March 14th marked Annual Commonwealth Day, and I was lucky to have the opportunity to attend a seminar organised by the Council for Education in the Commonwealth, entitled “Achieving an inclusive Commonwealth – what role for education?”. I’m not sure what was more exciting – visiting the Palace of Westminster (I had never set foot in the Houses of Parliament…), or having the privilege to hear the experiences of a selection of esteemed speakers!
The seminar addressed this year’s Commonwealth theme of “An Inclusive Commonwealth”, exploring the complex dynamics between education, inclusion and equity, and focusing on key learnings to be shared both within and beyond the 53 member organisation. Stephen Woodhouse OBE (Executive Director, Kartika Soekarno Foundation), Fatimah Kelleher (Council for Education in the Commonwealth & International Social Development Consultant), Amy Parker (Education Advisor, Plan UK) and Dr Susie Miles (Senior Lecturer, University of Manchester) made up the panel of speakers. The keynote speech was given by Rt Hon Baroness Scotland.
During the seminar, inclusion was defined in its broadest sense, taking into account a range of factors including age, gender, sexuality, ethnicity and disability. From my perspective, having worked within the area of educational disadvantage in the UK, Tanzania and Uganda, it was fascinating to hear about a variety of interventions in this sector – from the potential of Quranic schools in Nigeria for promoting inclusive education, to the use of mobile phone technology for teacher training in Samoa. A common thread that ran across all presentations was the value of the non-formal education sector, alongside the formal, in achieving inclusion.
Following presentations from the panel, the discussion was opened up to the floor. Joanna Nurse, Head of Education and Health at the Commonwealth Secretariat, referred to the work the secretariat is doing to develop an overarching education framework through which to achieve the new UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). For me, there were clear synergies between this framework and Think Global’s own promotion of education as a vehicle to achieve the goals. Furthermore, Joanna’s questioning of what skills and competencies our education systems encourage – whether these are social, economic or environmental, echoed our focus at Think Global on providing young people with the global skills they need to succeed in a complex, international world.
It was a pleasure to attend the Annual Commonwealth Day seminar and I look forward to following some of the education initiatives being undertaken.