Maysa Jalbout has spent her career advocating for greater and better support for education, youth and refugees. She has done so through the non-profit sector, government aid and for over a decade in philanthropy.
She is currently a member of the IB Board of Governors and is Chief Executive Officer of the Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education in the United Arab Emirates. The Foundation is one of the largest privately funded philanthropic education initiatives in the Arab world, devoted to equipping Arab youth with the knowledge and skills they need to become future leaders of the region.
She is also a Non-resident Fellow at the Center for Universal Education of The Brookings Institution in Washington, DC, USA where she has written about the future of jobs in the MENA region, technology in education and the impact of conflict on children’s education.
As part of our 50th anniversary celebrations, we asked her about the IB’s impact and how her own education inspired her.
In today’s increasingly complex world, what role does the IB play and how is it making an impact?
The IB’s greatest impact is in its ability to foster in children an open, curious and caring mindset. In IB World Schools, children learn from a very early age to engage in the world around them, to ask the right questions, develop caring values and consider the perspectives of others.
The IB’s impact, which is at the heart of its mission, is not about filling the minds of students with knowledge or preparing them for a job, but rather developing a generation of young people who are innovators, problem solvers and thoughtful global citizens. This makes the IB’s mission more relevant than ever.
Today’s world is already complex, but our children will have to navigate greater complexity in the future; almost every aspect of their lives will be uncharted territory from work to the environment. New technology will challenge our most cherished fundamentals—our values, ethics and relationships.
My hope is that having been through an IB education, our children will be better able to manage the rapid changes they will face and make good choices for themselves and for our world.
How can education improve the ways that the world deals with global issues such as the refugee crisis?
The refugee crisis is one of the greatest challenges of our time.
The number of refugees today is around 22.5 million with another 40 million displaced within their own countries, exceeding any other time in history. The scale and magnitude of the challenge will touch us all.
The problems will not go away if we ignore refugees’ suffering, nor will we be exempt from dealing with refugees if we wall ourselves off from them.
Education, first and foremost, has a critical role in helping young people develop empathy, curiosity and critical thinking skills to explore issues such as the refugee crisis. Learning about the refugee crisis at an early age will expose students to important concepts, from the impact of war and poverty to some of the most moving examples of human resilience.
At a time when the world is divided on so many of the key issues including the refugee crisis, we are in desperate need for our children to be educated in ways that empower them to seek the truth and to hopefully pursue new and sustainable solutions.
Is there a teacher who inspired you during your education?
I have had the good fortune of being educated by many great teachers. Each of those teachers helped me grow and learn at different times of my formal education journey. One of those was Qaysar Hadad, the principal of my high school.
Mr Hadad founded and ran Rawdah High School in Beirut, Lebanon. His approach to learning and teaching was very strict but he was fiercely committed to good-quality education. I was always awe struck by how engaged he was with students. He knew all of us by name and he popped into classrooms regularly.
Looking back, what was even more significant about his leadership was how he was able to maintain one of the most diverse schools possible in a country that was divided along sectarian lines, and how he almost never turned away a student who was not able to afford the full school fees. I will always be grateful for the impact he had on me and my outlook on good citizenship and education.
How did your personal experience of education inspire you in the direction your work has taken?
Growing up as a refugee, my parents and grandparents instilled in me a belief that education was more than about learning; education for our family was the only assured path to a more secure future. My mother’s earliest memory of being schooled was in a UN tent. While my education, thanks to my parents’ hard work, was much more privileged, it wasn’t lost on me that I was luckier than the majority of refugee children.
The privilege of my education is a key factor in where I am today. I have spent the better part of my career helping underserved children and youth around the world access quality education and opportunities to secure better livelihoods.
I am inspired to renew my commitment every day by the young people I meet through my work, whether they are refugees, the first person in their family to go to university or a young woman defying stereotypes through her accomplishments.