“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” ― Winston S. Churchill
According to a 2014 United Nations Development Programme document, “Arab Knowledge Report,” a state of urgency exists among the 100 million Arab youth throughout the Arab world: increasing unemployment, decreasing career opportunities, growing economic pressures, expanding irrelevance of traditional curriculum, intensifying military conflicts, broadening refugee displacement, and widening threats to the Arabic language are the main challenges.
And yet, there is reason to be hopeful: according to a 2016 Cisco report, “Where to Begin Your Journey to Digital Value in the Private Sector,” the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA) represents USD $363 billion in digital potential! The key to Arab youth unlocking this opportunity is online education. While the infrastructure for online education has only begun to emerge in the Arab world it presents vast potential.
One emerging online education option is Kwn Education. Launched in 2016 Kwn — the Arabic word for ‘create’ or ‘build’ — is an online, STEM focused Arabic language university for Arab youth powered by the Open edX Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) platform.
As defined by Educause, a MOOC is ” a model for delivering learning content online to any person who wants to take a course, with no limit on attendance.” edX is the result of a nonprofit partnership between Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); Open edX is the open source version of the same platform.
Kwn offers three diplomas all delivered in Arabic that provide Arab youth with the technical knowledge and soft skills they need to capitalize on MENA’s growing digital economy; each three-month course from the 16 course diploma is USD $100 and is accredited by BTEC Pearson.:
- Digital Transformation in Organizations
- Digital Entrepreneurship
- Digital Consultancy
Notably, I met with Kwn’s developer, Mohammed Alsiddiq, a founding partner of Eight Creative Technology, in Dubai last this past July. Mohammed bought my book, “edX E-Learning Course Development” on Amazon.com to help him design, develop, and deploy his edX initiative.
This lead to my introduction to Ms. Hala Alturki, CEO of Kwn, and the rest of her impressive team. I was invited to join them at the Innovation 4 Impact Competition during the Global Islamic Economy Summit on October 11, 2016 in Dubai. At this event, in which Kwn was one of five finalists, Ms. Hala “pitched” the concept to a panel of judges and the audience members in the hope of winning a $20,000 US prize. Kwn did not win the competition. However, Ms. Hala gave an excellent presentation at the Innovation 4 Impact Competition.
Kwn launched its first two courses on October 31, 2016: Introduction to Computer Programming Principles and Computer Interface Design Principles. Additional courses including Visual Communication in Art and Design and Website Creation and Management launched 30 days later.
Shortly after the first courses started, on November 8, 2016 at the Westin Mina Al Seyahi in Dubai, Kwn won the 2016 Enterprise Agility Award for Innovation in Education from Entrepreneur Middle East. A description of the Enterprise Agility Awards follows:
Organized by Entrepreneur MENA, the 2016 Enterprise Agility Awards recognized and honored enterprise leaders and individuals who have distinguished themselves and shown sector significance and outstanding business conduct across a variety of industries that are key drivers of the Middle East’s economies. The Enterprise Agility Awards, Entrepreneur of the Year seeks to acknowledge agility across a variety of industries including retail, healthcare, construction, hospitality, aviation, education, banking, and energy, amongst other key drivers of the Middle East’s economy.
Evaluating the impact and potential for Kwn Education it appears to echo the idea communicated in the Winston Churchill quote at the beginning of this blog post: Ms. Hala Alturki and her colleagues at Kwn have creatively confronted the challenges facing Arab youth with optimism and innovation.