By Nico Evers, Director Higher Education Services
I remember reading the CIS website’s promise of ’Shaping the Future of International Education’ and I thought “Wow, that sounds exciting; I would love to contribute to that, but what would that look like in practice?”
That was during the selection process for my current position a year ago. Fast-forward to October 2020 and my first CIS Summit of University and School Leaders.
In a 2019 post about the last Summit, CIS Executive Director Jane Larsson starts by saying: “We belong to a community of problem-solvers,” and my first Summit experience certainly lived up to this claim.
I joined Jane, members of our Board, and some CIS colleagues to welcome leaders from CIS member universities and schools from around the world for two-hours of online collaboration on two consecutive days. This year, our group of 23 also included leaders from international assessment and university admission organisations who we invited to expand our perspectives further.
Thank you @CISJaneLarsson & our @CISEducation team for providing leaders at this week's Summit the opportunity to step out of the reactive work around COVID and engage in some exciting future-focused thinking.
I was very impressed with the eagerness of the participants to share and work together. There was an energetic spirit of being united on common themes and priorities. Everybody enjoyed the opportunity to connect in this way and the shared recognition of being in the same boat together. High energy discussions closely aligned with the real-life issues we are all facing in our community right now and it was uplifting to see how participants were truly grateful to CIS for bringing them together and providing inspiration.
Jane, our facilitator Ewan McIntosh from NoTosh, and I prepared for the Summit by interviewing the participants. We quickly realised that the three priorities identified in last year’s Summits are more relevant than ever. Assessing educational achievement (admission reform); Working toward Global Citizenship (work readiness); Supporting Student Well-being throughout Education have all three been put in the spotlight because of the disruption of education due to COVID-19, the financial crisis, and the discussions about anti-racism and increased nationalism and isolationism.
The first day was about looking back. Thanks to the excellent use of technology by our facilitator, the participants met in small groups to share the impact that each had achieved since the last Summit on the three priority areas in their school or university. Next, we reflected in break out teams on the changes that 2020 brought us, and formulated a new set of current challenges, five in total:
- Determining the means to engage students
- A changing financial model of education
- Broadening assessment and skills recognition
- Caring for the learning community
- Mobility and the Learner Experience
On day two, participants gathered in smaller groups to discuss the five topics and formulate our ambitions/dreams and come up with pragmatic next actions.
I found it fascinating how the conversations developed. One group exchanged ideas on how to build and support students with human connections across diverse (in-person, virtual, or hybrid) environments so they can thrive. They talked about effective approaches to enable access, equity and engagement in education. Concerns were shared about ‘zombie learners,’ students who show up digitally, but not mentally, and how to make sure that all our students have access to technology and good connectivity. Do teachers and faculty have the skills for online or blended learning, and how does online influence teacher-student and student-student relationship building?
Another group talked about developing a new business model to cope with profound changes in education. There was a shared concern about how to guarantee the financial sustainability of our institutions at a time where perceived value and costs are no longer aligned, especially now online and hybrid approaches create a value gap.
A discussion in another group focused on how we can find, create, and embrace an expanded range of alternative assessments for admission. How can we make sure we assess a broader set of student skills and experiences, ensuring access, equity, and fairness?
And another group discussed how COVID-19 has shown us the importance of well-being as a priority for learning communities, and how to create a well-being approach and make it sustainable. How do we create a whole-institution approach to well-being for students, faculty, staff and leadership?
So excited to be part of the Council of International Schools Global Summit with @ewanmcintosh, Jane Larsson & an impressive group of global education #leaders tackling the most significant challenges in education today. Can’t wait to see next steps!
COVID-19 has had—and will continue to have—a huge impact on international student mobility. Will we be hybrid forever? The final group discussed ways to expand sustainable and inclusive global learning experiences in a world where physical mobility can be disrupted.
We all left the Summit with a strong sense that we had identified key areas that are relevant to the entire CIS school and university community.
What next? What impact will all these collective challenges have on our organisations, our students, and the world? What opportunities do they present?
We each felt inspired and committed to working both individually in our organizations and institutions in these five areas and together as part of this Summit group and across the CIS community as a whole. Only with this shared commitment might we be able to change for the better. Now that is what ‘Shaping the Future of International Education’ looks like!
Use this link to access and read the CIS Summit Perspectives thought paper and Opportunities for change summary to learn more insights from personal interviews and discussions during the Summit.