Over the past 14 years I have attended only two types of conferences, the first one is very close to my heart and focuses on SME and entrepreneurship, here I learn a lot about the perception of entrepreneurship and how it differs from what we teach in academia. The difference is ice and diamonds, teaching is one thing but talking from experience is another; that is why I truly believe that universities should shift its focus and bring in professionals to teach as these guys can convert student’s lives and threw a different perspective on the whole field. Don’t take me wrong here, as we still need professors for research purposes and for some teaching (the 80/20 rule must apply this way, 80% research and only 20% teaching and not the vice versa). Also ministries of higher education in the gulf should not have it as a rule that teachers in universities should hold a PHD, and that teachers should be academics, as in certain disciplines teachers could be any layman that has expertise in certain profession. I even recommend that doctors with vast experience should teach in medical schools, accountants should teach in business schools, veterinarians should teach in Vet schools and so on. That way students can learn first hand and may not require a long time to learn the job after graduation.
The second type of conferences that I go to regularly are those that focus on Education. This is my bread and butter, and I need to keep abreast of what is happening in that realm. There is so much to be learnt in this field, from curriculum to design, to types of schools, types of subjects, teacher training, new school models, new theories on how to teach, new theories on what to teach, the links between K12 and higher education, students’ lives, students’ welfare, artistic inclination, STEM, and the list can go on. Of course every time I attend a conference I don’t only learn new things but I provide my honest opinion on the basis of what I see in my students. Sometimes my opinion upsets the teachers and the schools, sometimes it enlightens them; once the teachers came to me and said that what I had mentioned is an eye opener, and this was when I mentioned about what a certain teacher had done which made my daughter suppress her creative writing (which is true of course as my daughter used to write so well until her teacher told her not to lie in her stories, and that was the reason she stopped writing)
Anyway, I feel that we need to have a dialogue with schools, universities, teachers, principles, educators in general to share best practices and improve the well being of the students whether young or old, and I feel that the school buildings should not be closed at night, it should be used for community developments and other cultural understanding, especially all of us live in places that has varying nationalities, cultures, religions and interesting differences, so we must all learn from each other. We all must think of the new methodologies of teaching, and the new jobs that will appear in ten to twenty years, as nothing is really stagnant in this world and we know that very well. In the last world education summit one of the speakers said that we need to have the lion king (the movie) philosophy, don’t live a care free life, but care for your self and others. I liked that as it was a great finale to the conference. Another thing I had learnt in that conference that its easy to build schools, but not easy to build good schools. So here is what we have to do, we must all collaborate to build great schools.