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Global summit on education highlights impact of innovative trends

By Dayo Adesulu
Over three days, the World Innovation Summit for Education(WISE) witnessed a diverse range of innovations, experiences and emerging new ideas from around the world. From funding to curricula, from conflict and reconciliation to new skills, from assessment to improvement of the quality of Attendees, laureates and speakers came to WISE to advance international dialogue and propose realistic and effective solutions as well as new ideas.

In a plenary session on “Exploring Innovative Trends”, Lord David Puttnam, Chairman of Futurelab, said “If we are to be serious about innovation and improvement, then I believe Governments everywhere will have to treat investment in teaching and learning with far more consistent commitment than has tended to be the case in the past.

In this incredibly fast-moving environment, that means focusing a lot more time and attention on the continuous professional development of teachers than there has ever been previously.”

Lord Puttnam added that the development of online technologies offers the opportunity to dramatically increase the effectiveness of our educational systems, in both the pace and the quality of learning. “It is time we started to talk about the ‘productivity’ of education as well as it’s ‘effectiveness’ – as I find it hard to see how we are going to increase the one without the other,” he told the Summit.

Speakers at the recemt World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE), Doha, Qatar.

James Bernard, Worldwide Director, Partners In Learning, Microsoft, cautioned that innovative teachers are ‘islands’ unless they have the support of school leaders, and innovative schools are ‘islands’ without the support of an innovative education system.

Illustrating innovation in a non-technological context, Martin Burt, Founder and CEO, Fundación Paraguaya and Co-Founder of the WISE 2009 Award-winning ‘Teach A Man To Fish’ initiative, highlighted the necessity for an entrepreneurial ethos in education, pointing to the principle of ‘learning by doing and earning’. He added: “Let’s try to believe that education can also pay for itself and that the solution to problems in education may be in appealing to the dignity of those we are trying to serve.”

Also addressing WISE on the topic of innovation, Dr Se-Yeoung Chun, President of the Korean Education and Research Information Service (KERIS), outlined how South Korea has used information and communication technology to reform its education system since the 1970’s. Through technology, the administrative workload of educators had been reduced substantially and parents now have better access to information about the students’ curricula and achievements.

He added that this sustained investment had helped South Korea become the highest ranking country in the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA, published December 7th 2010).

Professor Rita Lewis, President of the International Society for Education Through Art (InSEA), addressing a session on “Creative Arts in Education”, said that “the arts show you that there isn’t one right answer and that imagination transforms understanding.”

As it draws to a conclusion, the WISE 2010 summit has provided a platform for a multi-disciplinary, international education community to generate dialogue, decisions and actions for the benefit of education globally.

On funding education, Mrs Irina Bokova, Director-General, UNESCO, told the WISE Summit that “business as usual is not working. Aid disbursements to basic education have stopped increasing for the first time since 2000 – stagnating at US$4.7bn in 2008. Education is the way to invest out of the economic crisis. We must explore tangible proposals for innovative financing as decisions we take now will lay the foundations for the century ahead.

In this light, the starting point must be to demonstrate that education plays a central role in employment creation, income generation and poverty reduction. Quality education also promotes better health, democratic participation, gender equality and environmental sustain ability.”

Mr Steen Jorgenson, World Bank Sector Director said: “The way ahead will entail a shift in focus. Where the emphasis had typically been placed on an engineering approach to reform, such as building more schools and training more teachers, now incentives to better align inputs and performance with results and accountability are to be given priority. Innovative financing clearly has a role to play in this shift.”

Jorgenson maintained that the three fundamental principles for funding the education sector include: Protection of education budgets: It will be critical for national governments to protect their education budgets and invest in education as a solution to economic uncertainty.

Value for money: Educators must demonstrate that education is vital for economic recovery and that investment in education will result in a substantial return through increased employment and poverty reduction.

Future financing: Education requires innovative financing to secure the long term future and viability of projects. Innovative financing of education must happen in two ways: funds should be raised innovatively and they should be disbursed in innovative ways.

Regarding the future financing of education, Mrs Bokova cited the Leading Group on Innovative Financing for Development’s Task Force on Education, which identified a tax on international financial transactions – a 0.005 per cent on transactions between four major currencies could raise US$30bn a year. Local currency education bonds, an education venture fund, debt swaps for education, public-private partnerships, and micro-donations from bank transactions were also identified as viable financing mechanisms which could be implemented without great difficulty.

The Chairman of WISE ended proceedings by announcing three major initiatives arising from the Summit which he intend to enact in the course of the coming year”. They include:

* the establishment of the WISE Prize for Education. This annual award will be the world’s first major international prize for education. In a sustained effort to raise global awareness of the crucial role of education in all societies, the WISE Prize for Education will reward individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to any field or level of education.

Nominations for the first WISE Prize for Education will be invited from February 1st to April 30th, and the prize will be awarded at the WISE Summit 2011. Selected by a jury of five distinguished personalities, the winner will receive an award of $500,000.

* the launch of a WISE publication and web portal. WISE will create a publication that will, for the first time, record major achievements and initiatives in the world of international education, including those at WISE. This key point of reference for innovations in education will be complemented by an enhanced WISE website that will host more in depth information and provide collaborative fora for discussion. Both should be launched between spring and fall of 2011.

* call for the establishment of a task-force dedicated to education system rebuilding in Haiti. The destruction by the devastating earthquake of Haiti’s entire educational system has been a focus of WISE 2010 and has resulted in an appeal for the creation of a task-force. This task-force will call for the global community to unite and build a new educational system in Haiti from the ground up. The task-force will report back with a concrete action plan for education in Haiti.

WISE has also called for an acceleration of best practices and support for innovative ideas in education. More than 40 projects and initiatives have been identified by participants at the Summit as existing and effective means to address 21st century educational challenges. WISE will provide support to share these experiences and connect projects leaders and potential partners in spreading these initiatives.

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