Interview: Sheikha Hessa bint Khalifa Al Khalifa
In light of the National Dialogue, in what ways do you envision the educational community further engaging with young people?
SHEIKHA HESSA BINT KHALIFA AL KHALIFA: It was discussed in the National Dialogue that the educational community should focus on encouraging youth to participate more in educational activities, which in turn would allow them to focus on enhancing themselves rather than simply concerning themselves with politics.
It is also important to encourage peace education in curricula in order to teach about diversity, different cultures, different religions, as well as better equip students to live in a multicultural society. We have made this kind of education a priority.
Our role at inJAz is to bring in different types of volunteers into the classroom to teach our programmes. Each semester students are taught by a different volunteer. In this way, we hope to expose students to a wide range of professional backgrounds and cultures.
How can both intermediate and secondary education curricula better address labour market needs and workforce challenges?
SHEIKHA HESSA: The educational community needs to ensure that curricula are up to date and in line with global standards. Curricula need to be better connected to the current skills required by the global economy because the international and local job markets are continually changing. The number of positions available in certain fields are now in decline while other skill sets are now – or will soon be – in high demand.
The three pillars of inJAz Bahrain are financial literacy, entrepreneurship and work-readiness. Currently, we have 10 programmes running and we ensure students take programmes in each one of the pillars at each level. We focus on building bridges between the business community and students by allowing the workforce to enter the classroom. This is turn gives students the opportunity to better understand workforce needs, and allows them to identify and develop valuable skills.
What particular skill sets among graduates are lacking with regard to the needs of the local financial industry? How is inJAz working to correct this?
SHEIKHA HESSA: Many graduates are not aware of the financial industry’s needs. At the secondary level our volunteers find that students are often attracted to working in fields outside of financial services, despite it being one of the largest industries in Bahrain. This is partly due to a lack of financial literacy programmes, so students do not understand what the banking industry does. The Ministry of Education allowed inJAz to introduce our financial literacy programmes to the classroom to bridge this gap. InJAz has a programme for secondary education called “Banks in Action”, which is taught by bankers and addresses the principles of the banking industry. At the intermediate level, we have a scheme called “More than Money”, which teaches students about spending wisely and saving.
How can entrepreneurship be encouraged among young people, and what programmes is inJAz pursuing in order to achieve this?
SHEIKHA HESSA: It is important to ingrain the entrepreneurial spirit in students before they graduate. Entrepreneurship is the hallmark programme of inJAz and it is vital for the Bahraini economy. We teach students all aspects of operating a business, and the programme involves students setting up student companies; they have to sell shares, raise capital, elect a management team and successfully run their model business.
How can the private sector work with educational institutions to further develop corporate skills?
SHEIKHA HESSA: The key is to get the private sector involved as much as possible within the classroom, whether through teaching programmes, knowledge-sharing or coordination with educators to inform them of local needs. InJAz provides a platform for corporate volunteers from the private sector to teach students business skillsets, in addition to social responsibility.
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