On arrival at Davos I wrote about how appropriate the “transformation and new models” theme of this year’s World Economic Forum is for framing what needs to happen in education. What I’m realizing a few days into the Forum however is that the topic of education really isn’t on the agenda at all!
We’ve addressed everything but — the threats to our economic strength, our environment, our public safety, our health. We’ve addressed youth unemployment and the need for international cooperation and collaboration. But we just aren’t focusing on education or on the need to address the enormous educational disparities that persist in countries all around the world.
How can this be?
Maybe the world’s leaders have thrown up their hands about the possibility of change in education? And yet as I said in my last blog, there is plenty of evidence around the world that we can have not only incremental change but truly transformational change in education if we channel our leadership energy against it.
Perhaps the issue is that the world’s leaders believe that education is the one issue that is intensely local? What I’ve seen in our own work at Teach For All, however, is that educational disparities are universal in their nature. All over the world, children facing the challenges of poverty attend schools that aren’t designed to meet their extra needs; across country lines, the lives of marginalized kids look far more similar than they do different. At the same time, it’s been amazing to see the institutional patterns at the system level, all over the world.
Given that the nature of the problem is similar across country lines, the solutions will be shareable. So it’s a miss that our leaders aren’t prioritizing a global commitment to expanding educational opportunity.
Imagine a world of decreasing educational levels and growing educational disparities. In that world, the global threats we face only become larger. On the other hand, in a world of improving educational outcomes, our global welfare improves. If the world’s leaders are serious about improving collective well-being, we’d better get serious about prioritizing education, in our nations and in our global discussion.
Hopefully we won’t have to wait for the Davos participant list to be filled with generations of alumni of Teach For All programs in order to see the day that education is one of the main focuses here!
Wendy Kopp, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder, Teach For All, USA; Social Entrepreneur, Schwab Fellow of the World Economic Forum