Oct 14

The 2010 Education Project in Bahrain

This past weekend I participated in the Education Project‘s second annual meeting. Sponsored by the Economic Development Board of Bahrain, the event brings together nearly 600 delegates from some 50 nations to reflect on the challenges and opportunities in education across the globe. This is a fascinating cultural event. I took too few images to begin to do the event justice; what I have are embedded above, but many more can be found at the conference site, linked above. I’ve also embedded images from last year’s site at the bottom of this post, to provide a better feel for the conferences as I’ve experienced them.

At last year’s conference I made a couple of contributions to sessions on e-Learning and student empowerment, which is really just as much about teacher empowerment. This year I went to listen, with a particular interest in a discussion of themes which Tony Wagner raises in his The Global Achievement Gap. (Find the book with some largely positive but sometimes vehemently negative reviews at the Amazon site here.)

The title of Wagner’s book may be a bit misleading. The claim he defends throughout the book is that American schools–even top-ranked schools full of high-achieving AP students–are failing to prepare students with the skill set–he boils them down to seven–necessary for all of living well (he says “surviving”) in the 21st Century global workspace, for effective civic life, and (increasingly) for college success. (I’ll cut to the chase here and say that I think Wagner is right about this; I’ll say why in another post.) He describes some successful alternative approaches to schooling–his focus is pre-college–which have a number of common characteristics: among these are a strong sense of community, high expectations, progress measured against performance standards (not NCLB-styled content mastery tests) in public space, with everyone from the principal educator, to teachers, to students doing their work collaboratively and in the context of public peer review. (Public portfolios measured against descriptive rubrics are produced by students, teachers, and principals alike.)

Wagner reviews the High Tech High network as an example of schools of this type. He mentions others, including some of those featured at the Education Project in Bahrain (KIPP, Green Dot Schools, GEMS, and ASPIRE). (Interestingly, in his 2010 Afterward to the paperback edition, Wagner presents Indiana’s state-wide ambition to start a New Tech High in every district as the most prominent example of attempts to take schools of this type to scale as non-charter public schools. South Bend is scheduled to open a New Tech High under the leadership of Principal John Kennedy in the Fall of 2011.)

With these somewhat disjointed remarks, I wanted to put down a record of a tie between the Education Project in Bahrain and the future of education in South Bend. We’re one world.

From the 2009 Education Project: