My first blog entry from the Education World Forum (EWF) reported how the powerful opening presentations challenged this high powered conference. By the half-way mark we have been given a fascinating snapshot of the issues and opportunities facing education systems all around the world.
Two founding presentations have set the tone for much of the event: from Russell Quaglia, the US’s foremost authority on student aspirations, on the importance of valuing student voice not only to encourage and motivate the individual learner, but also to help drive education systems; and from Andreas Schleicher of OECD on the importance of developing 21st century skills to meet the challenges of a radically changing employment market where the need for routine manual skills is rapidly disappearing, and individuals will need to change jobs much more frequently.
We have heard of the importance to a number of countries of adopting a systemic and transformational approach, driven by a clear vision of the learning required for future success. Leonardo Garnier from Costa Rica emphasised the importance of the right knowledge, skills understanding but also critically the need to enable students to ‘become themselves’, self-confident and ambitious. Like many he sees technology as a key enabler, a powerful servant but a poor master. He also emphasised the need for universal broadband access to underpin inclusivity and equity in education systems.
And we were reminded by Mohamed Enver Surty from South Africa of the importance of promoting shared values through education as a key part of the process of liberation and healing. Like many countries represented at EWF, South Africa faced enormous problems of quantity as well as quality – in 1994, when the country emerged from the apartheid era, less that 40% of school-age children went to school. This remains the predominant concern of many countries – in Nigeria, a rapidly growing economy, over 10 million children, one third of the school population, do not go to school.
What is common to all who spoke passionately about the challenges facing their countries is an understanding of the centrality of education reform and development to economic and social success. And the appetite to learn from each other is very clear to see.
So a key question coming out of this conference is – how can technology help us to ensure universal access to education and high quality teaching for all?