An inspiring knight in Cape Town

Sir John Daniel -Photographed from my crummy web camera

Schoolnet and the Commonwealth of Learning invited me (and a variety of highups in Education)  to a day long seminar in Cape Town around the topic of  ICT integration and teacher training. The key note speaker was the inspiring knight, Sir John Daniel. Not only did he take 25 years to complete a part-time Master’s degree in Educational Technology at Concordia University, but he’s also the president and CEO of the Commonwealth of Learning since 2004 after previous appointments as assistant director-general of UNESCO and vice-chancellor of the UK Open University and that’s only a summary of the last 10 years of his career.

At the seminar, Sir John chatted about the Second United Nations Millennium Development Goal – Universal Primary Education – and argued that these goals were well on their way to being achieved. As of 2008, over 570 million children were now able to complete a full course of primary schooling and only 50 million children were not primary schooled. The success of the campaign however, has created a new problem, that of Universal Secondary Education. The scale of the challenge is vast. 400 million children aged 12-17 are not in secondary school and 10 million more teachers are required by 2015 if this problem is to be addressed.

Sir John then went ahead to explore some interesting ideas to train more teachers and effectively retrain and motivate those in the profession. He suggested that countries should be recruiting people and sending them into the classroom within minimal training. Then, while they are teaching, they should receive in-service training that is in the schools and that addresses classroom realities. In order for this to happen, institutions will have to use open & distance learning and ICT.

His latest book – Mega-Schools, Technology and Teachers: Achieving Education for All – he explores the implications of using ICT for open and distance learning. The publicity blurb says that the book covers:

  • the creation and expansion of Mega-Schools, which combine distance learning and community support and have a proven track record of increasing access at scale
  • how to prepare the 10 million new teachers that are required to achieve Education for All by 2015 by focusing on classroom-based in-service training.
  • strategies for using technology to scale up distance education cost-effectively.
  • the creation of a 21st century educational ecosystem that integrates open schooling and teacher education with communities and their school systems.
  • successful examples of open schools and teacher education programmes operating at scale around the world.

Sir John is an amazing person. He has a global vision for education and an appreciation of how educational technology can provide secondary education to tens of millions of young people around the world. If the book is as good as his engaging presentation, then it’s certainly another must read for my bookshelf.