(Photo by Taylor Luck)
AMMAN – US Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez on Sunday highlighted the importance of corporate social responsibility, citing the handover of the School Technology Innovation Centre (STIC) to the Ministry of Education.
He made the comments during a ceremony celebrating the handover yesterday.
A group of private sector companies, including Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, Cisco Systems and Intel collaborated with the ministries of education and information and communications technology to create the centre, which utilises technology to train teachers and improve educational practices.
Established in 2005, the STIC is housed in the Queen Rania Centre for Educational Technology and provides technical assistance and training for teachers and students alike.
Since 2006, the centre has provided training to 1,000 public and private sector teachers from across the Kingdom.
Under the new arrangement, the Ministry of Education will manage the centre, with private sector donors available for any assistance required.
Gutierrez, who is in the Kingdom to participate in the US-Middle East and North Africa Trade and Investment Conference at the Dead Sea today, called the centre “very inspiring”, and commended the cooperation between the government and the private sector to bring education to the forefront.
Describing the STIC as a model of public-private sector cooperation, Minister of Education Tayseer Nueimi underlined the importance of using technology to improve education.
“Microsoft selected Jordan as the first country to implement this initiative due to the fact that Jordan is actively and seriously working on developing its educational sector,” Microsoft Jordan Country Manager Zeid Shubailat told attendees.
He added that the centre’s success has led Microsoft to establish similar centres in North Ireland, the Czech Republic, South Africa and Belgium.
Noting that the STIC develops and aids future entrepreneurs and business leaders, Gutierrez said software and technology development is key to diversifying Jordanian exports so that the Kingdom moves away from relying solely on garment exports from QIZs.
Garments manufactured at the QIZs accounted for JD243.5 million or 94 per cent of the overall export volume to the US in the first four months of 2007.
Jordan has a great advantage in technological innovation because of the government’s focus on human development, according to Gutierrez, who praised the Kingdom as an example for the region for its focus on developing a skilled labour force.
“Developing human capacity is the only true comparative advantage a country has,” he stressed.
The US official pledged that the Department of Commerce will continue to promote the Jordanian market, which he called “one of the most exciting opportunities in the region”.
Citing the growing trade volume under the Jordan-US Free Trade Agreement (FTA), Gutierrez expressed optimism over increased economic opportunities between the two nations.
“The US relationship with Jordan is not just about trade but taking an interest in Jordan and the prosperity of its people,” he told attendees.
Noting that countries worldwide are witnessing a 12 per cent annual growth, Gutierrez said Jordan should be able to exceed the average growth rate.
He acknowledged that the US economy underperformed in the last quarter of 2007, registering a 0.6 per cent decline in growth, but said the brief slowdown is no cause for alarm and highlighted the Bush administration’s $150 billion stimulus package to assist the US economy.
Although the US reported a net loss of 17,000 jobs for January, Gutierrez pointed out that the nation witnessed 52 consecutive months of job creation and that the 4.9 per cent unemployment rate is well below the average over the past three decades.
“Our economy is strong and we’re going through corrections as all economies do,” he said, stressing that continued growth in the global economy will benefit all.
By Taylor Luck (www.jordantimes.com)