Plenary Lecture

Educational Reform for Sustainable Development

Professor Emdad Khan
Internet Speech
Southern University
Imam University
Saudi Arabia

Abstract: The need for education is rapidly growing in this Information Age. Education includes both informal & formal education, and at all levels: K-12, undergraduate and graduate. It also includes many areas e.g. Science, Engineering, Mathematics, Technology and Business.
Education has great impact on various things including economic & social development, job creation, and resource creation. Arguably, sustainable development is the most important case that many nations focus on.
To ensure sustainable development, educational reform is essential, especially for underdeveloped and developing countries where poverty level is very high. It is clear that existing education is not adequate (as otherwise poverty level would not be very high) even though it is playing a major role. As mentioned, we need to focus both on formal & informal education, with more emphasis on informal education, for the people in the underdeveloped & developing countries as such countries are dominated by the Base of the Pyramid people (BOP). In fact, to ensure sustainable development, the reform needed seems to be significant both for formal and informal education. For example, existing formal education, in general, is geared towards Western Curricula which in most cases do not show highly effective results for the underdeveloped and developing countries. This is because students graduating in engineering and computer science do not find enough jobs in their own country as there are not many relevant industries. On the other hand, they cannot easily go to Western world and try to get jobs there. Due to the lack of entrepreneurship and innovation, there are not many new companies to attract outsourced projects & create jobs. Some of these issues are also well applicable for general science and other majors. Thus, continuing with the existing way, there will be more graduates using country’s valuable resources but with more unemployment (i.e. more graduates than number of jobs), resulting in negative Economical, Social and other impacts.
The key point is to reform education so that it meets country’s immediate as well as long term needs, and ensure sustainable development - economic, social, cultural and others, and thus ensure prosperity. For example, most underdeveloped and developing countries are driven by agricultural economy. Thus, an ICT (Information & Communication technology) based Agriculture degree program would be more appropriate so that graduates can actively participate in help developing their country. Graduates should learn how to start new companies & create jobs once graduated as number of jobs are limited. Thus, such Agriculture degree programs need to emphasize on entrepreneurship & innovation. Similarly, informal courses on agriculture for farmers offered through any mobile phone will help farmers increase & improve their produce, reduce food waste and help market & sell their produce. And, of course, appropriate environment and infrastructure need to be set up to facilitate entrepreneurship, innovation & development. Clearly, educational institutions should play a major role in such educational reform including designing and offering new courses & degree programs, and collaborating with respective organizations including the Government. Educational institutions would also need to closely work with the industry and other organizations as appropriate to ensure that the proposed reform indeed help sustainable development.
Education also needs to ensure good learning as otherwise education will not really be effective. Accordingly, new teaching and research methods would need to be developed to ensure learning and effectiveness of education.
Thus, appropriate educational reform is very important to support sustainable development. Educational institutions would need to take the lead in this process. And such a reform is critical for engineering, technology & science education.
This talk will focus on some details of the proposed educational reform, with emphasis on “creativity”, “productivity” and “resource” creation. Creativity will in turn drive innovation & entrepreneurship, resulting successful business entities which in turn will create jobs and help economic, social & other developments. A practical example will be presented using a Farming application that will elaborate the needs of multi-disciplinary, informal & formal education with emphasis on Innovation & Entrepreneurship linked well to industries in a coherent way using a Complete Integrated strategy.

Brief Biography of the Speaker: Dr. Emdad Khan is the Founder of InternetSpeech. He founded the company in 1998 with the vision to develop innovative technology for accessing information on the Internet anytime, anywhere, using just an ordinary telephone and the human voice.
As a pioneer in the Internet voice space, Khan is a frequent speaker at voice-recognition, Internet applications, bridging the Digital and Language Divides and other industry trade shows and conferences. He holds 23 patents and has published more than 40 papers on the advent of voice technology on the Internet, content rendering, Natural Language Processing, neural nets, fuzzy logic, intelligent systems, VLSI and optics. Khan’s acute technical knowledge and keen understanding of emerging markets has played an important role in the development of InternetSpeech’s first product/service netECHO, the only product available today that delivers complete voice Internet access.
During his career, Khan invented, defined, developed and deployed worldwide new intelligent software products for micro-controller-based home appliances. He has also created and deployed speech recognition Internet applications. He has 20 years of experience with large semi-conductor companies, including Intel and National.
Khan is doing active research. His current major interest is to use brain-like and brain-inspired algorithms to solve some open problems, especially, NLU (Natural Language Understanding) which is very well aligned for InternetSpeech’s next generation products & services to allow users (especially bottom of the pyramid people) to interact with the Internet using their natural language.
He holds a doctorate in computer science, master of science degrees in electrical engineering and engineering management and a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering.
Khan is currently on leave from InternetSpeech and a faculty at the Computer Science department of Imam University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Khan is also a visiting Research Professor at the Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA.