As the leading provider of primary, preparatory, and secondary content for the Egyptian Knowledge Bank, Discovery Education has been working closely with the Ministry of Education on products and services being provided as part of the Egyptian Knowledge Bank project. The company, which specialises in providing technological education solutions, will introduce the online digital content such as WebEdTV, an online educational TV for students, parents, and teachers, and Curriculum Connect, which connects the Egyptian curriculum to engaging digital content.
Vice president of the International Discovery Education, Robin Headlee, told Daily News Egypt in an interview that the company also recently launched Discovery Education Network (DEN) Arabia, which is an online platform that connects education communities with their most valuable resources: each other.
How do you see investment opportunities in the application of technology in education?
I think there is a great opportunity to deploy technology in education in Egypt, as evidenced by the Egyptian Knowledge Bank (EKB), and in which Discovery Education is the leading provider for primary, preparatory, and secondary students.
Discovery Education works in 53 countries across all continents and is currently serving over 50 million students and 4.5 million educators worldwide. Our extensive experience globally means that we can learn from our experiences in other countries and apply the relevant best practices in Egypt that are found in other countries.
In the countries in which we operate, Discovery Education has conducted numerous studies over the years and has strong evidence to support the idea that when educators use Discovery Education content on technology platforms, there were signs of greater student engagement and increased student performance on end-of-course exams, compared to when educators incorporate traditional instructional approaches.
We have also found that using our content is particularly effective in improving student achievement when it is used by teachers that have a pedagogical foundation.
We at Discovery Education help build this pedagogical foundation through our online tools and resources as well as through our professional development programmes.
Furthermore, we encourage the dissemination of best practices by helping teachers spread their learning from our professional development programmes to other teachers that have not had the benefit of our in-person training through the Discovery Education Network (DEN). The DEN connects education communities to each other and acts as a technology platform to enable the dissemination of best practices worldwide.
Because Discovery Education continues to witness the results of applying technology to education, it is our belief that the deployment of technology in education is a great enabler for the advancement of education.
What is your vision for the development of education?
Discovery Education builds on the success that the company has achieved in other countries and adapts those strategies to specifically address the Egyptian market. This includes providing engaging content both in and outside the classroom; delivering powerful teacher training through our professional development programme, STEM Now; engaging with teacher and parent communities via DEN Arabia; and interacting with students and the wider community via events such as STEM clubs, STEM camps, parent trainings and charitable events, such as the Family Day we held in February at 57357 Hospital for Children’s Cancer.
Although it is still early, the results we have seen so far are very encouraging. We have found that teachers, parents, and students are all receiving great benefits from our programme.
For teachers in our professional development programme, teaching practices are moving away from pure memorisation to techniques that require the students to understand the content.
Students are much more engaged in the classroom and are exhibiting critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and communication skills.
Parents are feeling more empowered over their children’s education. They find Curriculum Connect particularly useful because they can now find and use tools and content directly mapped to the lessons their children are learning in the classroom. Parents now have the resources to seamlessly extended learning from the classroom into the home through the use of videos, images, text articles, audio recordings, and interactive material, such as virtual labs.
As a result, Discovery Education’s vision is to embrace and build upon the early successes achieved thus far in Egypt through engaging content, teacher training, teacher and parent community collaboration, and both online and offline community events.
Egypt plans to automate all of the services, including education. Do you have a vision regarding this part? Is there cooperation with government agencies in this regard?
As the leading provider of primary, preparatory, and secondary content for the Egyptian Knowledge Bank, we have been working closely with the Ministry of Education on products and services being provided as part of the EKB.
The online digital content we provide in Egypt includes WebEdTV, online educational TV for students, parents, and teachers, and Curriculum Connect, which connects the Egyptian curriculum to engaging digital content. We also recently launched DEN Arabia, an online platform that connects education communities with their most valuable resources: each other. These resources can be found at discoveryeducation.ekb.eg.
We are receiving fantastic feedback on the impact of our efforts thus far and look forward to continuing to work in partnership with the government to achieve superior results in education through the various initiatives.
Is there any cooperation with private entities for the use of your advanced solutions?
We work in 53 countries across all continents. We work extensively with governments and private entities worldwide. In Egypt, we are working predominately with the government, whereas in some other countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, and Qatar, we work more extensively with private schools. We believe that the fact that the Egyptian government has launched some initiatives that have been reserved for private schools in other countries in the region is a real testament to the government’s commitment to education in Egypt.
In your opinion, what are the mechanisms for educational content development?
We believe in providing engaging content that inspires students to think critically, be creative, enquire, and be motivated to learn. In developing the content for Egypt, we drew on the vast collection of educational content in Discovery Education’s library, screened it for cultural relevance, and dubbed it into Arabic. Not only are we the first of the western providers of Arabic-dubbed content, we have also now partnered with three Egyptian production companies to produce video content in Cairo, with Arabic as the first language and then dubbed into English. We look forward to showcasing the collection in the next couple of months.
What are the main products and solutions you are providing during the current period?
We work on a range of different programmes in Egypt focused on improving students’ educational experience both inside and outside the classroom.
The first programme is WebEdTV, an online educational TV at its best, broadcasted five days a week for three hours a day. It offers teachers, parents, and students a compilation of the most engaging and informative programmes from Discovery Education’s world-class video collection. Programmes are carefully created, topic-aligned to five STEM-focused areas, and include customised intro videos, instructional strategies, and learning guides.
The second programme is Curriculum Connect, which connects the national curriculum to engaging digital content. Hand-selected videos, images, text articles, interactive components, and audio files are reviewed and aligned to all science and math units and lessons for all grade ranges in primary, preparatory, and secondary education.
Professional development is the third programme, where we provide extensive training on STEM’s best practices with the use of digital resources for principals and teachers over a two-year period, recognising schools as STEM Excellence Centres at the end of the programme.
The fourth programme, which we launched only a few weeks ago, is DEN Arabia, which connects education communities. Regardless of their role in education, participants receive a supportive learning environment to help them improve their practice, provide valuable networking opportunities, foster the sharing of great ideas, and focus on the joy of teaching and learning.
I am going to broadly classify the fifth programme as educational events. These include STEM clubs, which are afterschool events launched earlier this year that engage students to explore STEM topics through hands-on activities and experiments. They also include STEM camps, which are day-long student gatherings, which we will be launching this summer. Other events include charitable causes, such as the Family Day at 57357 Hospital for Children’s Cancer that we held in February, and ongoing training sessions for Egyptian parents on how to best use the resources at home with their children. These are just a few examples of the many events we are currently holding and/or plan to host in the future.
What are the features of your strategic plans for the current year?
Our plan for the current year is to be able to increase awareness and usage of all five features of our programmes: WebEdTV, Curriculum Connect, Professional Development, DEN Arabia, and the various events.
A big area of focus will be on reaching as many of the more than 20 million students and the more than 1.2 million teachers across the 50,000+ schools in Egypt as soon as possible. We see two new major routes to achieve this in the short term.
The first is DEN Arabia. When we say “education communities”, we actually mean the whole of society. We believe that everyone in society, including teachers, parents, and students, can have a positive impact on the shape of education in Egypt. Thus, we launched “DEN Arabia for Educators” in February as a platform for teachers to share best practices. Just a week ago, we held our first training session for parents and out of that came “DEN Arabia for Parents”, which is a platform for parents to access resources and ideas for extending learning from the classroom to the home.
The second route to reaching the masses in the short-term is through TV. We are working on a couple of very exciting TV formats that we hope to share more about later this year. The goal is to make Discovery Education content accessible by everyone.
How can your technological solutions be implemented in public schools?
When developing our solutions for the Egyptian market, we took into account that the technological infrastructure in Egypt varies greatly across the country. As such, we continue to work on providing the greatest access possible to the more than 20 million students and more than 1.2 million teachers across Egypt. One such initiative is Curriculum Connect, which can be accessed via QR codes scanned by a smartphone. Another initiative, which we hope to be available in May, is to enable the downloading and use of content offline. And, as previously mentioned, we are working on some educational TV programmes that we hope to have later this year.
However, it is equally important to recognise that many of our instructional strategies and hands-on activities do not require any use of technology and are effective in building critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and communication skills in students.