The three-day 2023 Education World Forum (EWF) which took place in the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in London, ended on Wednesday 10th May 2023 on a high note of strong optimism for the future of education, despite the enormity of current global economic challenges.
Representing Sierra Leone at this year’s forum was George A. Dambo, the Focal Person, Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Project, Ministry of Technical and Higher Education (MTHE).
While acknowledging the depth of the challenges still to be addressed in education, Mr. Dambo was understandably assertive about the great strides achieved in this sector, under the leadership of President Julius Maada Bio.
“We inherited a system that was broken and collapsing on its very foundations, as a result of decades of deliberate neglect”, Mr. Dambo reflected, as he ran through a raft of raw data and stunning statistics that reinforced the veracity of his concrete pronouncements.
Then he went on to extensively spell out the many efforts that President Bio’s government is making in tackling the attendant challenges posed by the expanding nature of the popular Free Quality School Education (FQSE) “The national free access policy, enhanced by aspects such as ‘radical inclusion’ will continue to put welcome pressure on the workforce, classroom spaces, learning materials, and other resource allocations as we extend and deepen the effort to ensure that education is no longer a side-stream show”, he maintained.
To cite an example compounding this evolving picture, Mr. Dambo pointed at the astronomical rise in the number of pupils sitting WASCE from 38,000 pupils in 2018 to 189,000 in 2021/2022.
The EWF which Mr. Dambo was attending, is a solid international platform that brings together policymakers, educators, content creators, and innovators to engage identify, and tackle the biggest challenges facing education. In this respect, EWF also serves as a leader in global educational measurement and identifies what drives the sector forward as well as pinpoints the issues that threaten to drag it down.
It is a forum for the forensic examination of how to raise the educational status through supportive global efforts and collaboration, mounted by leading players and voices around the world. The quest, according to iorganizersers, is to ensure a holistic system transformation of education that would increasingly respond to needs and expectations, and forge a better future for all. This is achieved while providing a safe enabling space and a stimulating environment that would excite and nurture learners’ imagination.
Hence the theme for the 2023 EWF wcenteredred on “ nurturing learning culture, building reliance, and promoting sustainability for stronger, bolder, better education by design.”
Speaking at the Opening Plenary, the moderator, David Aaronovitch had this to say about what needs to be done “to build a peaceful universe, devoid of polarisation”. The solution, he suggested, lies in “changing our educational system to reflect our universal needs and desires”.
Jaime Saavedra, the World Bank’s Global Director for Education reechoed this view by maintaining that “quality education produces quality results”, adding “We create the society we want through the education we provide”.
As one of the professionals who work to ensure the infusion of “quality” into the “Free School Education” project in Sierra Leone. Mr. Dambo added his voice to the debate by talking about the efforts made by the MTHE, which is working with the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), through UNICEF, in Training and Supporting Teachers, to strengthen 9 out of 16 districts in Sierra Leone. The selected districts, identified as weaker foundational learner areas, have been provided with a comprehensive training package in Early Grade Literacy and Numeracy for 12,000 teachers. The global aim of this exampled intervention is to improve the quality of Foundational Teaching and Learning in the country”, Mr. Dambo underlined.
It has to be pointed out that while drawing on evidence and experience to “better understand the contributions that employers, communities, leaders, teachers, and students have made to the learning culture”, the 2023 EWF focused on foundations of Early Years Learning, Skills Development, and the Contribution of Technology” to the process. “Technology is the big way forward”, opined Emma Dorn, Senior Knowledge Expert, t, Silicon Valley, she laid out the ramifications and impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) on the transformation drive.
At the core of the EWF effort is the push to nurture an international educational environment that would create increased understanding among people “as individuals, cultures, traditions, and nations” converge in a consensus of views and actions that would enhance global peace, widespread tolerant, nice, and fairer development trajectories.
This thinking was also present in the succinct remarks of The Rt. Hon. Gillian Keegan MP, the UK’s Secretary of State for Education, during her welcome address to the participants: “Innovation and collaboration are essential for economies at every level and in every corner of the Earth”. She went on to make the case that: “No country has a monopoly on bright ideas, so the more we talk to one another, the greater the scope for coming up with solutions”. She further assured the audience that the UK does not “just want to take excellence from others. we want to share our own too”.
And as HE President Julius Maada Bio works to enrich Sierra Leone’s greatest human resource potential through education, it is worth reflecting on the words of The NewGlobe, a digital learning platform that is partnering with the EWF to deliver integrated learning solutions to nations, by creating technology-enabled education systems for states:
“Visionary governments invest in the transformation of public education. They know that doing so unlocks enormous potential, empowering populations to create economic growth, deliver security and drive development”.
There should be no doubt that Sierra Leone is on the right path when it comes to instituting the fundamentals that allow a nation to rise and prosper.