Free up your mind

A distinguished delegation of Noble laureates and high-ranking dignitaries in academics, government, business, media, the environment and society graced the Capital with their presence this week for the Higher Colleges of Technology’s fifth edition of the Festival of Thinkers.


Olivia Olarte-Ulherr

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Published: Sat 30 Mar 2013, 8:40 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 4:34 AM

The Nobel Prize winners included Dr Mohamed ElBaradei (Peace, 2005), Prof Klaus von Klitzing (Physics, 1985) Sir Harold W Kroto, (Chemistry, 1996), Prof Douglas Osheroff (Physics, 1996); Prof Yuan TsehLee (Chemistry, 1986, Prof. Barry J Marshall (Medicine, 2005), Prof Martin Chalfie (Chemistry, 2008) and Prof Jerome I. Friedman (Physics, 1990).

They were joined on the podium by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Quartet Representative to the Middle East and Founder of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, who shared his valuable insights on education to over 300 students from more than 60 countries.

Other expert panellists on the free-flowing discussions with the students also included John Couch, vice-president of Apple Inc and Dr Robert M Califf, director and vice-chancellor at Duke University, US.

Students were also entertained by a motivationational speech from Swami Parthasarathy, philosopher and founder of Vedanta Academy in India.

The panel discussions, which covered the initiatives and challenges of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (Stem) education; effects of education on health and wellness; and innovative models of higher education, were moderated by renowned broadcast jounalists John Defterios, CNN’s emerging markets editor; Gavin Esler, BBC broadcaster; and Riz Khan, Al Jazeera English, UK.

The impressive line-up of dignitaries at the Festival of Thinkers illustrated the growing importance of the emirate worldwide and HCT in particular, in attracting high-calibre individuals to participate at its education events.

About 130 institutions covering the globe, from large nations such as Canada, China, Russia and the US, to small and emerging nations such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bhutan, Cuba, Haiti, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Turkmenistan, were also represented at the festival.

In his opening speech on Tuesday, Shaikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development, highlighted the importance placed by the UAE leadership on education, citing the late president Shaikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan’s famous words: “A country’s greatest investment lies in building generations of educated and knowledgeable youth.”

“Our leaders have made the UAE a country of progress, prosperity and stability. We are a country that supports creativity and values innovation — a country committed to building a knowledge society in which ideas drive economic success and effect positive change.

“It is appropriate that the Festival of Thinkers occurs in this country with its history and aspirations so deeply affected by an appreciation for clear and productive thinking,” Shaikh Nahyan said.

An opinion echoed by Blair when he commended the Festival of Thinkers “a conference typical of the creative intelligent leadership in the UAE”.

Blair also paid tribute to Shaikh Nahyan, who he complimented as “a man of open mind, golden heart and great vision”.

Held as part of the HCT’s 25th anniversary celebration, the festival steered students to think creatively, of innovative thoughts that would challenge “every other thinker in the world.”

Shaikh Nahyan urged the students to follow the Nobel laureates’ “glorious example” and have an open mind to crticisms.

“Remember this, had our guests lacked the strength of mind to confront possible criticism and even contempt, scorn, derision, rejection, or ridicule — had they kept their thinking to themselves alone — they would not be at this festival. The world would not know them. Their achievements would be fantasies imprisoned in their own minds alone,” he pointed out.

HCT now have seventeen colleges across the UAE enrolling close to 20,000 students. Over 60,000 students have graduated from HCT in the past 25 years.

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