The World Health Organization (WHO) says that over a billion people, about 15 percent of the world's population, live with some form of disability and children with disabilities are less likely to attend and complete school than those without any impediments. These startling figures were discussed at a preparatory meeting held in Dubai for The International Exhibition and Forum for Education (IEFE) which will be take place in February. The focus of this meeting was to highlight the investments being made by the Saudi government in education, discussing partnership opportunities for investors while discussing the deployment of smart technologies in special needs education for children. IEFE 2014 will be held at Riyadh Convention and Exhibition Center and will showcase the major drive toward education improvements in Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom is the largest education market in MENA and spends 5.6 percent of its GDP in education, which is higher than the world average of 4.4 percent and the North American average of 5.1 percent, according to Al-Masah Capital research report. The opening address was delivered by Ahmed Dandany, general manager of educational supplies and teaching technologies in Saudi Ministry of Education, followed by Edward Abankwa, program director, IEFE 2014.
Dandany highlighted the purpose of IEFE, educational achievements so far aided by the annual occurrence of this program, the reasons for a renewed focus on special needs education and other Ministry initiatives. Dandany said: "Education completion gaps are found across all age groups in all settings, as the difference in achievement between those needing special attention and those who do not is very high in the Arab countries. IEFE in its fourth edition has an aim of reducing this gap and make education accessible to all - and also aid this effort through the deployment of smart solutions." Edward Abankwa also delivered a presentation on the actual IEFE program and highlighted the opportunities available for education suppliers across a wide product category ranges and encouraged participants to attend and exhibit their solutions at the event next year. There was also a Smart Technology in Education panel discussion featuring contributors from Microsoft, IDP and National Geographic. IEFE 2014 is open to local and international education suppliers and organizations, and also universities and colleges who are looking to develop international education and training partnerships and programs. The previous edition of IEFE took place in February this year and provided a platform for local and international education sector organizations to meet and form business partnerships across various educational segments including, but not limited to IT, curriculum development, special needs, building and construction, quality and accreditation, leadership and training, sports and science equipment. Highlights of program included more than 30 countries represented at the exhibition, 15,000 sq. m of exhibition space occupied by local and international supplier organizations and service providers to the education sector and 50 keynote addresses by international industry experts. Visitor numbers also increased 15 percent from the previous edition of IEFE. Participants at the event in 2014 will again include senior decision makers from Saudi and GCC Governments ministries, universities, colleges and public and private schools, senior representatives from international educational institutions, investors, educational agents, technology providers, research and developments agencies, corporations affiliated to education sector, training organizations and key service providers. Edward Abankwa said: "We will also showcase the latest technology and knowledge solutions from international and local suppliers of education equipment and infrastructure aimed at achieving excellence and innovation in public and private education in the region."
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