Brazil is famous for great food, and great people. The latter was in evidence for a rich discussion I led at the think tank, Instituto Fernando Henrique Cardoso in São Paulo on Friday.
I was asked to stimulate a discussion based on reflections on how to improve schools systems. This was a great opportunity to pull together some of the thinking from my attendance at the World Education Symposium in Berlin and the Education Fast Forward debate two weeks ago, at the Oppi Festival in New York last week and now at Bett in Brazil. In that time I had been lucky enough to hear from the likes of Howard Reingold, Andreas Schleicher, Randi Weingarten, Andy Hargreaves, Pasi Sahlberg, and Taylor Mali.
First, it is clear that the conflict between education and learning applies across the world. In this rapidly changing world, people are learning in new ways outside formal education. Schooling and qualifications are struggling to keep up and to keep learning relevant to the real world.
The coincidence of the 21st century skills demanded by employers, and the learning styles that young people gravitate to is profound. This opportunity is being largely ignored because it is inconvenient for high stakes accountability systems as it is harder to test. It also requires some new pedagogy from teachers.
The highest performing jurisdictions of Singapore, Shanghai and Hong Kong are, however, the most innovative. They are designing creativity into their systems.
Secondly, politicians are easily distracted by what doesn’t work at a system level.
Parental choice and new school structures are yet to work at a system level. Chile, Sweden, the US and the UK show that, whilst there may be innovative schools, it is not raising standards at a system level.
Quality teaching is more important than class sizes or technology.
Thirdly, what is important is great teaching.
“We uplift the people we serve by uplifting the people that serve them” – Prof Andy Hargreaves
The jurisdictions that perform well focus on:
- great initial teacher training, with recruits from a range of academic backgrounds
- strong career routes for teachers, and not just into leadership
- embedded professional development with time for reflection, feedback and collaboration
- collaborative teacher networks
- strong leadership of teaching
This is encouraging for my work at TES. Our collaborative teacher network for sharing resources is growing all the time. Our Courses are proving popular and are pioneering a new socially based online professional development. I continue to think about how we might further develop those but also what more should be done on ITT, on teacher careers and leadership development.
And finally here is Taylor Mali performing at Oppi