$100m fund launched to advance Arab education

Khalid Abdulla-Janahi at the World Economic Forum in Jordan.
Updated 20 May 2017
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$100m fund launched to advance Arab education

THE DEAD SEA, Jordan: A $100 million fund has been launched to change the Palestinian education system through a radically new approach to teaching and learning methods, in an initiative that could ultimately be expanded across the entire Arab world.
The Palestinian Education Trust (PET), a not-for-profit organization set up by philanthropist businessmen with the blessing of the authorities in the occupied parts of the territories, was unveiled at the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Middle East meeting in the Dead Sea resort in Jordan.
Sabri Saidam, the Palestinian education minister, said the aim was to “win the hearts and minds of Palestinians and focusing on liberating Palestinians through education. Our slogan is: Educate a child, liberate a country.”
Around $10 million has already been pledged for PET, which is the brainchild of two Arab businessmen — Samer Khoury and Khalid Abdulla-Janahi. Abdulla-Janahi also writes opinion articles for Arab News. The aim is to raise another $90 million through appeals to potential donors throughout the Arab world.
The scheme began a year ago at a meeting at a London airport, where Janahi and Khoury discussed the need for a new and radically different educational system in the Middle East.
“It is about changing how we do things in the region, not just in Palestine but in the whole of the Arab world. We want to change the way of thinking about education and the mindset of teachers. What I am getting at (is) the need for critical thinking,” Janahi said.
In an emotional appeal, Saidam said: “They said that in Palestine the elderly will die and the young will forget. That is not true. We are all connected to the past and all linked to the future.” He said that the ultimate aim was to create a new high school system in Palestine and other parts of the Arab world.
The scheme was also backed by Oliver McTernan, the director of Forward Thinking, an organization that helps resolve disputes through mediation. McTernan said: “There is a mismatch between the education system in the region and the economy and the job opportunities available. There are something like 250,000 young people out of work in Gaza and the West Bank, and it is a recipe for disaster. These people need an education that prepares them for the future.”
Khoury said: “We want to create an education system so that Palestinian people can excel anywhere they go in the world.”
An official document outlining the aims of the trust said: “Education is the foundation of Palestinian empowerment and the cornerstone of the advancement of the Palestinian cause. Yet young Palestinians find themselves unable to establish fruitful careers, they cannot gain their independence and they struggle to build family lives of their own. This fosters desperation and resentment within the occupied territories.
“The occupation is a fundamental factor at the core of the crisis, but there are significant steps that can be taken to alleviate the pressures young people face and help them build a better future,” it added.
While 98 percent of Palestinian people are literate, and there are high school enrollment figures, unemployment rates are as high as 42 percent in Gaza and 18 percent in the West Bank.


Global carmakers show off SUVs, electrics as China promises reforms

Updated 5 min 25 sec ago
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Global carmakers show off SUVs, electrics as China promises reforms

BEIJING: Global carmakers touted their latest electric and SUV models in Beijing on Wednesday, as China promises a more level playing field in the world’s largest auto market where domestic vehicles are making major inroads.
Industry behemoths like Volkswagen, Daimler, Toyota, Nissan, Ford and others are displaying more than 1,000 models and dozens of concept cars at the Beijing auto show.
Thousands of Chinese auto enthusiasts are expected to wander the halls of the mega exhibition center this week, with electric cars and gas-guzzling sport-utility vehicles grabbing the spotlight.
Nissan presented its first Made in China electric car produced for Chinese consumers, the four-door Sylphy Zero Emission, with a drive range of 338 kilometers.
“The new Sylphy Zero Emission is the next step in our electrification strategy for China,” said Jose Munoz, Nissan’s chief performance officer, adding that the company will unveil 20 electrified models over the next five years.
Auto executives may have their minds on the boiling trade war between Beijing and Washington, with every twist and turn fanning fears that it could bring their plans for China to a screeching halt.
But last week Beijing announced it will liberalize foreign ownership limits in the sector, a move seen as a possible olive branch to President Donald Trump, who has railed against China’s policies in the sector.
China currently restricts foreign auto firms to a maximum 50 percent ownership of joint ventures with local companies.
The changes will end shareholding limits for new energy vehicle firms as soon as this year, followed by commercial vehicles in 2020 and passenger cars in 2022.
Foreign automakers who account for more than half of vehicle sales in China have cautiously welcomed the changes, with VW saying it has “strong” local partners in their joint ventures.
“This will have no impact on our JVs. But the overreaching principle is important. Hopefully, liberalization will as well help for fair competition, and having a level playing field,” Jochem Heizmann, CEO of Volkswagen Group China, told reporters.
The show comes as China’s market hits a transition period — the explosive growth in car sales seen over the last decade slowed last year and data from early this year point to a continued slump for many vehicle types.
Chinese consumers are following their American peers toward SUVs while policymakers in Beijing push an all-electric future.
Ride-sharing is also on the up. On Tuesday Didi — China’s answer to Uber — announced it had joined forces with some 30 partners, including Renault and Volkswagen, to develop vehicles and products specifically tailored for ride-sharing.
Accounting for some 28.9 million car sales last year, the Chinese market could soon match those of the European Union and United States combined.
General Motors sold over four million cars here last year, more than in the US. Volkswagen sold more than three million, roughly six times its home market.
But domestic firms are outselling foreign firms in the SUV segment.
In the electric car market the figures are even more lopsided, as Beijing has heaped money on projects to dominate what it sees as the future.
At the auto show, the domestic upstarts have a separate exhibition hall mostly to themselves — 124 of the 174 electric car models on display are homegrown.
Government subsidies help consumers purchase the green cars, while policymakers are planning a quota system to force producers to build electric vehicles, with plans to one day phase out gas vehicles altogether.
Volkswagen announced Tuesday investments of €15 billion in electric and autonomous vehicles in China by 2022.
“China is our second home,” recently installed chief executive Herbert Diess said at a Beijing press conference, with its market set to be “the biggest” worldwide for electric cars.