At a World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in January 2003, Cisco CEO John Chambers invited global business leaders to join our company in creating a high-quality education program that would use technology to reduce the gap between developed and developing countries. The Jordan Education Initiative (JEI) was launched in June 2003 and is now supported by 45 organizations, including local and international companies, Jordanian government departments, global government donors, and nongovernmental organizations.

The JEI provided many indications that public-private partnerships could be successfully utilized to support a sustainable model of national education reform. The Global Education Initiative (GEI) was launched by the WEF in July 2006 with Cisco as a founding partner. The objective of the GEI is to build on the success of the JEI by documenting best practices and lessons learned, capturing and creating models and tools and promoting effective models for education reform.

The GEI has used the JEI as a prototype for new partnerships in Egypt and the Indian state of Rajasthan. GEI has a vision that extends beyond education to help accomplish the following objectives:

  • Eliminate poverty
  • Stimulate national economies
  • Improve health
  • Encourage environmental responsibility and social justice

Jordan Education Initiative

The goals of the Jordan Education Initiative (JEI) are to:

  • Enhance the quality of education through the effective use of information and communications technology
  • Build the capacity of the local technology industry
  • Create a global education program model to be replicated in other countries

JEI brings holistic educational change, delivered through electronic content, teacher training, and technology, to 100 specially selected "Discovery Schools." The program uses technology to communicate complex concepts more effectively and encourage critical thinking and confidence-building. Teacher-led learning in the classroom, delivered with the aid of laptops and projectors, incorporates technology in about 80 percent of student learning time, whereas a computer lab only consumes around eight percent for the same cost.

Local Involvement

JEI has developed e-curricula for key subjects such as mathematics, science, information and communications technology, Arabic, and English. We employed local companies for software development, ensuring local ownership and accountability and also facilitating the transfer of knowledge and capacity into Jordan. These companies in turn employed Jordanian teachers to help build the e-curriculum. The Ministry of Education provided local companies with Jordanian teachers to advise and assist in the e-curriculum production process

Cisco funded the development of a mathematics e-curriculum for years 1–12 in Arabic and English. The development was carried out jointly by Rubicon (a Jordanian company) and the Cisco Learning Institute (a not-for-profit organization).

Cisco has also contributed to the establishment of a schools technology innovation center (STIC), in partnership with Intel, Hewlett-Packard, and Microsoft. The STIC will both innovate and showcase the new technology solutions for the schools and foster innovation in all aspects of teaching, learning, and school administration. Global and local partners have contributed more than $25 million to the JEI, with Cisco contributing more than $4 million.

Assessments and Results

The schools have established formal assessment and evaluation frameworks to measure student learning increases and the responses of teachers and students to the new methods of teaching. A preliminary teacher and student survey of e-math shows that it enhances understanding, thinking, and problem-solving. It increases enthusiasm, participation, and enjoyment and is taught in less time. Models suggest that the efficiency of teachers will increase by 10 to 25 percent. This is a critical benefit in developing countries, where the number of children entering the school system is expected to rise steeply in the next few years.

Preliminary economic modeling suggests that if the new JEI program were expanded nationally, there would be sufficient economic growth to pay for the incremental costs of the program within 10 years. The local information and communications industry also stands to gain revenue if the electronic teaching materials created in Jordan are sold to other countries. One report estimates that approximately $3.7 million has been transferred from global partners to local companies as a direct result of JEI. The JEI has encouraged global companies to take a closer look at Jordan, creating a favorable environment for investment.

Egypt Education Initiative

An initiative of the World Economic Forum under the umbrella of the Global Education Initiative, the Egypt Education Initiative (EEI) is a partnership to improve education in Egypt through effective use of information and communications technology, with a special focus placed on harnessing e-learning technologies. The goal is to facilitate education reform in Egypt, preparing all students to join the digital workforce, and develop the capacity of the local information technology industry.

Under the auspices of the EEI, Cisco plans to establish an additional 1,000 Networking Academy sites across Egypt and use vehicles, called mobile labs, to bring information and communications technology to underprivileged communities. Two vans and two buses, each equipped with satellite Internet connections, data projectors, printers, scanners, and Web cameras, park in a community for five weeks to offer the Cisco IT Essentials course to 50 students at a time. Additionally, approximately 16,000 visitors, nearly 45 percent women or girls, have joined educational tours of the mobile labs.

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