All of the essays in this collection have been written by members of the Education Policymakers Network. The EPN connects policymakers from different countries to work, learn and innovate together. Launched in 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic, the network helps support and sustain education system transformation around the need to develop a breadth of skills – cognitive, creative, physical, social, and emotional – in young and school-aged children.
We are living in a time of convergent crises: the global coronavirus pandemic, the climate crisis, the struggle for racial justice, the polarization of societies, and a global learning crisis. Alongside these crises the Fourth Industrial Revolution is changing the very nature of work and economies around the world. The workforce of tomorrow will require new skills and unprecedented nimbleness.
These challenges place exceptional and unforeseen demands on educational policymakers across the world. Education system transformation at any point in time is challenging, complex, and requires sustained political will, investments, and effort. It is particularly challenging now but absolutely essential.
Education that is focused on developing a breadth of skills is a critical and legitimate response to these crises – as a response to address the holistic learning and well-being needs of children during and beyond the pandemic; as a proactive and progressive approach for developing behaviors that can help us address the climate crisis and structural racial inequality; and as a component of fairer, more compassionate societies in the future. It is not the only change that is needed, but it is among the most critical.
Children around the world need a breadth of skills to navigate an uncertain, complex, and rapidly changing world. There has been growing interest in achieving and measuring learning outcomes beyond fundamental numeracy and literacy, and the challenge has the attention of many actors already – educators, parents and caregivers, and policymakers are all seeking ways to help children develop holistic skills.
The Education Policymakers Network is focused on education systems transformation that will positively impact the learning and development of three- to 12-year-olds. Among the many reasons for focusing on this age group is the fact that children need skills and mindsets that will help them become lifelong learners, navigate uncertainties from an early age, and develop to their full potential. This is the optimum period in children’s development for them to develop behaviors that will shape their future.
The essays in this collection and the wider work of the Education Policymakers Network shows that this topic resonates in a variety of education systems around the world. Contributions from China, India, Jordan, Lebanon, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, South Africa, and the USA not only demonstrate a wide range of approaches and strategies, but also the growing demand for education systems transformation.
This is the first in a series of essay collections from the Education Policymakers Network, with further collections planned for 2023. This work is incredibly timely and well aligned with the United Nations’ Transforming Education Summit, which is taking place during the UN General Assembly. One of the big shifts in education that seems to be taking place around the world at the moment is a movement away from competition between systems and towards much greater collaboration and shared learning. The Education Policymakers Network is certainly consistent with this, and we would like to thank the Network members for their ongoing participation and commitment.
About the author: Dominic Regester is a Program Director for Salzburg Global Seminar, responsible for designing, developing and implementing programs on education.
Editor's Note: This essay collection is dedicated to the memory of Higinio González Calderón, Secretary of Education, State of Coahuila, Mexico and a much-valued member of the Education Policymakers Network until his untimely passing in 2021.