Knowledge Oman to step up support for Vision 2040

Knowledge Oman to step up support for Vision 2040

Times-News Service of February 2, 2020, informs that Knowledge Oman to step up support for Vision 2040, is fundamentally for enhancing skills and supporting job creation for the local population.

Knowledge Oman to step up support for Vision 2040
Tariq Hilal Al Barwanni, Knowledge Oman Founder. Photo: Supplied

Muscat: Enhancing skills and supporting job creation for locals is the new goal and vision 2020 for Knowledge Oman.

Speaking about the new plans, Tariq Hilal Al Barwanni, Knowledge Oman Founder said: “Supporting job creation by enhancing the necessary skills employers require from nationals to acquire is Knowledge Oman’s 2020 new goal and direction.”

This came as an announcement of the Sultanate’s multi-award winning knowledge-sharing platform’s strategic plan to make vision 2040 a reality. Knowledge Oman begins the new year with setting attainable goals, based on past achievements, which will support His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik in maintaining a prosperous and thriving country.

“Empowering the society with the necessary knowledge that is required to build a prosperous future is our key objective going forward. We will do this by aligning with vision 2040 and supporting His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik’s leadership,” he emphasised.

Since 2008, Knowledge Oman has managed within 12 years to solidify the vision of late His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said bin Taimour of transforming Oman into a knowledge based society by impacting hundred of thousands of people with 74 initiatives in the form of projects, workshops, seminars that positively impacted students from college and universities, women, entrepreneurs and professionals from various industries.

Projects were supported by over 35 partners locally and internationally attracting over 80,000 registrations and 700 volunteers across the years.

Knowledge Oman received 4 awards that includes the Outstanding contribution to the cause of education from the World Human Resource Development (HRD) Congress.

Members of the platform consist of multinational group of both locals and expatriates living in the country with the passion of creating, sharing and exchanging knowledge.

“In planning our strategy for 2020, we are focusing on three key areas to support Oman towards a society which is rich in human, economic and natural resources that aligns with the 2040 vision. We are launching Knowledge Oman Talks, refining our Knowledge Oman Seminars and collaborating with like-minded partners to deliver initiatives that benefit the society” outlined Tariq.

Knowledge Oman Talks will manage and invite experienced professionals to schools, colleges, and universities to bridge the gap between academia & industry. Knowledge Oman Seminars will be enhanced to organise periodic events that discuss contemporary issues and offer suggestions for development to society. Moreover, Knowledge Oman will invite partners to collaborate on initiatives that benefit the society.

Knowledge Oman’s mission in the past was driven by the vision of late His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said bin Taimour to create a knowledge-based society.

Optimistic about the year ahead and working under the leadership of His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik, Knowledge Oman will continue to build local and international partnerships and work towards providing people in Oman with the necessary knowledge and skills to meet the Oman Vision 2040.

MENA Countries Ranked for English Proficiency

MENA Countries Ranked for English Proficiency

EF Education First (EF): MENA Countries Ranked for English Proficiency by Global Index of 100 Countries shows clearly that the ranking of each country has if only culturally, little to do with, as it were, its specific historical track record. The top ten middle eastern countries are as follow.

And In today’s world, the English language demonstrates a strong network effect: the more people use it, the more useful it becomes.

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, Nov. 12, 2019 / PRNewswire/ — EF Education First released the ninth annual edition of its EF English Proficiency Index (EF EPI), analyzing data from 2.3 million non-native English speakers in 100 countries and regions, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE, and other Arab countries. The Netherlands topped this year’s index, placing Sweden, last year’s top-scorer, in the second position.

The EF English Proficiency Index is an annual ranking of countries and regions by English skills

In the MENA region, Bahrain scored the highest. However, the region has continued to lag behind the other regions of the world. The index has also found that in the MENA region, young adults have a somewhat similar English proficiency level as adults over 40 years of age. This suggests that English instruction in the region’s schools has not been evolving over the years. The results have also shown a great convergence in the levels of proficiency among adults in the region, with only 9 scores separating Bahrain, MENA’s best achiever, from the weakest performing country, Libya.

The EF EPI has shown a direct relationship between the average per capita income and standard of living in a country, and the average proficiency in the English language among its adults. Moreover, with exports accounting for nearly 20 per cent of world trade output, adopting English as a language of communication will further reduce costs for businesses and governments. These findings indicate the potential returns of investing in English instruction to qualify the young human capital in MENA for the major economic transformations that the region is witnessing.

In speaking about Saudi Arabia, EF Education First‘s country manager in the Kingdom, John Bernström, said: “This year’s ranking arrives as Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 and its National Transformation Program are in full swing to transform the Kingdom’s economy. As the country invests tremendously in the education and training of its youthful human capital, our report aims to assess how local English language proficiency fits within this frame and what are the best methods to optimize it in the future”.

The EF EPI is based on test scores from the EF Standard English Test (EF SET), the world’s first free standardized English test. The EF SET has been used worldwide by thousands of schools, companies, and governments for large-scale testing.

The EF English Proficiency Index for Schools (EF EPI-s), a companion report to the EF EPI, was also released with the index. The EF EPI-s examines the acquisition of English skills by secondary and tertiary students from 43 countries.

The EF EPI and EF EPI-s reports and country/region fact sheets are available for download at http://www.ef.com/sa/epi.   

About EF Education First

EF Education First is an international education company that focuses on language, academics, and cultural experience. Founded in 1965, EF’s mission is “opening the world through education.” With more than 600 schools and offices in over 50 countries, EF is the Official Language Training Partner for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

EF Logo

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Photo – https://mma.prnewswire.com/media/1027036/EF_English_Index.jpg

Palestinians turning to pets caring for emotional comfort

Palestinians turning to pets caring for emotional comfort

Gaza’s growing pet population stretches scant vet resources these days because of a greater number of Palestinians turning to pets caring for emotional comfort is more and more noticeable in the minuscule strip. In effect, populations of the tightly enclosed Gaza strip appear to have discovered that dogs and pets generally can help one get through tough times.

GAZA (Reuters) – Palestinians in Gaza are increasingly turning to domestic pets for emotional comfort from the harsh realities of the economically-depressed enclave but the growing animal population is stretching ill-equipped veterinarian facilities.

Gaza's growing pet population stretches scant vet resources
Palestinians turning to pets caring for emotional comfort
Palestinian woman Talya Thabet teaches a dog obedience commands in the central Gaza Strip October 16, 2019. Picture taken October 16, 2019. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

Some 130 veterinarians work in Gaza but the lack of animal hospitals means most have to turn to regular medical facilities and even to Israel to help care for ailing pets.

At Imad Morad’s veterinary clinic, shelves are filled with pet food and medicine and his equipment includes an ultrasound machine. But for further care, he depends on human medical facilities.

“We send blood and urine samples to human labs for examination. It wasn’t until two years ago when they started taking our requests. We also use them for X-rays,” Morad said.

In some rare cases, cats have been sent for treatment in Israel, which maintains tight restrictions along its border with the Islamist Hamas-run territory.

Unlike cats, dogs are considered unclean in Islam and are usually kept outside, but there is no ban on them.

Dog ownership, however, is becoming more popular and pet food is increasingly available in shops. Owners walking their dogs on Gaza’s streets are now a common sight.

“When someone raises a pet he feels like getting a new friend in his or her life, a friend who cares for him or her more than usual human friends do,” said Saeed el-Aer, a retired civil servant who trawls the streets carrying a bag full of food and medicine, looking for abandoned cats and dogs.

At a Gaza pet shop, its owner, Baha Ghaben, said opening the business had been a risk.

But, he said: “We were surprised at the large number of people who raised pets at home. I sell between ten to twenty animals a month.”

Writing by Nidal al Mughrabi and Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Emelia Sithole-MatariseOur Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

UAE spy arrest shows universities must do more

UAE spy arrest shows universities must do more

Matthew Hedges says: my UAE spy arrest shows universities must do more to protect academics working in the field.

The picture above is of UAE Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed, who was contacted by British diplomat Jeremy Hunt about the Matthew Hedges spying case as reported by UPI. Photo by Andre Pain/EPA-EFE.

Matthew Hedges with his wife Daniela Tejada. Author provided

Matthew Hedges, Durham University

This article is part of a series on academic freedom where leading academics from around the world write on the state of free speech and inquiry in their region.


Last year I was imprisoned for nearly seven months in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). I was held predominantly in solitary confinement, endured heavy interrogations, with my human rights violated on a daily basis.

During my imprisonment, I was force fed drugs, battled depression and thoughts of self-harm. Later, having endured nearly half a year of isolation and mistreatment, I wrestled with thoughts of suicide.

Eventually, in a trial lacking all due process and disregard for international legal standards, I was handed a life sentence. My crime? Undertaking academic research for my doctoral thesis.

My research examines the evolving national security strategy of the UAE, and my knowledge has evolved from years of professional work and research in the UAE and the wider Middle East and North Africa.

I had no reservations about conducting research in the UAE. And I underwent a rigorous ethical and fieldwork assessment and was sure to follow established protocols before and during my trip.

I complied with the university’s requirement to remove all Emirati research subjects as it was assessed that these nationals would not be safe nor trusted when engaging in security-related academic research. And I was happy to go along with the university and the third-party risk firm employed to assess any other risks for researchers travelling overseas. But unfortunately, as my experience proved, this was simply not enough to protect me or my integrity as an academic.

A vulnerable position

It became clear there was a lack of understanding by the Emirati authorities about what a legitimate academic is, and about how research is carried out. Standard actions needed to complete field research – such as interviewing sources, researching books, articles and maps along with taking notes – were very quickly taken out of context and distorted by the UAE security authorities. I routinely battled to explain how information cited in my thesis was referenced from publicly available academic books and not from “secret intelligence sources” as the interrogators would often claim.

Following my release, I have had the opportunity to reflect upon my experience. I have also been lucky to travel to academic institutions in the UK and US to discuss the ramifications of my experience upon academic research.

When discussing how academic fieldwork actually works, my main observation has been that beyond the academic community, there is a very limited understanding of what academic research actually consists of. As such, there is little understanding of the risks it entails.

Ilham Tohti, a Uyghur economist, is serving a life sentence in China. He is held on separatism-related charges after his criticism of the Chinese government’s policies toward Uyghurs in Xinjiang. PEN International

This leaves academics engaging in fieldwork research in a particularly vulnerable position. It can even lead to a situation, like in my case, where their integrity and legitimacy as an academic is under question.

Indeed, I believe that this lack of information on academic practice exacerbated my situation. Trying to speak reason to the authorities holding me captive, and to those with the power to intervene diplomatically and politically on my behalf, went nowhere. And baseless accusations cast a shadow of doubt upon the legitimacy of my work.

Safety and security

For researchers and academics at all levels, the problem of misinformation has consequences extending to the very institutions to which they are affiliated. My experience demonstrates how bureaucracy-led universities are not equipping their students and staff with the appropriate skills and competencies needed to undertake their job in today’s world. Ultimately, effective instructions for fieldwork safety and security are lacking. Furthermore, as the technical capabilities of many states improve, there is an increased risk of deployed researchers falling victim to surveillance and unjust prosecution.

Another issue widely under-reported is that while researchers may be somewhat supported by their university, their human subjects are not. This leaves many academics, including myself, questioning whether it’s even possible or ethical to engage in fieldwork in the current age.

Niloufar Bayani, a researcher, conservationist, and scholar, was arrested in January 2018 on charges of espionage in Iran. She recently reported being subjected to torture. Twitter/@Omid_M

Having heard testimony from academics with diverse research backgrounds, it is abundantly clear that my experience was not isolated. Hundreds of scholars around the world are targeted and prosecuted for their research. Yet, while their cases are of great concern within the academic community, they continue to rest dormant in the public eye, the political arena and higher education boards.

If academics and universities are to continue to contribute to the generation of knowledge, then research practice and its risks must be acknowledged and respected. The freedom to research is paramount for knowledge creation. And if it is not protected, we risk being accomplices to those who wish to silence us.


Read more from our series on Academic Freedom.


Matthew Hedges, Doctoral Research Candidate in the School of Government and International Affairs, Durham University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

15m Facebook subscribers in the MENA region

15m Facebook subscribers in the MENA region

A new study shows 15m Facebook subscribers in the MENA region; a big increase in Arabic language users. In fact, it was found that not only this platform does help socialise but does also contribute above all to informing on the goings-on in any particular country and/or intercountry affairs.

MENA Facebook users top copies of newspapers

There are more subscribers to Facebook in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) than there are copies of newspapers circulated in the region, a new report has said.

MENA Facebook users top copies of newspapers

The study by Spot On Public Relations said Facebook has more than 15 million users in the region, while the total regional Arabic, English and French newspaper circulation stands at just under 14 million copies.

“Facebook doesn’t write the news, but the new figures show that Facebook’s reach now rivals that of the news press,” said Carrington Malin, managing director of Spot On Public Relations.

“The growth in Arabic language users has been very strong indeed: some 3.5 million Arabic language users began using Facebook during the past year, since the introduction of Arabic support and we can expect millions more Arabic language users to join the platform,” he added.

Five country markets in MENA now account for some 70 percent of Facebook users – Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the report added.

The study said only 37 percent of Facebook users in the Middle East are female compared with 56 percent in the US and 52 percent in the UK.

Egypt’s 3.5 million Facebook subscribers helped to make North Africa the largest Facebook community in MENA accounting for 7.7 million out of a total of 15 million MENA users.

It added that 33 percent of the UAE’s population uses Facebook and it also now stands as the country’s second most visited website after google.ae, according to websites ranked by Alexa.com.

Some 68 percent of Facebook users in the UAE are over 25 years old, flying in the face of perceptions that social media is a ‘generation Y’ phenomenon.

However, much of Facebook’s growth across the rest of the region has been driven by the under 25s, the report said.

Over 48 percent of Facebook subscribers in Saudi Arabia are under 25 years old, with an equal split between English and Arabic users.

However, about three times the number of Arabic users have joined Facebook in Saudi over the past year, compared with the number of English language users.For all the latest UAE news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.

Mission to teach Kids how to Code

Mission to teach Kids how to Code

Entrepreneur Middle East‘s Education Tech published this fantastic story on May 14, 2019, on a certain Hadi Partovi who “Having built (and funded) great startups, this entrepreneur and investor opens up on his mission to teach kids how to code .

Here is his story.

Transformative Change: Code.org Founder Hadi Partovi

By Tamara Pupic Managing Editor, Entrepreneur Middle East.

Transformative Change: Code.org Founder Hadi Partovi
Hadi Partovi

Sitting in a corner of The Third Line Gallery in Dubai’s arts district of Al Serkal Avenue, Hadi Partovi, a tech entrepreneur and angel investor known for his early bets on Facebook, Dropbox, Airbnb, and Uber, is quietly tapping away on his laptop prior to an invite-only fireside chat organized by VentureSouq, a Dubai-based early-stage equity funding platform.

He is here, wearing his signature baseball cap, to present Code.org, a Seattle-based education non-profit dedicated to expanding access to computer science in schools around the world, of which he is the founder and CEO. The main reason for founding this global social-impact initiative is his belief that mastering computer science is no less than a life-giving skill.

Mission to teach Kids how to Code
Sonia Weymuller, Founding Partner of VentureSouq, introducing Hadi Partovi at a VSQ Talks event at The Third Line Gallery in Dubai. 

Yet, before we expand on that, I decide to focus on his approach to investing in early-stage tech startups, knowing that I will hear something different from a phrase that gets thrown around by every startup investor out there: “I invest in people, not ideas.” Partovi also has a people-first investment philosophy; however, not only can he specifically point out to what “investing in people” actually means for him, but he can even measure it.

The Partovi twins, Hadi and his brother Ali, currently the founder and CEO of Neo, a community of young engineers and the world’s top programmers, were jointly investing in startup founders for 17 years (since 2018, they have decided to focus on individual investments), but only in those who passed their coding test. It started with the founders of Dropbox, Partovi explains. “The best tech companies don’t hire a single technical person without putting them through a lot of tests, so why would an investor consider giving hundreds of thousands of dollars without even one test to show that they can do something?” he says. “Most VCs don’t do this because they themselves don’t know the technology, so they just think whether they like the idea or not, and they just take it for granted that a person can do it. If you look at the companies that have succeeded, the idea often isn’t unique, it’s the execution.” He points out that Google was not the first search engine company, Facebook was not the first social networking platform, and Microsoft was not the first company building an operating system- but what set all three of them apart was having the strongest engineers on board.

The Partovi brothers know this from their own entrepreneurial experience. Partovi may come across as being humble, quiet, and almost reticent, but he is a man who was part of the team that founded and sold Tellme Networks, a voice recognition software developer, to Microsoft for US$800 million in 2007. A decade earlier, in 1998, Ali Partovi was a co-founder of LinkExchange, an internet advertising company, that also got acquired by Microsoft for $265 million. The brothers’ website has a page listing their 34 ongoing investments, which include Airbnb, Classpass, and Uber, and 23 successful exits: Dropbox (IPO), Facebook (IPO), and Zappos (acquired by Amazon), to name just a few. If you scroll down this page, you will also find a list of 10 of their unsuccessful investments, and Partovi is open to say that there had been a few bruises before the brothers developed their investment muscle. “I did invest in a bad idea when I liked the person, but if I look at all my investments, the worst ones were the cases where I liked the idea but I didn’t like the entrepreneur, and also there are investment decisions that I chose not to invest even though I liked the entrepreneur,” he says. “And, I’ve made other mistakes too, such as when one of my college classmates wrote to me in 1998, saying that he had just joined a group of friends from his graduate program to start a company, and he was like, ‘They are the smartest people I know.’ I remember thinking that nobody needs another search engine, and that I wouldn’t invest in this company, that he was just the first employee, and that it was going to be a complete failure. Turned out that the company was Google, and he was their first employee and the Chief Technology Officer. He was also in the top of my class in computer science at Harvard. So, if I could go back and invest in all the best computer scientists I had graduated with, I would have made a lot more money, although I have done well, but I wouldn’t have missed the opportunities like this one.”

A key element of his stressing the importance of the engineering talent is that it was a key factor in how the Partovi brothers came to be where they are today. Born in Tehran, Iran, the twins taught themselves to code on a Commodore 64, which has fueled their passion for programming ever since. The family fled to the US in 1984, following the Iranian Revolution in 1979. Upon earning a master’s degree in computer science from Harvard University, Hadi Partovi rose up the executive ranks at Microsoft, before he went about launching his own startups. And now, he believes that every young person around the world deserves to be propelled forward in life by learning this specific skill. “This is a story about opportunity, and how we can expand who has access to that opportunity, what the jobs of the future will look like, and how we can ensure that everyone gets an opportunity,” Partovi says, on why he advocates computer science training, and why Code.org provides coding curriculum for schools around the country. “In the world of accelerating technological change, the most important thing everybody can learn is how to adapt to new technology. Many schools teach technology, but they teach kids how to use it, whereas we want to teach them how to create technology. And learning to create technology is important, not only because it leads to an opportunity, and not only because of the future of the job market, but because for kids, it’s fun and it teaches them creativity. Creativity is such a natural human desire, something that drives adults, and especially youth, but it doesn’t really exist in the school system.”

Since launching in 2013, Code.org has created the most broadly used curriculum platform for K-12 computer science in the United States. Its computer science classes have reached 30% of American students, while its Hour of Code initiative, a global campaign offering a one-hour introduction to computer science, has reached 10% of students around the world. Furthermore, the Code.org team informs that the nonprofit has more than 100 international partners and supports 63 languages in 180+ countries, with students having created 35 million projects on the platform. Importantly, they also state that 48% of Code.org students are underrepresented minorities. In addition to all of this, Partovi is a firm believer that among the future codingskilled founders tackling the world’s biggest problems, we will see many more women than today. According to a teacher survey by Code.org, 46% of users on the company’s Code.org Studio are female. “There is a misconception that this is for boys not for girls, which is totally not true,” Partovi says. “When girls reach 13 or 14, and if they haven’t tried computer science yet, there are too many other things to do and a pressure to be cool, and that this is not cool for them, because of that social stereotype that this is for boys. So, as a girl, if at 13, you haven’t tried it yet, you have to go against that social stereotype. However, for a boy, the social stereotype is that this is for you, that’s fine. It’s hard to go against the social stereotype for anybody, but it is especially hard for a 13-year-old, when you’ve just started learning how to be secure yourself.” To illustrate, Partovi mentions that Google search results for “software engineers” will mainly show the images of men, whereas the results for “students coding” will show men and women in almost equal numbers.

When it comes to other misconceptions about learning computer science, Partovi mentions the notions people falsely have about its scope and complexity. “I’ve probably made this worse, because of the name of our non-profit, but computer science is more than coding,” he says. “Code.org is about a whole bunch of fields that all are technical, and they are all part of computer science, and I believe that all of them belong in primary and secondary education. Just like you think of science, science has biology and chemistry and physics; you don’t teach just one of them.” Partovi adds, “The other misconception is that this is just for rocket scientists. People imagine that computer science is as hard as calculus, but they don’t realize that six-year-olds can start learning it. If you think about math, first grade math is easy, but 12th grade math could be more difficult, and university math is extra hard. Computer science is the same, the first-grade level of stuff is very easy.”

Mission to teach Kids how to Code
Code.org founder and CEO Hadi Partovi speaking about the importance of teaching computer science in schools.
Source: Code.org

For all these reasons, Partovi, despite coming across as a quiet man, is ready to make some noise with the recent announcement of the single largest expansion of Code.org’s computer science curriculum. Code.org’s Computer Science (CS) Fundamentals course, geared toward primary school, will be translated into the 10 most widely spoken languages in the non-profit’s database – Chinese (traditional and simplified), French, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish and Turkish- while it will also offer a new offline version of CS Fundamentals to empower schools in low- and no-bandwidth environments to teach computer science to all students.

Expanding into the MENA region is on Partovi’s agenda too. He says, “There are already 500,000 students and about 20,000 teachers in the Arab world using Codeiorg, despite it, for now, being only in English language and only on internet connected computers, meaning that we haven’t done almost any work to overcome the obstacles in the region, we haven’t properly transitioned into Arabic, we don’t yet support use on disconnected computers, we don’t yet work well on smartphones and tablets. Most of the students are in private schools or international schools, because they are using it in English, but it shows that the interest in what we do is already high.”

Region by region, Partovi hopes to achieve Code.org’s mission of changing the educational system, making computer science a permanent part of school curricula. “The education establishment especially doesn’t recognize that this is a field that is as fundamental as mathematics or science,” Partovi says. “Everybody understands that technology is the future, nobody needs to be explained that, and nobody needs to be explained that there is money in technology, and that it is changing everything. What people don’t realize is that when you start learning the alphabet, you can also simultaneously start learning computer science. Nobody questions why we are teaching math or science, but what they do question is whether they should teach computer science. They are not even asking whether they should also teach computer science.”

Mission to teach Kids how to Code
Code.org founder and CEO Hadi Partovi teaching students. 
Source: Code.org

However, some of Silicon Valley’s most prominent leaders did not need much persuasion- so far, Code.org has been backed by Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Infosys Foundation USA, and many others. Furthermore, Partovi recently helped Pope Francis to write a line of code for an app, during an event organized by the Scholas Occurrentes foundation in Vatican City. “Computer science belongs in primary and secondary schools as a fundamental thing, not just for the students who want to become coders, but for those who want to become lawyers, nurses, farmers, because understanding technology is going to be important,” Partovi concludes. “It’s because building the creativity that computer science teaches will be important, and learning the digital skills that will be required in every career will be important. The biggest obstacle for us is this education administrative mindset. Individual teachers and parents recognize this, but nobody thinks that this should be a part of schools. They want their own child to learn to code, and they don’t think about why schools are not teaching it.”

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