On 15 October 2014 Cambridge Assessment welcomed delegates across the world to debate International Education: Interpretation, importance and impact. The conference, hosted in Cambridge, was broadcast live to delegates taking part in seminars in Egypt, South Africa, India, Argentina and Mexico.
Tim Oates, Group Director of Assessment Research and Development at Cambridge Assessment closed the proceedings by saying that, while he was not going to attempt to summarise a day which was so full of ideas, it had shown that “very complex relations and forces play out in complex ways”. "However, it’s a truism just to say ‘it’s complex’ and so often conferences and discussion reach that conclusion. Today we've gone beyond simply saying that - we've said we can examine how that complexity plays out in different circumstances, how historical processes are unfolding, and that’s important”.
The conference stimulated debate between education experts, teachers and students gathered from around the world, with leading speakers addressing the three strands of international education: interpretation, importance and impact.
Building on the case studies garnered ahead of the conference, delegates heard a variety of interpretations of an international education. Speakers included Marc Tucker, the President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Center on Education and the Economy and a leader in the movement for standards-based school reform in the United States, who talked about the response in the US to international comparisons to their education system. David Graddol, Director of The English Company (UK) Ltd, gave an insight into the role of English language in international education, drawing on recent research in Europe, China and Brazil.
In her presentation, Isabel Nisbet, former Regional Director of Education, South East Asia, for Cambridge International Examinations, asked whether education could be both national and international. Ms Nisbet, the Executive Director of the newly formed A Level Content Advisory Board, said she felt that the two should sit alongside in an interactive relationship.
Speaking from a UK perspective, Professor Jeremy Hodgen of King’s College London looked at what can be learnt from international comparative research of TIMS and PISA results to support maths teaching in this country.
Presentations from educators included Stephen Spurr, former Head Master of Westminster School. Dr Spurr, who is Managing Director for Europe of Reddam House Group - an expanding network of high-performing schools in South Africa and Australia - said it was sobering to see how advanced pupils in high-performing jurisdictions were compared to their counterparts in the UK.
He called for a “creative fusion” of Socratic and Confucian approaches to learning.
The audience was then given an insight into how an international education could become available to all, with a presentation by Dino Varkey, Group Executive Director at the Varkey GEMS Foundation. He said there was no reason to fear private sector involvement in international education, saying it could respond much more quickly to growing demand – providing a good education for as little as three dollars a month in some parts of India. “We don’t have time to engage in the traditional intellectual and political debates of public versus private that seem to occupy so much time and resource in the developed world,” he said.
The day’s discussions and presentations culminated in a lively ‘Big Debate’ from the floor, chaired by presenter Sian Jones, and participated in via live video link by delegates watching abroad and also those following the day's events on social media.
The full set of conference videos can be found below.
Continue the debate and see what those watching in the room and around the world thought on Twitter using #CAconf