Many teachers and educators who attended last summer’s Festival of Education at Wellington College would have seen the WISE Global Perspectives tent next to the main stage and wondered: why should we bother thinking internationally?
Many experts believe that there is a disconnect between education trends in England and internationally, with many influential thinkers here in the UK considering the international debate lagging behind with all its talk of ‘21st Century skills’.
Personally, as a foreign national building an education technology business in London, I disagree with this and believe there are several good reasons why UK educators can learn from the international debate.
Firstly, one only has to look at the subjects of best-attended sessions at the WISE tent this year – global perspectives on autism, teaching children about the environment and different standards of testing across the world – to see how much interest there is in what is going on globally.
And we can also perhaps learn from aboard when talking about another key debate in the UK, the budget cuts that headteachers recently marched against. A lot of UK schools are sadly coping with cuts in their budget for much needed continuous professional development (CPD). It is unfortunate that the Government cannot find more funds, but even more sad that no substantial alternatives are offered by Ministers or institutions.
But international exchange networks are a very clever way of digitally exchanging best practice among teachers at a very low cost and accessible for all teachers.
Thirdly, sharing digital skills across borders is now a vital part of education systems. Our world is undergoing many changes at a very swift pace. We speak about this era as the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ in which a very rapidly evolving new digital economy has the potential to put many of us out of a job.
In order to fully understand and act on such changes for teachers as well as our students, we need to acquire the correct skills for the future. From coding and robotics, to better understanding the blockchain, VR and AR. The only way to fully get this is by keeping the dialogue with our peers from other parts of the world open.
Finally, the UK is a global nation, culturally as well economically; it is not a nation in isolation; despite Brexit.
A city like London alone hosts people with over 270 nationalities and speaks over 300 different languages. In order to better understand each other and achieve measurable teaching & learning results, we need to keep the conversation with other countries open.
This is not only needed from a cultural perspective, but also from an economic one. Many UK students are very likely to be hired by big international companies who thrive on being successful actors in a global community. Isolating ourselves from an international conversation will do unnecessary damage as we cease to understand the workings of our global economy, especially after we leave the EU.
These are just a few good reasons why teachers in the UK should continue to keep the dialogue open. Cheesy as it may sound, we can all learn from each other.
Powerful networks can help us achieve a lot so let’s make sure we give them our undivided attention.
A recently published report by WISE and the prestigious Education Commission, also tries to address why UK teachers can learn from abroad, arguing that capital should be invested in building a knowledge sharing infrastructure that can be used to exchange ideas on a global scale.
The Commission whose report is entitled Investing in Knowledge Sharing to Advance SDG4 calls on funders & investors to commit more and better financial support to the development of such networks. It further recommends more flexible means and alternate approaches to measuring impact so further investment in knowledge-sharing can be enabled.
A commendable takeaway from the 65-page document is a list of clear criteria on effective knowledge-sharing that can increase the likelihood of successful implementation of such (physical or digital) networks.
Overall the report pleads for a higher degree of internationalisation, enabling more exchange of knowledge and funding to achieve a better global state of education through the Sustainable Development Goal 4(SDG4): “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. ”
As a technology builder, I am excited as a bigger knowledge-sharing infrastructure could potentially mean more opportunities for our sector. An article that recently appeared in the Observershares my excitement. It addresses the ‘disruptors’ that are hitting the education sectors and makes the point that many technologies (such as Learning Management Systems, Content Management Systems or Blended Learning Environments) are graduating to the next level.
Of course, it is a struggle to keep up with these technological changes, especially for our already over-worked teachers in the UK, but often we can find a fresher perspective from other countries that can inspire us.
And some of the new tools borrowed from the global VR and gaming sectors are set to further disrupt education, but nevertheless have the capacity to repackage curricular content into a more exciting, digestible format for its learners.
Perhaps talk abroad of ‘21stCentury Skills’ can be perceived by a hard-pressed UK teacher as over-simplistic at best and baffling at worst. But if there are interesting debates, technologies and experience from abroad which we could make our lives as educators easier, then surely it is worth a look?