Monday, June 22, 2009

CCEM Last Post

As a final note and more of a plea to the organisers. This event shaped as it was around developing proposals from across the Commonwealth for Education Ministers would have benefited greatly from the judicious use of Web2 and other tools.

With noble exceptions of -

CCEM Kuala Lumpur Opening Ceremony

Home and reflecting on all the debate last week both the formal and the invaluable networking that happens at events of this kind. Some of the questions circulating at the conference we in Scotland have found our own answers too.

Most of the discussion was progressive and out on the frontiers of learning that in the main the Scottish education system operates in.

  • most developed systems doing some re-evaluation of school curriculum
  • have moved to QA inspection system based on self evaluation with external audit
  • ICT and on-line learning challenge same in most systems – few have been as bold as GLOW
  • Most countries developing qualification frameworks that embrace academic and vocational pathways for learners.
  • some see education as way to import and export talent and as critical for democratization , civil society, empowering individuals and as a wealth generator
  • transition challenges between primary and secondary and secondary and tertiary in most systems
  • debate on importance of 2-6 year old developmental period - some countries doing more systematic training of nursery teachers and putting curriculum frameworks in place.

Some of the questions suggested a legacy we may have left behind

I was asked if we still have an 11+ exam and without it what do our secondary schools use for selection .Another delegate described why learners sometimes need beaten and was surprised to know that corporal punishment was now banned even in Scottish private schools.

Others were the kind we still get on the home front about why we need National Qualifications – Bologna Process, European Qualifications Framework and Global Standards - is the short hand answer – but it is clear we have way to promote understanding when civil servants don’t understand systems.

Biggest challenge to my thinking is how far the private sector operates in developing countries in running education systems and how much private companies are penetrating even the English system. They offer everything from inspection services to the building and running of schools for governments and local authorities. I think we only have operations like this in the special school sector in Scotland but I am sure they will be looking to sell on services wherever they can. Staffed mainly by ex public sector folk – owned by and profit driven for public or private shareholders and in some cases former educational publishers – will be interesting to see how this manifests itself in our system.

Kuala Lumpur and Malaysia have transformed in 30 years and flying back through Dubai, a city that in 25 years has erupted in a desert – it is nice to know that both places have a thirst and affinity for UK awards. Malaysia wants to be an education hub for all of its neighbours by 2017 and I hope we can do a lot to help them meet their target. I met a lot of customers interested in offering Scottish Vocational Qualifications and lots of customers interested in learning more about the Scottish Education system.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The 17th Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers

On one level there is something strange about the diverse group of countries that form the Commonwealth and at least for me a bit uncomfortable when you think of the imperial past.

The Commonwealth is a family of 53 different countries among them 12 on the UN list of least developed countries in the world.

Yet when you meet the learners, teachers, university vice chancellors, Ministers and agencies from all of these countries you can see at once what we have in common and while we all start in different places the aims and ambitions of the Commonwealth for learners you can see at once how our simple common bond can help us work together.

The agenda is a simple yet complex one.

The millennium goals
· Advocating for 2015 to be the year that children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling.
· Affirming the importance of eliminating gender disparities in education by 2015
· Utilising the technology, facilities and efficiencies afforded by open and distance learning to overcome barriers and combating the digital divide in education.
· Improving quality in education through signalling the importance of the role played by teachers, addressing their status, retention and mobility whilst at the same time advancing the importance of the management, training and development of this critical resource in education.
· Supporting the assurance of education in difficult circumstances through addressing the challenges of education delivery during situations of crisis, conflict, post-conflict and natural disasters and providing guidelines to improve preparedness for emergencies.
· Mitigating the impact of HIV/AIDS on education systems by way of establishing the role and importance of education as a “social vaccine” against HIV/AIDS through professorial chairs for research and advocacy and dissemination of good practices in countries which address head-long the challenge of the pandemic in their populations

Some of the stories from conference are truly humbling –
Village Children in Bangladesh organizing locally to persuade a landowner to give them land to build a school and then selling their blood to a private hospital to raise the funds to build the school – so for first time the villagers have access to a primary school.
Growing evidence from countries stricken by famine that learners arriving in primary school have already been damaged developmentally through malnutrition.

Made me reflect on newspaper headline as I left that 1 in 9 learners in Glasgow come from family with addiction issues.

While we worry about changes in our own internal systems - we need to be aware of the challenges that educators face around the world. How can we leverage curriculum investment in Scotland to support the rest of the world ?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Sports 4 Life Moves Onwards and Upwards

Sitting using the free wifi at Dubai Airport - and time to stick up this letter that went out a week ago up on the blog. Sports4life a game based on running a sportstore to teach basic business skills is moving on.

It was great fun pulling it together - a big thanks to all the teachers who helped in the pilot, including the intrepid bunch we sent to NZ, the football clubs who finally gave us their logos and the team at the Small Business Company in Christchurch New Zealand who were prepared to blaze a trail with a National Awarding Body on the other side of the world. Thanks too to Microsoft who gave us some funds to push the envelope a bit through Partners in Learning. Bob McGonigle in Scotland and Kirsten Weartherby at headquarters then - and now at Reading.

Over the last three years we have developed, supported and successfully piloted access to the on-line business game for schools. The launch and pilot has been supported through funding from Microsoft Partners in Learning. This letter is to inform you that from August 2009 the Game will move to a subscription model to ensure its long term sustainability and ongoing development.

Earlier this week a communication went out to all SQA Co-ordinators and Heads of Centre, I had hoped to find a national sponsor for the game but in the current financial climate this proved too challenging.

The pilot has been an outstanding success. In the last year 380 Scottish secondary schools had registered for the Game, 639 teachers were using it with their classes and 35,000 students played 135,000 Games and gratifyingly the game has been picked up and adapted for use around the world.

In other parts of the UK schools already pay to use the Small Business Game (Sport4Life) £400+VAT per school for an annual licence. However, recognising that Scottish schools have taken part in the successful pilot at no charge, the Game will continue to be part-subsidised by The Small Business Company for the 12 month period commencing 1 September 2009. The cost for your school to use the Game is now at the discounted price of £200 + VAT for the year commencing September 2009.

Access will allow you to offer the Game and all its benefits to up to 1,000 students and teachers in your school, and the school will still be able to participate in the competitions that will run within the Game through the year.

To ensure your school continues to get full use of the Small Business Game beyond August 2009 please email Andy Coughlin ( ) requesting a licence for the Game.

Monday, June 08, 2009

How Twitter will Change the way we live

Evan Williams and Biz Stone of Twitter
Evan Williams and Biz Stone of Twitter

I have always been a sucker for new ways of communicating - but I do think there is something in this - It was great to attend an e-learning alliance conference today showing lots of ways that web2 social software is being used in College and University Classrooms - great to be able to tweet about it and great too that Theo Kuechel was able to confirm before I got back to the office that Voice Thread was worth another look

Practice is changing ..and it is wonderful to see - a great article on Twitter from Time Magazine
and a great antidote to today's awful election results.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Google Wave Developer Preview at Google I/O 2009

Now if we could only get our stakeholders to cope with this - we could develop new curriculum in quick time and collaborate with educationalists and learners as we do it ..mmm