predict what the future brings, especially with the technological revolution. This is a challenge, but it is what they must do, and it is why they must produce students who can then continue learning. “If we can do that, we will not have to fear for the students who are finishing their schooling,” he said.

As for what role SMEs have to play in higher education, the undersecretary added: “Education is an extremely vast field. However, when it comes to digital solutions for higher education, we have a number of SMEs, which are actually student companies themselves, that are competing to provide solutions in Oman.

“At the forum, they’ll be presenting their products in the presence of deans and heads of colleges and universities in the region, and this is a huge chance for this type of SME in Oman,” he added.

Al Sarmi said: “There are a lot of plans underway to continue diversifying our economy. From the higher education perspective, we have made it clear that Omanis need to be independent learners, and ICT will play a key role in their doing so, in learning new skills, and applying them to the future workforce.

“Having graduates that are specialised in certain areas is simply outdated thinking. Graduates should be capable of expanding their education and learning new subjects in order to adapt to future challenges in an ever-globalising economy,” he added.

According to the Undersecretary, when students are focused on constant improvement, new SMEs can find a place to thrive.

“A knowledge driven youth demographic is a necessity to translate to entrepreneurial success. It will be through instilling a culture of scientific innovation in students as well as furnishing them with fourth industrial revolution-inspired skillsets that will prepare them to cope with the technological developments in the current global marketplace and moreover, fuel a start-up culture made up of small to medium sized enterprises anew,” he added.

John Glassey, founder of Brains Innovations Summits, the company organising the forum in conjunction with the ministry, said that some SMEs in Oman have already begun to innovate in education in the Sultanate and that the upcoming MENA ICT Innovation in Education Forum could help that, with its focus on digital innovation in education.

He added: “We are very much committed to promoting innovation, transformation, and particularly investments in developing the digital skills of young people in Oman.”

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