In Cairo, Amman and the Palestinian territories, the aim over the next decade is to get a laptop into every classroom from primary through to secondary school.
Since 2004, Jordan has been pressing ahead with the Jordan Education Initiative (JEI). First launched as a regional pilot scheme to bring e-learning to the kingdom at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Jordan in 2003, the combined ministries of ICT, education and planning have put up to $3.7 million into its development.
International partners including the US Agency for International Development, the British Council and Canada’s Digital Opportunities Trust have all lent a hand. After a WEF meeting in June 2005, the Palestinian Education Initiative was launched, and since 2006 the blueprint has been copied in Egypt.
With help from the WEF’s IT members, Cairo is looking at the potential for private sector collaboration on its own Egypt Education Initiative. Multinationals like Cisco Systems and Microsoft are now heavily involved in assisting the development of the IT sector across the region.
Yet the development of an IT-based education programme will not only produce a new generation of IT-literate graduates, but will also fundamentally change the nature of how children are taught and how they participate in that process.
As in other parts of the world, this is likely to have huge implications for traditional teaching practices.
“It is one thing to teach IT but it is quite another to use it in the teaching process,” says Ali Farawamy, executive vice-president for Europe, the Middle East & Africa at Microsoft. “You effectively move the student from a passive to an active participant. It will be an opportunity for more openness.”