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Key takeaways from the Education World Forum

31 May 2023
Jane Rexworthy, Executive Director of People 1st International and Chair of UK Skills Partnership

This month, the world’s largest gathering of education and skills ministers took place at the Education World Forum (EWF).

Held at London’s QEII Centre, EWF 2023 addressed how education has changed and what we have learned from recent disruption and responses and considered longer term challenge and change.

Representing the UK Skills Partnership, I attended ministerial meetings hosted by the Department for Business and Trade with representatives from Oman, Colombia, Jordan, Ghana, Hong Kong, UAE and Libya, among others, to share insights on the UK TVET system and to explore ways of supporting countries to address their TVET challenges.

With that in mind, here are some insights from this year’s conference:

Global exchanges

There were some key statistics and statements shared at the conference that stood out:

  • It will take 5 years to recover the lost learning for older children because of the pandemic.
  • Less than 9% of the 1 billion children in the world have access to digital technology.
  • For stability it is critical to keep politics out of the classroom.
  • Resilience is now seen as a key skill.

Educational reform and the importance of TVET

Educational reforms are taking place in a number of countries to meet new priorities and objectives. The focus on ensuring industry-relevant skills through technical, vocational education and training shone through in many of the conversations:

  • Jordan: The education sector reform is taking place now to ensure growth and STEM industries are supported by a skilled workforce at the right level. There is high youth unemployment in Jordan and a need to grow the TVET offer through colleges such as Luminous.
  • Oman: Through their technical and vocational reform, Oman is changing the education system to include new BTEC qualifications. A pilot being set up for two girls and two boys schools in IT and business / entrepreneurship. The BTEC will include language, maths, and social skills. They see these routes as providing multiple occupational pathways.
  • Ghana: A huge reform is taking place with a concentration in providing competency-based learning across the country and geographical equality. Ghana is setting up STEM schools to support their requirement for people in areas such as engineering, robotics, manufacturing, aerospace, and biomedical science.
  • Libya: Interested in expansion of their TVET in key priority areas of solar energy, renewable energy, maritime, agribusiness, aeronautics and tourism, ministers recognise core life skills are needed to underpin the technical skills.

The future of education in Latin America

As ministers from the Americas attended a policy dialogue to exchange their ideas and plans for the future of education in their countries, it was insightful to hear some of the challenges faced and approaches being taken to support educational recovery following the pandemic:

  • Brazil: In Brazil the pandemic caused a huge challenge in the educational offer. A large-scale national literacy programme is now in place to support the educational recovery, but the country is experiencing challenges due to its highly decentralised governance structure. Collaboration and consultation are therefore key.
  • Nicaragua: Nicaragua was the only country in Latin America not to close its schools during the pandemic as many children relied heavily on the free school meals served. Whilst it’s a country with little digital connection in the homes, 75% of schools are now connected to the internet and students have access to tablets. Ministers highlighted the importance of the interaction between teachers and technology as they seek to use technology more widely to support education and learning.
  • Colombia: During the pandemic education was seen as very important, and the country prioritised it alongside health. To reduce the impact of school closures, they took a multi-channel approach to support students. The Ministry of National Education provided a wide variety of free educational resources to the educational community through its platform Aprender Digital. They also broadcast educational content through TV, public and private radio. They have also opened 17 new community schools that are digitally advanced and green eco-friendly.
  • Jamaica: Jamaica’s education transformation plan is prioritising the construction of six STEM Schools and one STEAM School to increase the level of innovation and critical thinking required for future careers and economic advancement. It is also placing an emphasis on pedagogy of teachers. Jamaica has also expanded its sixth form programmes and recent figures show a 21% increase for the 2022/23 academic year.

Education that motivates Gen Alpha

As we enter a generational transition where Gen Z are entering the workforce as Gen Alpha (defined as those born between 2010-2024) move through their schooling years, it’s important that as countries reform their educational approaches that we factor in the motivations of the future generation and the need for 21st-century skills.

Born into a globalised and digitised world, skill-based learning, learning with flexibility and purpose, and personalisation are critical alongside the adoption of technology to make their learning more efficient. Cultivating the soft – or core life skills – of Gen Alpha will also be needed to provide the essential skills that young people need to be fully prepared for life and work in a global economy.

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