‘Technology gives young people a window to the world’

Cherie Blair CBE QC reveals her thoughts on education and the instrumental role technology will play in the classroom and beyond

Cherie Blair is a busy woman. In 2008 she launched her foundation, the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, which supports female entrepreneurs in developing countries, and for the past six years she has been the Chancellor at Asian University for Women (AUW). During her keynote at the Yidan Prize Summit she explained how her life was transformed by education, and she strives to promote the two-pronged power of education, which is both instrumental and influential. 

What are your thoughts about the Yidan Prize? 

This has been a very good event and what a fantastic idea! Charles Chen Yidan is an amazing person to retire at 45 and to devote his life to endow this prize not just for this year or for five years, but for the foreseeable future. He has the imagination for research and in the end, if you have a proper academic basis for what works then you are going to improve things. 

How can the education system change? 

There is always something we can do better, and one of the great things about technology is that it enables different ways of teaching. Nowadays children can get information through going online and then they go into the classroom. 

So, the role of the teacher is to show them how to get that information and how to manipulate it in order to achieve their goals. 

What is the role of technology in the classroom around the world? 

We can’t get too starry-eyed about technology but it can make a real difference to education. Technology gives young people a window to the world and enables them to reach out to others. I have a friend who runs one of the mobile phone companies in Malaysia and they have teamed up with educationalists to provide two schools with the same access to materials and information in the rural areas as in the cities. With the internet you can access more quality teaching materials. 

What do we need to change in the classroom? 

One of the interesting things is that we need to get more men into teaching. In so many schools it’s all women, so young boys think that it’s not for them. When I talk about women and role models for women, it’s the same for men too. 

If they don’t see men doing caring roles, they might not think that men care and that’s not true. Men should want these jobs. 

Can education help to improve the gender gap? 

We have to do more about the gender gap and education can really help. When boys and girls come together and learn to respect each other as equals at such a young age that really helps. We see that in today’s millennials, as young men are a lot more accepting of women. 

Any final thoughts? 

We need to do more for primary and secondary education but I also think you have to have some kind of excellence and leadership. If you can invest in a smaller cohort and encourage them to return as leaders in their community then it has a transformational impact. At AUW we are unashamedly elitist but we want to take those with raw ability and mould it into something that is transformational. Consequently, 85% return to their community and give something back to their countries. 

Nominations are now open for the 2018 Yidan Prize, for more information, visit their website.

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