Meaningful education in times of uncertainty

A collection of essays from the Center for Universal Education

We are living at a time of enormous uncertainty. Technology is advancing at an ever-increasing rate, transforming the nature of work and employment. Widening inequality threatens to further disrupt our systems and to leave a large part of the world behind. And as a result, our political systems are increasingly facing an isolationist backlash.

Change is happening at a disorienting pace and our institutions can barely keep up.

That’s why, in March 2017, we convened a meeting of top thought leaders in the fields of learning, innovation, and technology. We asked them: how can we rapidly accelerate progress in education—not only to help marginalized communities catch up to where the privileged are today, but also to reach a more effective, holistic, and equitable education for every child in the world?

This collection of essays represents the outcome of those discussions. It addresses some of the most urgent and important issues of our time.


Part One: Cultivating Global Citizens

Cultivating Global Citizens looks at how schools can respond to some of the destabilizing problems we see in today’s world. What role can education play in shaping societies and institutions, preparing creative workers, and closing political and economic equity gaps?


An Ancient Education for Modern Democracy and Global Citizenship
George Papandreou, Former Prime Minister of Greece; President, Socialist International
Jordan Shapiro, Senior Fellow, Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop


Rediscovering the Cosmopolitan Moral Purpose of Education
Fernando M. Reimers, Ford Foundation Professor of the Practice of International Education, Harvard University


A Curriculum for Our Time
Seamus Hegarty, Visiting Professor, University of Warwick


Part Two: Teaching & Learning

Teaching and Learning delves deep into specific solutions that have the potential to accelerate education progress. How can pedagogical methods change in order to better cultivate the breadth of skills that young people need?


No Parent Left Behind: How Parents Can Change the Global Landscape of Education
Claudia Barwell, Director of Learning, Suklaa


What is the Role of Teachers in Preparing Future Generations?
Claudia Costin, Visiting Professor of Practice in Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education


Changemaking and Engagement in an Uncertain World
Jane Dimyan Ehrenfeld, Executive Director, Center for Inspired Teaching


To Close the SKILLS Gap, Start with the LEARNING Gap
Randa Grob-Zakhary, Global Head of Education, Porticus; Board Member, Global Partnership for Education
Jessica Hjarrand, Global Programme Manager, Education, Porticus


A Third Way: Algorithms and Teacher Empowerment for Every Individual
Jim Knight, Chief Education Adviser, TES Global


Creating More Caring University Classrooms
Kim Samuel, President, The Samuel Family Foundation; Professor of Practice, McGill University’s Institute for the Study of International Development


Firetrucks on Ivory Towers
J. Philipp Schmidt, Director of Learning Innovation, MIT Media Lab


Part Three: SChool & Technology

School and Technology addresses the new digital and interactive tools that can be integrated into the learning experience. Under which conditions will they be most useful? Can big data redefine what can be achieved? And, can algorithms facilitate greater equity and wider access to quality learning?


New Frontiers in Technology for Assessment in Low-Income Contexts
Luis Crouch, Chief Technical Officer, International Development Group, RTI International
Carmen Strigel, Director, ICT for Education and Training, RTI International


The Challenges of Scaling-up Findings From Education Research
Pierre Dillenbourg, Professor of Learning Technologies, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Lausanne (EPFL)


We’re Not Teaching the Web Correctly
Mark Surman, Executive Director, Mozilla Foundation
Meghan McDermott, Senior Lead, Mozilla Foundation


Part Four: Systems Change

Systems Change is about the ways in which education solutions garner acceptance, buy-in, and ultimately become commonplace. What does it take to create an enabling environment? And how can education systems, themselves, become flexible, adapting to changing social, cultural, and economic contexts?


Sharing the Future by Building Better Education Systems
Julia Gillard, Distinguished Fellow, Center for Universal Education at Brookings; 27th Prime Minister of Australia; Chair, Global Partnership for Education


Breaking Down the Barriers: Integrating the School and Beyond in Education
Rohan Sandhu, Senior Engagement Manager, International Innovation Corps (IIC)


Look Before You Leap….Frog
David Baker, Professor of Sociology, Education, and Demography, Penn State University
Maryellen Schaub, Assistant Professor of Education Policy Studies, Penn State University


Education System Change: Perspectives from Kenya
Darius Mogaka Ogutu, Director of Policy, Partnerships, and East African Community Affairs, Kenya Ministry of Education