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The Weapon of Education

2017-12-07 – www.sherwestravel.com

By Peter Millett
Ambassador to Libya, Tripoli

Nelson Mandela once said: “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.”
Weapon against what? Multiple enemies: ignorance, lack of opportunity, poverty. A poor education system will produce people who lack the skills that employers are looking for. So they will fail to find jobs and will be unable to lift themselves out of poverty.
What does this mean for Libya? In the short term, it means making sure that all children are able to attend school. Education has been severely disrupted in many places and many children are unable to go to school because the buildings are destroyed, damaged or dilapidated. The UN is working to rehabilitate schools and distribute essential education supplies to target vulnerable children.
That’s the immediate need. But in the medium to longer-term, changing the education system should be an essential component of economic reform. The Libyan economy needs to diversify. It is too dependent on one source of income: oil and gas. And employment opportunities are too dependent on jobs in the public sector where the vast majority of people are employed.
Neither factor is sustainable. The world is becoming less dependent on oil; and Libya can no longer afford to pay people in activities that are largely unproductive. New job opportunities, especially in the private sector will be essential. But that investment will only come if the education system is producing the people with the skills that companies are looking for.
What skills will employers be looking for in future? The Libyan children starting school this autumn will leave in 2030 and enter a job market which will have changed beyond all recognition. The jobs their parents are doing now will not be in plentiful supply. They need to look at the jobs of the future: crowdfunding specialist, internet architect, biomedical engineer, civilian drone controller and others that we can’t even imagine.
The world in which these children will become adults will be very different from the world today. The fusion of economic change and technological advances will drive a completely different jobs market.
How should the curriculum, exams and teaching methods change to prepare children for this world?
School needs to be about:
• Evaluating, explaining and exploiting information instead of remembering and reproducing it.
• Working together in teams rather than as individuals.
• Creativity and Innovation.
Teaching and learning won’t take place in a room with desks and a board and a teacher at the front. It will happen anywhere, anytime, anyhow. Children must learn to adapt, grow, develop capacity and motivation, expand horizons, transfer and apply knowledge. And adults too will need to learn new skills if they are to stay in work.
This sort of change will also help to produce good citizens, creative and productive individuals who are responsible members of society, committed to the interests and values of their own country but also global citizens with global values.
Change is never easy, but many countries have already embarked upon such education reform programmes. They require tough decisions that can only be taken by the Libyans themselves. Having an open and honest debate is important. The international community can help, but only if there is agreement among Libyans on the way forward.
A reformed education sector will be good for young people and good for the economy. Harnessing a young person’s natural talent – of which there is plenty in Libya – is the best way to fulfil his/her potential and bring the prosperity Libyans deserve.
Another key skill for the future will be English language which is now the most widely used language in business, the internet and social media.
The British Council in Libya is actively involved in English language exams and also stands ready to offer experience and expertise on education reform.

About Peter Millett
Peter arrived in Tunis on 23 June 2015 to take up his post as Ambassador to Libya. Previously he was British Ambassador to Jordan from February 2011 to June 2015. He was High Commissioner ...
Peter arrived in Tunis on 23 June 2015 to take up his post as
Ambassador to Libya.
Previously he was British Ambassador to Jordan from February 2011 to June 2015.
He was High Commissioner to Cyprus from 2005 – 2010.
He was Director of Security in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office
from 2002-2005, dealing with all aspects of security for British
diplomatic missions overseas.
From 1997-2001 he served as Deputy Head of Mission in Athens.
From 1993-96 Mr Millett was Head of Personnel Policy in the FCO.
From 1989-93 he held the post of First Secretary (Energy) in the UK
Representative Office to the European Union in Brussels, representing
the UK on all energy and nuclear issues.
From 1981-1985 he served as Second Secretary (Political) in Doha.
Peter was born in 1955 in London. He is married to June Millett and
has three daughters, born in 1984, 1987 and 1991.
His interests include his family, tennis and travel.
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