GESF 2016: Taking Greater Collective Responsibility for Public Education
Vikas Pota, CEO of the Varkey Foundation, discusses the theme of this year’s Global Education and Skills Forum
Ours is a time of huge inequality and widespread poverty, with a global workforce facing difficulties such as unstable economies, food shortages, housing issues and civil war. At the same time, developments in transportation and communications have made the world, for some, a smaller place while new and emerging technologies are driving rapid change in existing industries, bringing new ones into being and affecting the way millions of people work.
The proximity of the tragedy that has been unfolding in Syria for years, now, has brought home to more economically developed countries (MEDCs) not only how quickly an unstable political situation can spiral out of control to affect millions but how important it is to reach consensus quickly on taking decisive action and, conversely, how difficult this can be in itself. The effects of inaction and a lack of agreement are increasingly apparent.
It is easy to agree that a problem exists but more difficult to take action when there are a wide range of unmet and sometimes conflicting needs and, often, even harder to agree upon whose responsibility it is to implement solutions. Yet agreeing to do something in spite of these unmet needs and wants – to be willing to be a part of such change for the greater good even when the approach itself might not be the one we believe is best suited to our local or national commitments – is sometimes necessary in desperate circumstances.
Quality education for all
Over the past two decades education providers have come under increased scrutiny in many countries around the world. Many of those who work in the sector feel they are failing to deliver the quality desperately needed and have become caught up in a net of external interests – those of election-focused politicians or the business community, for example – that hinder their professional capacity to deliver.
Yet, the benefits of providing quality education for all are clear. As we have painfully witnessed in recent years, a lack of education, economic instability, civil war, marginalisation and deprivation are key ingredients when it comes to the radicalisation of young people. At the same time, questions regarding the physical and cultural impacts of integrating large numbers of refugees and how existing infrastructure can be adapted to cope have risen to the top of the political agenda in many MEDCs. Then there is the question of how best to prepare a future workforce for the challenges of tomorrow, given the changing face of work itself. When we look at this situation in terms of the way the education of young people has been affected, we find an entire generation in desperate need.
Making education everybody’s business
These are problems that affect, or have the potential to affect, us all. The annual Global Education and Skills Forum, a not-for-profit initiative organised by the Varkey Foundation, exists to deal with exactly these kinds of issues. By engaging the finest and most experienced minds to confront difficult ideas, engage with differing needs and propose solutions, the forum brings together leaders and practitioners from the public, private and social sectors to address the challenges facing us in the areas of education, employment and equity.
In recent years, the GESF has seen the case for change made by people like former US President Bill Clinton, President Paul Kagame and 20 other former heads of state and prime ministers. Over 60 education ministers and senior representatives from the United Nations have attended along with hundreds of CEOs and business leaders, academics, educators and media leaders from the BBC, CNN and The Economist.
This year, among many others, we will be welcoming Irina Bokova, the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); Andreas Schleicher, Director for Education and Skills at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD); Sir Martin Sorrell, the CEO of WPP, the world’s largest marketing communications services company; and Fareed Zakaria, the Emmy-nominated host of CNN’s weekly global affairs show, Fareed Zakaria GPS. Our speakers will be discussing how we can make education everybody’s business – how we can reconcile relevance, excellence and inclusiveness in both public and private learning environments through collective responsibility involving politicians, business leaders, the media and the teaching profession.
GESF 2016: The Debate Chamber and the Global Teacher Prize
New for this year’s forum is the Debate Chamber. Delegates will be able to choose from a series of thought-provoking debates with expert speakers taking opposite sides. Each one-hour debate will see strong interests expressed along with fierce questioning on topics ranging from the role of religion in schools to whether or not university is becoming increasingly irrelevant.
Another new development is the opportunity to take a class with one of the top ten finalists of the Global Teacher Prize. Each extraordinary educator will share a live 30 minute lesson; their methods and outstanding contributions to the profession are sure to inspire. This year’s forum will also culminate with the unveiling of the overall winner of the prize, increasingly recognised as the ‘Nobel Prize of teaching,’ on the evening of 13th March 2016.
GESF 2016 will be held in partnership with the African Union Commission, Ashoka, the Asia Society, the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA), Dubai Cares, Education International, Harvard Graduate School of Education, Inter-American Development Bank, Tsinghua University, the UN’s Youth Advocacy Group and UNESCO. We are honoured to have the official patronage of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, United Arab Emirates Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai.
We look forward to seeing you there.