The prospects of global education reform

Seizing Success conference – day two. Most inspiring session of the day goes to the session I attended presented by Sir Michael Barber titled The Prospects of global education reform”. Sir Michael was previously a chief adviser to former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and is currently a partner with McKinsey and company, heading up its emerging Global Education Practice.

Michael began his presentation by showing the short clip embedded at the top of this post – a chilling representation of the issues that will face the students in our schools of today – the issues that will determine the sort of world they will grow up to live in in the future. The full movie, which is much longer, is the result of Sir Michael’s work with Oscar-winning producer Lord Puttnam, and focuses on the educational experiences of five young people from Swindon.

Sir Michael pointed to the fact that governments around the world are concerned about the outcomes of their education systems – and that it’s no longer OK to simply ask “are we doing better than we were before?” Instead,  we need to be asking, “are we as good as the rest of the world” because it is only as a result of a global education reform that we are likely to see any resolution to these big picture issues facing our now increasingly crowded planet. (Sir Michael and I are the same age as it happens, and as he reminded us, when he started school the population of the planet was under 3 billion people – currently over 7 billion, and expected to reach 9 billion in less than a decade.)

The big question for educators (teachers, principals, policy makers etc) in Sir Michael’s presentation was, “If we think it’s really important that the next generation are really well educated, don’t you think we should be doing that all around the world?

Sir Michael introduced us to nine characteristics of effective systems, with ‘building blocks’ grouped into three categories as illustrated below:

Using the building blocks as a basis for his explanation, Sir Michael explained that the education systems which are likely to succeed int he future will be those that are able to deliver on these nine building blocks in a coherent and integrated manner. He used the work he is currently doing in Pakistan to illustrate the approach.

The final point  he made was to emphasise that he isn’t advocated a single, global education system, rather, the ability of education systems around the world to learn from each other and grow together.

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