New online learning system provides Arabs access to world-class education

The Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation For Education has unveiled the Open Learning Scholars Programme in partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair, chairman of the board of trustees of the Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education, announces the launch of the Open Learning Scholars Programme. Reem Mohammed / The National
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DUBAI // A newly launched online learning system promises Arabs across the region access to a world-class education.

Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation For Education has unveiled the Open Learning Scholars Programme in partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

The programme, believed to be the first of its kind in the world, will allow Arabs of all ages from any country access to a tailor-made course by MIT.

“We are sorely lacking in science, engineering and mathematics skills in this region and by partnering with MIT we can offer a world-class-level education to Arabs, no matter where they are,” said Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair, the foundation’s chairman of the board of trustees.

“We hope up to 15,000 students will benefit from this programme over the next 10 years.”

The first of two courses is part of MIT’s MicroMaster’s accreditation in the area of Data Science and Management.

The second MicroMaster’s course has yet to be finalised but will have a strong emphasis on science, technology, engineering, mathematics and systems.

MIT’s involvement means any potential Arab students - from Morocco and Egypt to a Syrian refugee camp or in the Gaza Strip - can access it, Mr Al Ghurair .

The course is a blended model, which means it is a combination of face-to-face and online learning, that will provide an accredited degree and recognised credentials.

It is split into five, 12-week-long online modules, which once completed will earn the student an MIT credential.

Students can then apply to complete a Master’s at MIT or another university or look for employment.

“If a student completes the five courses, we can then provide them with scholarships to continue their Masters degree, be that at MIT or anywhere else,” said Mr Al Ghurair.

“Our aim is to bring back the skills and experience they gain to help benefit the region in a positive way.”

Although online course are not generally accredited by national governments or many private companies in the region, Mr Al Ghurair was hopeful that MIT’s involvement will begin to change such perceptions and force institutions into recognising these types of qualifications.

Professor Eric Grimson, chancellor for academic advancement at MIT, said: “As you would expect from MIT, this course isn’t going to be easy but for people with the talent, motivation and determination, it will help to open doors to new opportunities.”

Maysa Jalbout, Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation’s chief executive, said the organisation was working with various United Nations and civil society bodies to bring the necessary resources to refugee camps so that they can gain access to the courses.

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Abdulla Al Ghurair is a leading Emirati businessman who began education philanthropy in the 1960s. He has dedicated Dh4.2 billion of his wealth to the foundation.