Innovating to Learn in a Changing World

At the 2013 WISE Summit, leaders from over 100 countries discussed how to reinvent education so that it can be more inclusive and valuable for students worldwide.

November 04, 2013 by Alice Albright, Global Partnership for Education
6 minutes read
Credit: GPE

2013 WISE Summit calls for radical change in innovation for education

By Alice Albright, CEO of the Global Partnership for Education

As I look back at last week’s World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) in Qatar, one major takeaway is on top of my mind: The world is changing and we must change with it.

The WISE conference, which took place in Doha, brought together 1,200 prominent education, corporate, political and social leaders from over 100 countries to take part in three days of debate, dialogue and networking focused on the core theme of “Reinventing Education for Life”.  I was struck by the remarkable enthusiasm over reinvigorating and improving education, which was captured during one session, when the moderator took a poll asking the live and online audiences ‘Do you want to see radical change in innovation for education?’ The answer was a strong “YES” among 84% of the audience.

Sometimes when we talk about innovation we automatically assume the reference is to technology.  Undoubtedly, mobile technology in particular has changed our world drastically over the past decade.  Take for example the fact that there are 7 billion mobile subscriptions in a global population of more than 7 billion people.  But innovation is much more than this-it’s about doing things differently to help facilitate the right conditions for improving education systems. We will need to embrace an approach that nurtures innovation if we truly want change the lives of the 250 million children who cannot read or write even after 4 years of school.

Innovation in learning

I was thrilled to learn that the 2013 WISE Prize was awarded to Vicky Colbert of Fundacion Escuela Nueva.  Escuela Nueva or “New School” was initiated in 1975 to improve the quality of education in rural Colombia and address problems such as incomplete schooling, high repetition, ineffective teacher training and the lack of children’s learning materials.  Since then, the school’s model has been adapted to urban and migrant populations and is operational in 16 countries, reaching over 5 million children.

The Escuela Nueva model differs from traditional classroom instruction and promotes  collaborative learning in small groups using interactive, reusable modules that are designed to promote dialogue, critical thinking and the ability to apply this knowledge to family and community. Teachers are present in class but primarily as facilitators to provide support throughout the lesson.

Moreover, the Escuela Nueva model helps develop social skills, provides peace education, and promotes 21st century skills such as entrepreneurship, leadership and critical thinking. Best of all, the impact of the program extends beyond the students since it requires teachers, parents, and the community to work closely together to create a more conducive learning environment.

Applying innovation in GPE partner developing countries

The Escuela Nueva model is also being implemented  in Vietnam, supported by a $84.6 million grant from the Global Partnership for Education.  The Vietnamese government piloted the program in 24 primary schools in 6 provinces in 2010 and has now scaled up to all 63 provinces.  At least 440,000 students are expected to benefit from the project.

Innovative and strategic partnerships

This week we celebrated one year of collaborating with our strategic partner, the Educate A Child initiative (EAC).  EAC is led by Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser of Qatar and has provided additional financing in support of GPE programs focusing on quality education for out-of-school children in Chad, DRC, Sudan and South Sudan.

Finally, we think it’s important to note that while investing in innovation will be key, we must also keep our eye on the broader strategic goals of the Global Partnership, to provide equitable and quality education to all children.  As we look ahead to our second replenishment and the development of the post-2015 agenda, let’s work together to ensure that these important goals continue to drive us forward.

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