Reflections from the Education World Forum

January 18, 2012 - 1 Comment

The Education World Forum meeting in London last week felt different from previous years.

In recent times the presiding genius has been the OECD’s Andreas Schleicher. The main plot line has been how the best education countries in the world – Finland, Canada, and Singapore – can go to the next level. The sub plot has been the route they should take, and whether they should shift toward equipping their students with higher order capabilities, to restore their national economies’ innovative edge.

This year, with UNESCO and the British Council more prominent, the Forum gave the floor to emerging countries and their quest to offer adequate levels of education to large, under-served populations. The most striking version of the story came from Bangladesh, where Nurul Islam Nahid, the Education Minister, is twinning technology with teacher training to kick-start a struggling system.

There is indeed a growing consensus that the poorer countries can’t wait for thirty years, building traditional schooling systems in the image of  Europe and North America. But they’re after more than a rapid route to yesterday’s success. They also want young people who can solve problems and build businesses.

Education leaders at the Forum were talking about how real economic and environmental problems can be the focus for new curricula – led by keynote speaker Princess Gusti, concerned about Indonesia deforestation. In this context, one of the most intriguing contributions came from Stanford’s Linda Darling Hammond, who has a new and ambitious account of the problem-solving approach to education: one which has students thinking about sustaining society, sustaining self, resolving conflict, bringing peace – and only then creating the next generation of products and services. It’s in the nick of time, then, that after three years of development, the Assessment and Teaching of 21C skills initiative, led by Cisco, Microsoft and Intel is about to deliver a suite of online modules for assessing students’ collaborative problem-solving skills and digital literacy.

The trick now is to establish the dialogue between best in the world and the emerging world, on new terms. Korea and Finland have no wish to talk only to the Anglo Saxon systems – they’re keen to share and to learn from path-breaking systems around the globe. And for the new kids on the block, a traditional version of quality and access is of no great interest either: they’re in the market for radicalism and disruptive innovation to drive economic growth.

Learn more about the ATC21S program by reading the ATC21S white papers that have recently been published in an edited, peer reviewed volume by Springer Science+Business Media. These white papers were commissioned for the project in 2010 and were written by academics who are world-renowned in their fields.

View a new short video that not only explains the collaborative problem solving tasks and shows them in use in a classroom at a pilot school in Australia.  Click here to watch the video on the ATC21S YouTube channel.

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  1. The ATC21S White papers do make for fascinating reading, a good follow up from this article.