The world in 2035: scholars and academics examine how to future-proof education in Palestine

Academics and scientists explored how climate change, developments in AI and automation, and transformations in the political landscape in the Middle East will affect the Palestinian community in the next 15 years in a virtual discussion organized by Birzeit University’s Center for Continuing Education on Tuesday, January 26, 2021. 

The discussion, led by Marwan Tarazi, director of the Center for Continuing Education, addressed whether the skills and knowledge received by Palestinian students will allow them to survive and thrive in a constantly developing and changing world.

Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh, a Palestinian scientist, author, and director of the Palestine Museum of Natural History, emphasized the real threat that climate change poses to life in Palestine and beyond. He noted that Gaza, one of the most densely populated areas in the world, is slowly becoming uninhabitable due to the present level of environmental pollution.

Qumsiyeh warned that if no action is taken, the situation will become even worse across the entire country, calling for the institution of active, participatory teaching methods that raise students’ awareness of environmental issues.

In his opening remarks, Dr. Eyad Elyan, a professor of machine learning and computer vision at Robert Gordon University in the U.K., focused on labor- and job-related changes brought about by technological breakthroughs in recent years. He explained that recent advancements in data science and artificial intelligence have created new career pathways while rendering other jobs obsolete. 

Elyan noted that, at least initially, more jobs will be lost than created as the true potential of some recent technologies is yet to be discovered, which means that schools and universities have to start planning for the needs of the future and focus on skills and disciplines that will be in-demand in 2035 and even sooner.    

Ali Rebaie, a “data anthropologist” who tracks data patterns to help organizations and governments prepare for social and economic transformations, said that the integration of technology in all aspects of human life represents a major shift in how humans have lived for centuries. He argued that such a change requires a robust education that guides students on how to handle the increasing rate of technological development and change happening around them.  

Dr. Basem Ezbidi, an associate professor of political science at Birzeit University, pointed to weak educational institutions and colonization as the main reasons reason behind the general lack of technological innovation in the Arab world. In order to overcome these challenges, he added, the Arab world’s current political atmosphere must give way to an open system in which everyone can participate in decision-making.  

To view a recording of the event, follow this link (in Arabic).