How the iPhone 6 can revolutionize Arab education

The bottom line is that this new technology has a much greater potential than just being used for taking selfies

Yara al-Wazir
Yara al-Wazir
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There is no doubt that despite the turmoil that has plagued the Middle East over the past years, Gulf states in particular are becoming increasingly obsessed with technology. Studies by Deloite show the fast-growing mobile phone penetration and its positive effect on the economy.

Technology can play a great role in the education and cognitive skills of young people, and has been used extensively as a tool for teaching across the world. The release of the iPhone 6 last week shouldn’t just create a wave of people rushing to their laptops and Apple stores to pre-order the device, but, should also revolutionize the way in which we educate the future generation.

This piece is far from an advertisement for the iPhone, and more of a call for the investment in E-learning by public schools across the region. I’ve seen five year-olds who understand mobile technology far more than I do myself, and it would be a shame to not use this understanding and passion in a way that can benefit them.

Mobile phone penetration is key to social advancement. By 2016, mobile phone penetration in Saudi Arabia alone is expected to reach 70%, and there is plenty of potential in what that penetration can do to the education industry.

E-learning is already a method of teaching that has been adopted by numerous private schools in the region. One of the true pioneers in the region was The British School of Kuwait, but the divide and differences between private and public education must not be a determining factor in the development of a child. E-learning makes education fun and accessible, and that is exactly what is needed.

The bottom line is that this new technology has a much greater potential than just being used for taking selfies

Yara al-Wazir

The use of applications and their impact on daily life is sadly yet to hit the Middle East. There are plenty of applications that help users learn Arabic –from improving pronunciation to vocabulary expansion. But while they exist, the majority of these applications, if not all, are aimed at foreigners trying to learn Arabic, rather than young Arabs.

Communication, access, and information are key drivers

One of the key features of the iPhone 6 is battery life – an extended battery life of up to 24 hours means that even in remote areas where electricity is periodically disconnected, students can keep learning, not just scour their social media apps. The large storage space on these new devices means that thousands of books and interactive games can be preloaded onto the devices. A single device can be shared in a family, and passed down with siblings.

The cloud based storage system, iCloud, can be used to access information remotely. Whether airstrikes or union strikes are affecting learning processes in the region, they could have less of an impact on the education system, and fewer children will lose school time because of disruptions to their town.

The bigger picture: a brighter, more informed, Middle East

The ability to communicate across the world brings the idea of pen pals back to life. Young children can learn from their counterparts in different countries, taking geography and social studies to the next level. This extends learning beyond national curriculums, and into the households of people across the world, which is key to the advancement of future businesses.

Better quality cameras on these devices can also breed a generation of creative photographers, journalists, and storytellers. A generation of creative youth will change the way we solve problems, not just as artists, but also as engineers.

iPads and smartphones shouldn’t be exclusively loaded with games, which unfortunately, along with social networking applications, are what top the Middle Eastern Apple Store charts, but also with books and learning applications. The region has incredible entrepreneurs and coders who can build these apps. All that is needed is the will to grow.

The bottom line is that this new technology has a much greater potential than just being used for taking selfies.


Yara al Wazir is a humanitarian activist. She is the founder of The Green Initiative ME and a developing partner of Sharek Stories. She can be followed and contacted on twitter @YaraWazir

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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