5 reasons for $5+ billion: Interview with Dr. Tariq Al Gurg

In this series, GPE asks changemakers five questions on the power of education. GPE's financing campaign seeks to raise at least $5 billion to transform education for up to 1 billion children in 90 countries and territories.

February 16, 2021 by GPE Secretariat
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6 minutes read
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5 reasons for $5 billion: Interview with Dr. Tariq Al Gurg

Dr. Tariq Al Gurg is the Chief executive officer of Dubai Cares.

1. Since its inception in 2007, Dubai Cares has taken risks by investing in innovative platforms, tools and approaches to education, such as Pedago, Learning Passport Schools 2030 or through the work underway with RewirED. What role does Dubai Cares, and foundations in general, play in achieving SDG 4 ?

Being located in a region where giving is built into our tradition, our way of life and religion, Dubai Cares has been graciously supported by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) community and its leadership. We have, as a result, been entrusted with the responsibility set by a demanding, business-savvy donor-base, which has instilled in us a sense of duty to ensure every decision we make is driven by the impact it will deliver.

Dubai Cares has made significant commitments to ensure inclusive and quality education for all and to promote lifelong learning by 2030. We do this by supporting early stage pilot programs exploring new modalities of implementation and co-funding scale-ups of nation-wide programs in order to unlock additional more risk-averse funding.

This includes supporting programs across the wider education spectrum, ranging from early childhood development, access to quality primary and secondary education, technical and vocational education and training for youth as well as tertiary education. In addition, Dubai Cares has a particular focus on girls’ education and education in emergencies and protracted crises.

I believe that innovation is key to driving change in any sector, and it is just one particular area that foundations are particularly well-placed to support. At Dubai Cares, we continuously seek out innovative ways to build and deliver programming. We are implementing game-changing thinking where we are partnering with non-traditional implementers such as Pedago through Miya Miya – an application that focuses on the reintegration of out-of-school children into secondary education, which is key to gaining access to basic job opportunities and opening pathways to higher education.

We have also partnered with futures lab, Radicle, to develop and co-design provocations and a system map of global education with key stakeholders. The aim is to collectively identify and understand the variety of perspectives and systemic shifts needed to meaningfully co-create a better and more inclusive way forward for education and learning.

2. Since the establishment of the United Arab Emirates almost 50 years ago, the country has made strides in educational achievement for girls and boys. How has education, especially for girls, contributed to the success of the UAE?

The success of the UAE would not have been possible without education being heavily invested in by this young nation, which continues to lend as much support to it now as it did during its unification in 1971. Four years later, the rate of adult literacy was only 54% among men and 31% among women. Today, literacy rates for both genders are close to 95%.

On a yearly basis, the UAE government allocates a significant share of its federal budget for the development of the education system, in order to provide quality education services and enhance the move towards a more knowledge-based economy.

The UAE’s commitment to education has helped the nation diversify its economy and prepare a new generation of young people to compete in the global marketplace. In 2019, young people surveyed throughout the Arab world identified the UAE as the top country to live in and to emulate for the 8th year running, reflecting the opportunities available to youth entering the workforce.

The focus on girls’ education is a major success story of the UAE. Not only do women represent more than one third of the UAE’s cabinet, but they also occupy a number of leadership positions ranging from political to CEOs of major companies. In addition, the representation of women in the workforce is nearly 46.6%. Women make up 66% of the public sector workers, with 30% in leadership roles and 15% in technical and academic roles. About 75% of positions in education and health sectors are occupied by women. Moreover, 23,000 Emirati businesswomen run projects worth over AED 50 billion, and occupy 15% of the positions in the boards of chambers of commerce and industry nationwide.

3. GPE’s current Financing Campaign, Raise Your Hand, focuses on transforming education systems in up to 90 low-income countries and territories. As a strong advocate for a bigger shift in education systems yourself, what role do you envision for Dubai Cares and the UAE in GPE’s Raise Your Hand campaign?

Dubai Cares was the first non-governmental entity and global foundation to ever fund GPE. Furthermore, the UAE’s pioneering role in supporting GPE’s mission goes back to 2018 when it became the first Arab and regional nation to commit US$100 million to GPE. The close working relationship between Dubai Cares and GPE has made our job in bringing the UAE on board as a donor easier.

Dubai Cares’ support to GPE allowed for the creation, dissemination and use of evidence and tools to transform education systems in low-income countries, with a specific focus on learning outcomes and assessments, early childhood development, and gender and education.

As GPE expands its ambitions with the “Raise Your Hand” campaign and beyond, Dubai Cares is committed to continuing its role in transforming the evidence, action and policy landscapes that are the foundation for reshaping the future of education. Dubai Cares will leverage its role as a leading voice globally, calling for equitable access to quality education by supporting GPE in fostering collaboration between new and unlikely allies to advance its mission.

4. The RewirEd Summit in December 2021, during the Expo 2020 Dubai, aims at innovating and reimagining education for a prosperous and sustainable future. What will it take to reimagine education and combat the devastating impacts that school closures continue to have on children?

COVID-19 has created an unparalleled learning crisis that has compounded an already existing one. However, I believe that this crisis is also an opportunity for us – the global education actors – to come together under one critical mission, united by the conviction that education systems around the world must emerge from the pandemic stronger and more resilient than ever.

To make this happen, we need to share and collaborate on what we have learnt from this year of crisis, and use it going forward. We also need to set the global agenda to streamline efforts to support education at the global and national levels. In addition, it is essential to get the main actors working together to ensure countries have a more integrated approach to financing education.

Mobilizing more resources and making better use of them is central to tackling the learning crisis. Innovation also plays an integral part, not only when it comes to making an impact in education, but also when it comes to how we develop education models as an interconnected system, delivering pioneering funding models, and innovative partnerships locally, regionally and globally.

It is in this exceptional global context, that Dubai Cares in collaboration with Expo 2020 Dubai, and in close coordination with the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation has launched RewirEd. We are proud to launch a global platform that hopes to reclaim the foundational role of education in achieving the Global Goals to ensure that our shared future is built on equity, powered by innovation and rooted in humanity.

5. What do you remember most about school? Were there moments or teachers that had a particularly big impact on you?

For me school was the best place to interact with friends and classmates, as well as receiving a quality education that made me who I am today. So when I look back on my class photograph, I smell the nostalgic scent of all the tiny bits of fun and joy that I had at school.

Of course, there are teachers who left a mark in my life and classmates whom I’m still in touch with until now. I was performing very well in mathematics and had an excellent relationship with the teacher of this subject. The teacher made me love numbers and equations, which later on helped me join the banking sector, where I worked for 12 years. The school also played a key role in shaping my personality when it comes to leadership. And today, thanks to my education, I’m proud to lead one of the renowned global philanthropic organizations in education.

Dr. Tariq Al Gurg
Dr. Tariq Al Gurg raises his hand to support the GPE financing campaign
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Financing 2025
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