For anyone who worries about gender equality, especially as it relates to the Arab
world, one woman is taking the challenge head-on. Dr. Ghada Gholam has been
working with UNESCO in Egypt to improve education for everybody, but especially for women. One of Dr. Gholam’s many projects is working to empower women and eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education. Currently, Dr. Gholam is working on the UNGEI Initiative in Egypt: Breakthrough in Girl’s Education in the Arab Region. The goal is to eliminate gender disparity in the education system by 2015. Dr. Gholam, who believes, “education can take place anywhere,” is also very involved in the global movement Education for All (EFA). She shared her thoughts with us, including her belief in collaborative learning.
Your work has made profound changes in the Arab world. Can you tell us more about your work with UNESCO?
For the last 15 years of my life, I have been working for the UNESCO Cairo Office. Here, I was able to put early childhood on the agenda of several countries in the Arab region, and raise awareness on how getting children to school at an early age positively influences their performance at the basic education level. I have established a model early childhood center in Egypt, which is now recognized in the Arab region and worldwide as one of the most advanced. It provides training for teachers and all those working in the field of early childhood, in addition to receiving 50 children every year. Similar centers were also called for in Sudan and Yemen and are at various implementation stages.
How can others facing similar challenges implement what you’ve accomplished?
They have to believe in what they are doing, be dedicated, love the job, appreciate the value a teacher adds to society, take responsibility in preparing the new generation(s) with the necessary educational and cultural baggage for healthy and correct living, and hardened enough to face future challenges. Every day when I wake up, I look forward to that little addition I can make to the vast educational realm – I am happy to go to work and love my job.
What is the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome to ensure students are receiving a quality education?
The lack of conviction by governments that quality of education should be of major concern and has to receive the suitable financial and technical support of the government.
What is your region doing right to support education?
Moving towards the necessity of good planning and seeking the right advice from international and local experts.
What conditions must change in to better support education?
Better planning, wise funding, improved conditions for teachers, and changing of the curricula to fit the dynamic needs of the learner.
What is the best opportunity for innovation in education?
A dynamic curriculum that endeavors to keep pace with surrounding developments:
technology, finance, industry, IT, communications, science, etc. Such a move requires continuous improvement to adapt the learners to better and faster problem-solving skills towards improved achievements. Reaching every individual in whatever way is possible in his or her community.
What advice would you give a new teacher (or to anyone wanting to make a difference in education)?
Believe in what you do and do not just work for the sake of financial remuneration, but rather for the principle. A teacher is like a prophet and has a sacred and responsible job. Be devoted, be firm and be fair.
If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be?
Any game or work that is better done with input and assistance from others. Cooperation,
coordination and partnership are pivotal in a world ever-changing into an interwoven fabric of players and stakeholders. Things evolve faster, better and maybe less expensively, when done in a group.
About Dr. Ghada Gholam
Dr. Ghada Gholam was born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon. Her experience spans the entire Arab region, along with Europe and the US. She is married, with two adult children. In addition to her career, Dr. Gholam was also dedicated to her role as a working mother. She is a true believer in women’s professions, but also believes in, and practices, the “crucial role” of women in the family. Dr. Gholam has worked in universities, the private sector and international organizations, and believes that wherever you work in the field of education, you can make a difference as long as you work right, work in a team, and are transparent.
Birthplace: Beirut, Lebanon
Current residence: USA and Egypt
Education: BS. Mathematics with teaching diploma; MS Mathematics Education; PhD
Education (mathematics education)
Website I check every day: UNESCO Intranet/ Google
Person who inspires me most: My mother
Favorite childhood memory: I nearly drowned when I was very young and this incident pushed me to learn how to swim.
Next travel destination (work or pleasure): Dubai – UAE
Favorite book: Out of Place by Edward Said