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Minister of Higher Education and U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary Open BMENA Conference on Community and Technical Colleges

(Gathering in Amman, Jordan, June 16-17, 2009, includes 100 participants representing community and technical colleges and vocational education)

Amman – Demonstrating U.S. commitment to broadening global access to quality education, visiting U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary for Vocational and Adult Education Glenn Cummings, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research and Minister of Education Dr. Walid Ma’ani, and American Ambassador Stephen Beecroft today opened a two-day regional conference on community and technical colleges as part of the Broader Middle East and North Africa (BMENA) Initiative.  U.S. government officials and representatives of  local educational institutions attended the opening session.

The conference, which is organized by the U.S. Department of State, brings together approximately 100 experts in community and technical colleges and vocational education from throughout the region and the United States to learn more about how U.S. community colleges operate in today's changing economic climate and to explore best practices in developing and administering community and technical/vocational education programs in the region. The conference includes presenters and participants from Afghanistan, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Yemen and the United States.

In remarks during the opening session, Ambassador Beecroft noted that the conference comes at a time when both the United States and governments in the region are facing global economic and social challenges. He added: “We must think differently about how we meet needs of our young people so they can be productive participants in the workforce and constructive contributors to society.  We must find innovative strategies to partner across government, education, and the private sector to foster creative solutions to these issues.”  The Ambassador noted USAID’s strong support for Jordan’s education system through assisting the Kingdom’s ambitious Higher Education Reform for the Knowledge Economy Program.  The Ambassador also pointed out that this year, the United States and Jordan are celebrating the 60th anniversary of diplomatic and development partnership between the two countries.

In his keynote address, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary Cummings reiterated American President Obama’s June 4 statements, affirming that, “the United States seeks to pursue new partnerships with governments, citizens, community organizations, religious leaders, businesses and international organizations in the areas of education, economic development, science and technology and health.”  He noted: “As the United States develops an international education strategy, students from North Africa,  the Middle East and Southeast Asia will be one of its top priorities as they will be engaged in several education-related initiatives, including exchange programs, scholarships and e-learning.” Cummings added: “It is our hope that this conference will be an opportunity to learn about the educational innovations currently taking place in the region and hear how community and technical colleges in the United States are responding to these important areas."

This conference builds upon commitments and activities undertaken by leaders of the G-8 and countries of the BMENA nations at Sea Island, Georgia, in June 2004 with the aim of addressing key education reform issues in the BMENA region.