private sector

Can Investment Funds Break Down Brazil’s Education Barriers?

by Guilherme Cintra, Learning 2030 Contributor Image © andresmh At least once a week, I read in Brazilian newspapers about my country’s poor PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) ranking. Brazil currently sits at 53rd of the 65 participating counties. To me, it’s proof of the necessity for bigger investments in education.  The struggle in Brazil is not only with the poor quality of education but with inequality in accessing education as well. In most cases, the family you were born into determines what type of education you are going to get. And that will probably define how bright your future is going to be.  Brazil has made some advances in education in the past few decades, mainly in the terms of access to primary education. But, we still have a long way to go.  What works and what doesn't The knee-jerk reaction is that more education spending will allow us to advance. That is part of the solution, but it is not enough. We have to be more efficient in the way we spend our resources.The national debate must shift from quantity to the quality of the educational investments we make. The challenge of the next few decades is understanding what works efficiently and what doesn’t. Finding solutions for our schools will have a huge impact in developing efficient educational models that do what they are supposed to: teach. To be efficient as educators in the coming years, we need to understand which skills are needed by students to face the challenges of the rapid changes occurring worldwide and how to make sure they acquire those skills. Image © andresmh Technology in education: a means not an end The solutions for 2030 are not only the ones that will help students in developing the autonomy necessary for achieving success when navigating in the huge amount of information available anywhere these days.  They’re also the ones that will help teachers to become more efficient in guiding students and closing the knowledge gaps that grow at an even faster pace with the incredible rate at which information is produced.  For educational models that rely on technology to work, the proposed tools have to be developed with users in mind.      Technology has to be developed in a way that adapts to students learning cycles but also allows for this process to be cheaper and more scalable so that more people have access to quality education. Brazil knows only too well about the educational gaps. We are hoping to develop new ways to close them efficiently in this ever-changing reality we’ll face in the coming decades. Guilherme Carneiro da Cunha Cintra works for Brazil’s Gera Venture Capital, a Venture Capital/Growth Equity firm focused on improving education in an emerging market

Taking Back Education After a [Literal] War on Schools

The Learning 2030 Summit focuses on the future of high school education, a future that will be influenced by the wider landscape of education issues; from informal to formal education, primary to post-secondary. In this Learning 2030 Blog entry explore how the principal of a high school that was burned to the ground during Sierra Leone's civil war views the state of education in his war-ravaged country.  by Joseph K. Kposowa, Learning 2030 Blog Contributor War-torn and developing countries have an urgent need for stable educational systems. Education is a key aspect of nation-building (or nation re-building), prosperity, and peace. What many conflict areas lack are educational systems that provide for their students physically, socio-culturally, and psychologically. Qualified teachers, teaching materials and a suitable classroom environment for students may be hard to come by, let alone the access to technology that has greatly changed education in the developed world. Connecting globally The introduction of computer studies and Internet connectivity can make a tremendous difference. In most developing countries or in countries torn apart by war, poor Internet service in schools has greatly interfered with the ability of students to share what they know with the world. My students and I have participated in Education Fast Forward (EFF) debates in both Lagos, Nigeria and Nairobi, Kenya via Cisco. We were able to consider different views on how to achieve global peace from students around the world and shared our own views on how to equip students with the skills they need to be the leaders of tomorrow. Supporting locally Psychologically, there is a need for providing care to students who have lived through war. At each school the importance of peace and of understanding the rights of children must be a focus. Additionally, promoting a healthy lifestyle through physical education can promote the wellbeing of students and the community at large.  Finally, a solid educational system can provide career guidance to its students. This will make a difference by helping students to choose courses that will equip them for a stable future. Many schools in developing countries do not prepare students for the realities of the job market and after graduation many students struggle to find work. In Sierra Leone, which endured 11 years of war, stable, solid educational systems can be found only in the private sector. I believe that the development of quality education systems that are accessible to all should be emphasized and supported school-by-school, student-by-student.    Joseph Kposowa is the principal of Sierra Leone’s Bumpe High School and a Promethean Education Fast Forward ambassador. Since 2009, the rebuilt Bumpe High School has returned to peak enrolment of 600 students – the student population it had before it was destroyed by rebels during the country’s 1991-2002 civil war.

A Dream I Had of Learning in 2030

The Learning 2030 Summit focuses on the future of high school education, a future that will be influenced by the wider landscape of education issues; from informal to formal education, primary to post-secondary. In this Learning 2030 Blog entry explore how a young leader in Nigeria sees the future of high school education and what he thinks we need to do today to get there by 2030. by Fagbohun Omatayo, Learning 2030 Blog Contributor Image © UNNPride Dream, dream, dream... I dream of a high school where the ability to think critically would be encouraged rather than memorization. Where children can design effective solutions to address the problems that matter to them. I dream of a high school where learning would be fun, increasing the receptivity of students. I dream of a high school where children would be taught more than reading, writing, and arithmetic. A high school where creativity and innovation are emphasized. I dream of a high school where students would be “knowledge makers.” Where the classroom is a think-tank and the teachers expert resources. I dream of a high school in the next 20 years where skills in new media and entrepreneurial prowess would be nurtured and developed. I dream of a high school where the Internet would be fully utilized by the teachers as a source of learning tools. Image © carlagomo   Getting technology to students of the developing world In my view, there is no way that we can successfully separate innovation, the Internet, and technology from education in the next 20 years. The Internet is changing the way we work, play, live, even how we eat. It’s already changed the way many students learn in the developed world. Students in the developing world need access to these new tools to help tackle the complex problems they will face after school.   The world isn't static. If we are to have a dynamic future, teaching approaches and methods must change. Fagbohun Omatayo works to promote the UN's Millennium Development goals in Africa and is a Development Ambassador for Nigeria. He currently serves as a Google Student Ambassador after participating in Google Student Ambassador Summit in Nairobi, Kenya. 

Question Everything, Think Outside The 011000100110111101111000

Image © saschapohflepp by Mike Maccarone, Learning 2030 Contributor As teachers (of science, in my case) we encourage our students to wonder (and wander) through school, through life, with a curiosity about how it all works. From the seen to the unseen, the intuitive to the head-scratching.   We aim to equip students with tools they can use to answer their own questions: make observations, collect data, develop a hypothesis, design new ways to test ideas, compare results with others.   We also challenge students to question common sense, to find innovative ways to solve problems, and to think 'outside the box'. But, are we practicing what we preach?    Skill vs. content In the age of digital information and social networking, where facts and equations are literally a click away, the need for memorizing content is far less important than it once was.   A traditional science classroom, where content lies at the center of teaching, learning, and assessment, is no longer enough.   Skills must be at the heart of the classroom and content the delivery system for those skills.   If we turn the curriculum inside out, students are more likely to think scientifically – with consideration, intent, and evidence – rather than merely remember facts.   Scientific literacy can then be more about global citizenship, giving our future leaders, voters, and activists alike the insight and intuition to think scientifically.  An outdated system Kingdom/Phylum/Class/Order/Family/Genus/Species   Red/Orange/Yellow/Green/Blue/Indigo/Violet   I can still recite them, though if you challenged me to explain the difference between Class and Order I might flee (or at least pretend to receive a phone call and check my smart-phone for the answer). Why do we still teach this way? Why are we holding on to these classification systems, these boxes?  For one thing, it's easier to test. I can ask a student to write facts in order, mark her paper, grade it, and tell if she is good or bad or just alright at 'science'. A lazy example, perhaps, but assessment has become a major player in educational reform. Without data, how can we know if we're doing anything right? Data can be a dangerous thing if we collect it improperly. Is it fair to use multiple choice questions and math problems to determine whether our students are thinking analytically? In order to truly reshape how we teach, we need to focus on how we assess. Measuring skills and growth does not have to be a numerical process. Educational data does not have to be quantitative to the extent that public schools might like and teachers' unions might loathe.   There is certainly value in assessment, especially in providing feedback to students. If we can shift our focus from easily gathered, shallow data, we can redirect our efforts towards giving students meaningful feedback that helps them improve their understanding of science and their approach to learning, regardless of where they may fall on the academic spectrum.   In order to shift the focus of schools from content to skills, we need to consider what we are asking our teachers to do and what support they need.   We also need to agree to measure student success in a more meaningful way.  Thinking outside the 011000100110111101111000* But what if we take it one step further?   What if we begin to think of science the way a scientist, and not a test-writer, would - accessing and encouraging all of the different connections to the concept we are studying when it fits best in the classroom, and not when it shows up in Chapter 12. If skills rather than content are brought into focus, if assessment is about feedback and growth rather than facts and percentages, and if sparking curiosity in students is the real nature of a science classroom, how can educators begin to think differently about what and how to teach?   For one, we should acknowledge that the lines between physics, chemistry and biology are blurry – if they exist anymore at all – and that without building in Earth and space studies, engineering and sustainability practice, and technology and its impact into our schools, we will be doing an injustice to the next generation.   For teachers this is can be an uncomfortable idea: I am trained in physics and though I have some background in other areas of science, I couldn't begin to teach a biology class effectively without help. Collaboration is certainly key in developing new, enriching, and exciting cross-curricular ways to innovate the classroom.   Image © CERDEC Students don't think in boxes unless we tell them to If these students can study the physics of a battery in connection to a circuit, explain the chemical process behind alkaline batteries, and use this as an analogy to understand the role of the central nervous system, develop an appreciation for batteries as a means of storing energy using sustainable resources, and design a system that implements a battery as a power source – well, why wait?   Why take four or five years and four or five teachers to connect the dots?   Students are ready to make connections, to be creative, to apply their knowledge to new ideas. Their lines haven't already been drawn.   We can do much, much better than boxes if we work together as teachers, within and between our schools, if we utilize technology as a global network of collaboration and resources. If we question our methods and practice what we preach.       Learning 2030 Forum Peer Advisor Mike Maccarone is the Science Curriculum Specialist (Upper School) for Avenues: The World School in New York City *“box” in binary language

‘Animating’ a Level Playing Field in Science Education

Equinox Summit: Learning 2030 focuses on the future of high school education, a future that will be influenced by the wider landscape of education issues; from informal to formal education, primary to post-secondary. In this Learning 2030 Blog entry, explore how, from a very young age, media influences the paths that students follow through their education.   by Lissa Moses, Learning 2030 Blog contributor     Image ©RDECOM In my first year teaching science, I had some mammoth goals: I wanted my students to love science, to be natural explorers, to identify as scientists and to confidently explore the world through the lens of an investigator.  I thought that once I tackled classroom management, I could accomplish my list. No problem. It wasn’t like I was teaching history, a subject plagued with sepia-toned stories of days past; I was teaching science, a subject that naturally bubbled with adventure.* Though I spent hours researching and preparing what I hoped to be life-changing demonstrations and activities, I soon learned of the all-encompassing power of media in the classroom.    The attention-holding power of video The first time I played a video, my 6th graders were transformed: a spell was cast upon them by the powers of moving images and they turned into engaged, focused, pupils for longer periods of time than I had ever experienced.  My students were engrossed and all I had done was press play.  I wish I could say there was a moment when I realized it, but really it occurred to me over time: there was a large problem with the media and I was doing my students a major disservice by not addressing it.  A lack of diversity What I hadn’t noticed was that the majority of resources depicted “the scientist” as an older Caucasian male.  I wanted my students to see themselves as scientists and yet fewer than half of my students were male, zero were old, and zero were Caucasian.  The idea for Mosa Mack: Science Detective was born: The main character is female and voiced by a former student of mine.  The goal is to shake up the way that students and teachers alike perceive scientists so that we are intentionally empowering a broad audience to participate. Science needs diversity.    Getting girls and minority students into the sciences There are dozens of studies and articles investigating why there are so few women and minorities in the STEM fields but as a teacher, you get an inside peek.  Media suggests to students, from an early age, that science isn’t for everyone. We are going to change that. Lissa Moses is a New York City-area schoolteacher, entrepreneur, and founder/creative director at Mosa Mack: Science Detective – which reached its crowdfunding goal in July – producing short animated science mysteries to empower girls and minority students in science.  *Thankfully, since that first year, I have developed a deep love of history and no longer find it painful. Apologies to offended history-lovers, but you have to admit…

Post High School Roadblock? The UK’s Great University Gamble

Equinox Summit: Learning 2030 focuses on the future of high school education, a future that will be influenced by the wider landscape of education issues; from informal to formal education, primary to post-secondary. In this Learning 2030 Blog entry, explore the post-graduation roadblocks encountered by high school students in the UK as their opportunities in higher education change, rapidly.  by Andrew McGettigan, Learning 2030 Blog Contributor In 2010, the general election in the United Kingdom brought together the Conservative party and the Liberal Democrats in a coalition government.  At that point, I had already become concerned about changes in the way money was moving around the English higher education system. The reforms proposed by this new government soon changed those circuits radically. Could you pay three times more tuition? One such reform would see the maximum tuition fee for an EU student increased from £3400 per year to £9000 per year for undergraduate study at English universities, starting in 2012.  Education is a ‘devolved’ issue in the UK, meaning that it is controlled by regional administrations. Thus, the maximum tuition policy differs in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland (where there are still no tuition fees for Scottish students). This headline-making transformation garnered the attention and drove the protests that culminated with the Parliamentary vote taken in December 2010, but the more significant move was that the higher fees were designed to replace massive cuts to the direct grants universities and colleges received from the government. (Image © Matt_Baldry)                                                                     The new model So, for those starting university since 2012 who choose to study arts, humanities, social sciences, law, business, etc. (i.e. ‘classroom subjects’), student fees are the only income the host institution receives. The chief effect of this move was to create a ‘level playing field’ for new ‘market entrants’: commercial providers who cannot receive public grants.  This market reform was explained by David Willetts, the Minister for Universities and Science, in February 2011: “Currently, one of the main barriers to alternative providers is the teaching grant we pay to publicly-funded HEIs [higher education institutions]. This enables HEIs to charge fees at a level that private providers could not match, and so gives publicly-funded HEIs a significant advantage. Our funding reforms will remove this barrier, because all HEIs will – in future – receive most of their income from students via fees. This reform, of itself, opens up the system.” Students as consumers Now, new competitive pressures are combining with the promotion of students as consumers to create a new culture of higher education: one that is meant to reform teaching.  Quality is now meant to be determined by the vector: consumer-university manager-regulator/ombudsman… This demand-led dynamic replaces the ‘vested producer interests’ of academics. Can they survive? I’m now attempting to monitor what happens to established universities when faced with this new terrain and how they are emulating the private providers.  I’m also attempting to outline what privatization might mean when we are discussing institutions such as universities, which are already independent charities, rather than state-owned entities.  This includes transformations in borrowing, off-balance sheet activity and investment strategies. In particular, recent moves on the capital markets as English universities take the first steps into public bond issuance for several years.  (Image © martie1swart)   What this might mean for other countries… From an international perspective, what may be of most interest are the income contingent repayment loans used to finance undergraduate study in the UK.  These have been touted as the solution to the graduate debt crisis in the US – ‘smart loans’ – since monthly repayments are determined by earnings not by the amount borrowed.  One of the things I continue to look at and hope to examine in greater depth is why these loans are not the technocratic dream solution that many envision. Andrew McGettigan ( has taught at Middlesex University and the University of Westminster. He is the author of 'The Great University Gamble: Money, Markets and the Future of Higher Education' (Pluto, April 2013) and writes frequently on higher education for The Guardian.  

The High School of 2030 MUST Be Built From the Ground Up

  by Dr. Guy Claxton, Learning 2030 Advisor I may have missed something, but I believe that the necessary starting point for thinking about the school of the future can’t be to tinker 'away from' what we have. We need a clear vision of what young people want (and need) outside of school, in order to be able to flourish in the 21st century, and to move toward that.  Then the whole apparatus of books, timetables, buildings, teachers and exams is up for debate.  The true test of a good education It seems blindingly obvious to me that the 'valuable residues' left behind in young minds after all those years in school is not certified knowledge, but the skill and confidence to cope well when ready-made knowledge is absent or insufficient.  To paraphrase the great psychologist Jean Piaget, students need to become experts at knowing what to do when they don't know what to do. In other words, they need to love learning, and be darn good at it. Not the kind of learning that's involved in preparing for tests, rather the kind that needs curiosity, perseverance, imagination, conviviality and self-awareness.  Out with the old… School's bite-sized approach to knowledge is old hat. Carving learning up into little bits that have right answers, which can be 'delivered' in an hour and tested 'objectively' develop exactly the wrong skills for life in the 21st century.  Kids need to develop the mindset of courageous, ingenious explorers, not the ability to parrot back dead facts on demand.  They need to be able to think for themselves, think on their feet, ask good questions, challenge what they are told, imagine new possibilities and make good friends.  (Image ©moodboardphotography) What we really need to do for the learners of 2030 It’s not about 'getting more kids to college.' It’s about figuring out how to develop minds that are strong and supple enough to thrive in a tricky and turbulent world; and how to develop spirits that love to turn that real-world intelligence on to projects that are personally satisfying and socially worthwhile.  That, as far as I can see, is the only game in town. Anything less is just wallpapering over the cracks. Professor Guy Claxton is Research Director at the Centre for Real-World Learning, University of Winchester and is an Advisor for Waterloo Global Science Initiative's upcoming Equinox Summit: Learning 2030.

Are Private Schools the Developing World’s Learning Solution?

by Dr. Pauline Dixon, Learning 2030 Advisor For more than a decade, I’ve been meeting illiterate parents living in states of poverty you couldn’t imagine unless you’ve experienced it. All of them have something in common.  No, it isn’t their inability to read (even in their own language) and it isn’t that they feel sorry for themselves because they live in the poorest conditions... It’s the fact that they want the best for their children. These parents want their children to gain an education so they can pull themselves out of the situation they find themselves in. Education, for them, provides a route out of poverty. Succeeding privately 'where government has failed' In the slums and shantytowns of Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, India, South Sudan, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, there has been market success where governments have failed to provide an adequate schooling system for the poor. Our research from Newcastle University shows that parents have voted with their feet away from government schools to a demand – and even supply – driven private school sector. Typically in a slum area or in low income zones of cities in Africa and India, between 60-70% of school children now go to low-cost private schools. (In rural areas of India, the number is about 40%.) Surprisingly doable Charging monthly fees of around $4-$5 per-month (affordable by parents on minimum wage) and to orphans through school-provided scholarships, low-cost private schools are providing the education that parents crave. These schools outperform government ones, and at a fraction of the teacher cost. They are more effective and more efficient. Teaching at these schools is typically by rote, which is what currently works best to allow the children to tackle the private school system’s fill-in-the-blanks exams. Room for improvement We can help raise quality of schools in these parts of the world, through market-led initiatives around inputs that are shown by research to improve student outcomes. We can certainly improve access for the poorest, and it looks like education-targeted vouchers are working to help with this, according to our research with ARK in India, using randomized control trials to analyze their impact.  Evidence should drive policy initiatives, not philosophical baggage. A model to build on There is much emphasis on improving government schools here; and many are still on that track. But in my view, helping those who have been ignored and let-down for so long is the order of the day. The market in low cost private schools is working. However, nurturing it little by little to help improve it will provide choice to those who still can’t afford it and improve quality so the children can flourish and grow in a way they couldn’t even imagine. Dr. Pauline Dixon is a Senior Lecturer on International Development and Education at Newcastle University, UK and the author of "International Aid and Private Schools for the Poor: Smiles, Miracles and Markets."  She will serve as an advisor for Waterloo Global Science Initiative (WGSI)'s upcoming  Equinox Summit: Learning 2030. Watch Pauline’s TEDx talk on this blog’s subject on WGSI's YouTube channel.