GESF 2018: What’s new this year?

16 Mar 2018 |

I was asked today, “so, what’s new at GESF?” by a journalist. About ten minutes later, I stopped talking! So I realised that it would be great to share with everyone the things I am most excited about – because there’s so much, and also because most of it is new to the Forum. 

We’ve still got a lot of the great things from past year’s, like our Debate Chamber, so you’ll get to experience the magic of past GESF, too. 

Given the theme of the conference, which is future facing, we are delighted to be hosting the Tomorrow Summit at GESF. The Summit brings together innovative education technology start-ups – who have been carefully curated to represent the best of the ideas focused on improving education in the global south – to compete for the inaugural Next Billion Ed-Tech Prize. All delegates attending GESF will get to hear them pitching why they deserve to be the winner, and cast the decisive vote on in our closing plenary. 

These pioneering companies will also displaying what they do in our Start-Up Souk. 

Alongside the Next Billion Prize, we have a new Future Talks stage where we will have an opportunity to listen to some of the foremost thinkers and innovators on key trends and breakthroughs to expect in the technology space that will revolutionise the way we live, learn and work. 

We are also delighted to have, not one, but four immersive experiences which showcase how technology could transform our communities.

I’m often surprised with the divergence in discussions held in our schools and education systems from the boardrooms of the most prestigious companies. That is why this year we have created a new format called ‘The Boardroom’. Delegates will have the opportunity to be that fly on the wall and listen to how corporate leaders think about issues that we all face, but always ask: ‘How did they arrive at that decision?’ The Boardroom will host discussions on how they unlock the diversity dividend, what the key skills of the future are, and how they get them, how they predict and plan for the future, and many more subjects like this. The hope is that we, as educational leaders, get a better understanding of how business leaders think of these key issues and what they do about them.

I am incredibly excited by GESF Live!. At this year’s Global Education & Skills Forum we have produced our very own chat show. Set up very much like an entertainment show that we watch on our TVs, I am thrilled that legendary BAFTA-winning comedian Rory Bremner will anchor our five shows. Delegates will have the chance to hear famous people talk about education and its impact on their lives. Rory’s been coming to our office for meetings in preparation of the shows, and I have to tell you that his Donald Trump impersonation is so so so funny and had me in tears. You’ll love this format.

We also wanted to try to really get under the skin of two of the most knotty issues in education – how we recruit and retain teachers and how low cost private schools can contribute meaningfully to the advancement of public education. We are curating two, three hour long, private sessions on these topics, and attendance is by purpose kept to a small number of leaders who can deliberate on these issues to see what we can genuinely do to move the discourse on and actually make progress on these two substantive topics. 

I am also pleased that the Global Education & Skills Forum is being used as a convening platform by others on substantive issues. There is a meeting on the G7 Presidency’s priority on girls education, and the first meeting of the Education Workforce Initiative High Level Steering Group convened by the Education Commission. There’s also a kick off meeting at the conference on the G20 education agenda which will result in a coalition of organisations contributing to the Argentine Presidency’s thinking on the big issues and how we increase their priority in the Heads of Government meeting later this year. 

Alongside this we are delighted to be launching two new activities with partner organisations. The Atlantis Group (launched at the Global Education & Skills Forum 2017) will be launching their guide this weekend on how to be an effective education minister. And, we are today kicking off a year-long Commission on Education for Shared Societies with the Club de Madrid, and their membership of over 100 former heads of democratic governments.

Alongside this, we have designed more new ways of presenting education issues. ‘Stark Choices’ is a simulation that we have designed, which I would like every delegate to ensure they reserve a slot to experience. Through this experience you will be provided with two possible realities (Utopian and Dystopian) of our future and world of work to experience. At the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, I took part in a simulation called ‘The Refugee Run’ that tries to convey what a day in the life of a refugee is like. It really made me question how much I really understood that crisis. In a similar way, we wanted to create an experience where all of us are challenged to think as to what the world of work will be in 2030 and what our roles are in order to shape that reality, especially given the exponential technological acceleration that we are being consumed by today. 

It would be wrong to speak about the future without the involvement of youth. We have some great youth advocates that are going to be participating as speakers during the event, and we will also be hosting a Model UN event at GESF, where young people are invited, over the two days, to deliberate on the key issues they believe are important for the rest of us to prioritise. Whilst the young constitute only 27% of human population, let’s not forget they are 100% of our futures and that is why we want to provide them with opportunities to raise the issues that they’re most passionate about at GESF. 

As we grow, as a Foundation, we continuously ask ourselves as to how we affect change and what the role of philanthropy is in strengthening public education. That is why we are convening for the first time approximate fifty other foundations and funders to meet in a learning session during GESF. I’m grateful to all of those who have accepted our invitation to this private, closed door session. We will also explore how best to collaborate with each other at this first meeting. 

Last but not least, I am pleased to say that sessions like the morning meditation sessions are making a come back at GESF. And this year, our social media gurus are also doing social media walk-arounds every day, taking delegates for a 45 minute walk around the venue to show them how to best use their social media accounts, and of course post about the event. Our team in London recently had such a workshop and found it really useful. 

Please don’t forget to download the GESF 2018 app in iOS and Android stores. And don’t forget to follow all of our Varkey Foundation, Global Teacher Prize, and GESForum accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You can also follow me on @vikaspota on Twitter.

I wish you a safe journey from your home, and look forward to seeing you in Dubai, UAE soon.

This post was written by Varkey Foundation CEO, Vikas Pota.

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