84% of Education Leaders Call for Radical Transformation at WISE 2013

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Each year for the past five years, the WISE international education summit occurs in Qatar. The aim of the event is to bring together leading thinkers, actors and decision makers to address the main issues facing education globally. This year’s summit was the best so far and here are the top three reasons why.

The bus journeys!!

No honestly I’m being serious. WISE is fundamentally different from most conferences I attend in that each participant has been selected based on what they have done rather than the corporation or government they might represent. So sitting next to someone on the bus for an hour is, without exception, an amazing education. Everyone is keen to share their work and their views on education and so for bus journey read “opportunity to talk to a world renowned expert for an hour about a topic of their choosing”. It is impossible to design a more personalised or inspiring summit than that.

Polls showing the views of the participants.

These were displayed across the main screen as the expert panels debated questions provided by the audience and the organisers. We discovered that 84% of the participants felt that education required radical transformation rather than step by step improvement. This proportion is increasing year on year as is the view that it is the competencies of students that should be the main focus of education systems. In fact, the winner of the WISE prize (Education’s answer to the Nobel prize) was Vicky Colbert who’s acceptance presentation was perhaps the best of conference. Through the Escuela Nueva (New School) model her work has changed the educational experience for over two million students. This has been achieved by going back to the pedagogy and redesigning the way students learn. “Unless you have a participatory model of learning you will not manage to fundamentally transform learning behaviours”.

Learner Voice

Wise learner voice

Each year students from around the world apply to have the opportunity to work collaboratively on a project to increase access to education or the equality of provision. From many hundreds of applicants, teams are chosen covering over 40 countries. The winning teams present their ideas at the conference and each year, one student has the opportunity to be part of the expert panel in the main plenary. The insight of the students each year really takes your breath away; firstly because they are taking part alongside international experts in their field and despite this, never appear out of place or outclassed, secondly because they have such confidence and conviction and finally because you realise the enormous future potential available to education if we can just find ways to mobilise it in the name of educational reform.

In conclusion,

...the majority of the education system wants reform and agrees on why we need it. In reality this transformation is likely to come from networks such as PiL and WISE in which students and professionals from all tiers of the education system share ideas and start making the links that will allow us to move forward in parallel. Strapping butterfly wings onto a caterpillar just creates a highly dysfunctional insect, for true transformation we need to retreat back to our basic DNA and restructure from the ground up.

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