Education for Syrian refugees, educational inequality in South Africa, and teacher professionalism reform in Chile were some of the very engaging (and often difficult) topics discussed at the Global Education Conference held at HGSE. This day long affair not only served as a platform for inspiring and thought-provoking ideas, but also as a call to action. In ten minute slots, the presenters exposed urgent problems that persist in education today and proposed policy recommendations that were bold, yet firmly rooted in empirical evidence.
The Global Education Conference is the brainchild of Dr. Fernando Reimers, Ford Foundation Professor of Practice in International Education and Faculty Director of the International Education Policy program. What has now become a beloved annual tradition, Dr. Reimers invites the authors of the best papers written for A-801 Education Policy Analysis and Research in Comparative Perspective to present their findings of their semester-long research. This year, on a chilly Friday in January, the Gutman Conference Center was buzzing with participants shuffling between simultaneous sessions, talking, tweeting, and thinking about some of the most difficult issues in education today.
One of the morning panels at the conference.
Yet, what sets the conference apart is its genuine effort to bridge the gap between practitioners and academics, thereby promoting a forward looking view of the international development arena.
The conference attendees included Charles MacCormack, former President and Chief Executive Officer of Save the Children; Hans Brattskar, Sate Secretary at the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Dave Offensend, President and Chief Executive Officer at the Education Development Center (EDC); Professor Haiyan Hua, Vice-President at World Education and HGSE lecturer; and Atif Rafique, Education Specialist at UNICEF.
Each of the senior level individuals were involved in chairing one or more panels throughout the day and engaged the authors in constructive and informative dialogue. My policy recommendations for addressing the shortage of teachers in rural Sudan, for example, were closely examined and critiqued: Your focus is on new graduates, where are your recommendations for the existing teachers? Can you take your proposal to scale? Have you thought of permutations and adaptations of existing policies?
All in all, the Global Education Conference was not merely an avenue for discussion, but a showcase of the brilliance, ingenuity, passion, and commitment of the men and women working tirelessly to improve the lives of children around the world through education. For me, it served as a powerful reminder of why I was pursing my studies here and a much needed energy boost to take on the last semester.
(We also recieved free pens.)
Hibatalla Ibrahim is a Master’s in Education candidate in the International Education Policy Program. Transitioning from marketing to international development, she has special interest in girls’ and urban refugee education. She loves cooking, writing and exercising (OK maybe not).