I attended the Transforming Education Summit 2012 recently in Abu Dhabi that attracted some of the world’s most accomplished political, business, philanthropic leaders, current and former ministers of education and education experts.
The high profile event hosted by the Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC) aims to share lessons and successes learned, while providing hands-on insights into various leading education reforms. There was one thing common in what most panellists and speakers emphasised: the biggest challenge of education worldwide is creating good quality teachers and bringing parents in the learning fold.
Gordon Brown who is presently the Co-convenor of the Global Campaign for Education summed up the most important lessons learned by UK after having spent billions of dollars in educational transformation for over 2 decades in 4 points:
- Teaching Reform: No infrastructure or technology can replace the good old teacher. If we cannot create teachers we cannot deliver quality in education
- Head Teacher Reform: Educational institutions will not deliver unless they are guided by able leaders with a vision
- Curriculum Reform: The focus of learning should be to teach children ‘how to think’
- Technology to ‘Enhance a Teacher’, and not technology to ‘Enhance Teaching’
“To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield”, from Ulysses, will be engraved as a permanent installation in the centre of the 2012 London Olympic Village. This, according to him should be the true meaning of education.
The former Finnish President, Tarja Halonin who led the country from 2000-2012 and was instrumental in making Finland one of the best educational systems in the world spoke too . Finland has been getting the highest score in the PISA rankings of OECD for almost a decade. She also emphasised the need to invest on Teacher Development and the biggest learning was that technology cannot replace, but only assist a teacher. She concluded her very thought provoking address with a very interesting revelation. ‘Across the world statistics tell us that girls are doing better in education than boys if given an equal opportunity. This will have far reaching impact on the social and economic aspects of our society in future. This also means that our present education system is working well for girls? Why are we changing it? Our boys are not doing so well, so a change?’
Sergio Bitar, the former Education Minister of Chile and a Non-Resident Senior Fellow, Inter-American Dialogue highlighted 4 trends of education in future:
- Early education for 0-5 year olds will become increasingly important, so parental engagement will increase
- Life skills will be the key focus of education in future. Building character and making global citizens will be highly valued
- Learning will be very personalised and learners will get to choose what and when to learn, technology will enable this in future
- Higher education will get a big boost and will expand rapidly. Today, primary and secondary education is free in most parts of the world; in future, will higher education be free?
If we look closely at the first 3 trends, it means that one of the biggest future challenges for educators and government will be to engage parents in student outcomes.