News and opinion

Steve Munby

Facilitating the Atlantic Rim Collaboratory Summit

04 October 2016

Our CEO Steve Munby on his facilitation of the inaugural Atlantic Rim Collaboratory (ARC) summit, Reykjavik, Iceland.

A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege to be the facilitator at the first ever summit of the Atlantic Rim Collaboratory (ARC) held in Reykjavik, Iceland. ARC was founded by Boston College's Andy Hargreaves who leads the Collaboratory in partnership with Conexus, Norway. Officials, professionals and, in most cases, education ministers from 8 different systems came together to talk about education for social justice. Scotland, Ireland, Finland, Iceland, Ontario, California, Vermont and Aruba were the education systems represented, along with some fantastic thought leaders: Andy Hargreaves, Pasi Sahlberg, Jeannie Oakes, Vicky Colbert and Pak Tee Ng.

What was so exciting about the event was that education systems from very different contexts and histories had decided to come together because of a joint commitment to the values of equity, excellence, wellbeing, inclusion, democracy and human rights for all students within high-quality, professionally-run systems. It was fascinating for me to observe how these education systems are having very different discussions from the kind of ones we are having in England at the moment. The focus at the summit was less about test results and more about ensuring active citizenship and life-long learning; it was less about school structures and more about the importance of relationships and great teaching; it was less about supporting the already advantaged and more about addressing the growing alienation amongst certain groups of young people, combined with the challenges of integration at a time of high immigration. It wasn't that high academic achievement or clear accountability were not seen as very important, it was the fact that they were not seen as the only things that mattered in education, which is sometimes how it can come across in England.

Of course my challenge was much more down-to-earth than that: how to ensure that each delegation had a high quality experience, found the discussion useful and purposeful, reflected constructively on how to make changes back in their own systems as a result of the summit and agreed next steps collectively for ARC. As someone who is often invited to conferences to speak rather than to facilitate I must confess that I felt very much out of my comfort zone. But I am pleased to say that the event seems to have been successful and there was enthusiasm for continuing the relationship across the 8 systems moving forward.

Much of what was discussed at the summit was incredibly relevant to Education Development Trust's work throughout the world and it was truly energising to see that the important work we are doing in places like Kenya and Brunei had connections to similar work not only in the 8 systems represented here but also in some of the other countries discussed. The remarkable Vicky Colbert's work in Colombia is a great example of this – it was a privilege to meet her.

Finally, I found the scenery in Iceland to be magnificent. Somehow it seemed right to be discussing such things as our future identity, the purpose of education and the leadership of change in a country with such stunning mountains, volcanoes, geysers, waterfalls and the place where the tectonic plates are slowly moving apart.

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Videos of key speakers at this important summit are available on the ARC You Tube channel [opens in a new window]

Andy Hargreaves on 'Deep collaboration'. To watch Andy Hargreaves' talk, please visit the ARC you tube channel (link can be found in Steve Munby's blog).

Jeannie Oakes talks about education reform at the ARC Summit. To watch Jeannie Oakes' talk, please visit the ARC you tube channel (link can be found in Steve Munby's blog).

Vicky Colbert speaking at the ARC Summit on 'Escuela Nueva'. To watch Vicky Colbert's talk, please visit the ARC you tube channel (link can be found in Steve Munby's blog).

Sir Ken Robinson on 'The need for a new model in education'. To watch Sir Ken Robinson's talk, please visit the ARC you tube channel (link can be found in Steve Munby's blog).

Pak Tee speaking at the ARC Summit on 'Teach more, learn less'. To watch Pak Tee's talk, please visit the ARC you tube channel (link can be found in Steve Munby's blog).

Pasi Sahlberg discusses 'Excellence or equity' at the ARC Summit. To watch Pasi Sahlberg's talk, please visit the ARC you tube channel (link can be found in Steve Munby's blog).