Reimagining and Reshaping Education Ecosystem for the Future


Reimagining and Reshaping Education Ecosystem for the Future

The Yidan Education Forum 2021 was held in Beijing on July 10-11 and was co-organised by Chen Yidan Foundation (CYDF) and Peking University’s Graduate School of Education (GSE-PKU) and the Institute of Economics of Education. Nearly 40 scholars, experts, and officials from international organisations and local education departments, primary and secondary school principals and entrepreneurs from China, Germany, UK, Finland, Denmark, Singapore and Bangladesh attended the conference in person or virtually. For 2021, CYDF's keyword for the year is “education ecosystem”. The participants thus discussed and debated themes such as: collaborative innovation, technology trends, effective governance, and opportunities and challenges of the ecosystem. The hope was to share ideas and suggestions on building a future-oriented, sustainable education ecosystem.

 The opening speeches were delivered by Professor Fengqiao Yan, Dean of GSE-PKU, and Dr. Charles Chen Yidan, Founder of Chen Yidan Foundation and Co-founder of Tencent. Professor Yan kickstarted the forum by suggesting that education innovation is an important part of social innovation. However, education innovation is different from scientific and digital innovation in that, education innovation needs to be embedded within the social, economic, political, cultural and technological environment. Education innovation can be seen as both the product and the key component of scientific and digital innovation. Dr. Yidan further elaborated on the comprehensive education approach needed to cultivate people. He proposed that the process of educating people should be a process of organic growth, as opposed to a production process. Thus, he believes that education innovation should consider the existing social concerns and future of humanity, as all social development is built on the foundation laid by education.

Retrospect and Prospect for Future-facing Education Ecosystem

Currently, the education ecosystem is facing unprecedented challenges and opportunities. Future schools are projected to be increasingly unconventional, boundaryless, diverse, inclusive and provide a wider array of non-formal and informal learning avenues. Professor Wei Ha of GSE-PKU served as the forum convenor and delivered his report (supported by CYDF) on “Collaborative Innovation between School and Society: Global Trends and Chinese Practices.” The report draws on the theories of education ecosystems to compare and analyse local Chinese and global innovative cases. It concludes by proposing new solutions needed to create dynamic and sustainable education innovation between schools and society. Dr. Andreas Schleicher, Director for Education and Skills at OECD and the creator of PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment), delivered the keynote address. He discussed the core challenges within education today, and suggested that in order to make our children ready for the future, we have to rethink the purpose of education. Education is no longer about teaching students something specific, but rather about helping them develop a reliable compass and the tools to navigate with confidence and compassion through an increasingly complex, volatile and uncertain world. Professor Jian Liu of Beijing Normal University also built on the need for reimagining education to become the engine for social development. He elaborated that while education ecosystem is complex and currently stable, it needs to be surrounded by communities that encourage and deliver collaborative innovation. Innovation does not occur in vacuum. It is in urgent need of diverse support from the society. 

Global Trends for Collaborative Innovation within Education Ecosystem

Irrespective of changes within the education landscape, education should always strive to achieve a symbiotic relationship with the society. Building a more inclusive ecosystem to better reflect the future world, further highlights the importance of collaborative innovation between education and society. Professor Xiaoying Lin of GSE-PKU illustrated that the rapid advances in science and technology have forced individuals and organisations to partake in accelerated innovation and adaption. However, these rapid developments have created coordination problems due to asynchronous acceleration. She believes that the process of coordinated synchronisation is the key theoretical issue of education innovation. Chief of Education Sector Group, Brajesh Panth and Senior Education Specialist, Jeffrey Jian Xu, of the Asian Development Bank, believe that in order to fully utilise the opportunities created by digitalisation of global education, our governments, schools, teachers, students, caregivers, and private businesses need to come together to embrace digital transformation. By harnessing the power of data intelligence behind digitalisation, we will be able to ensure that adaptive and personalised learning can occur anytime and anywhere. Professor Susan Robertson, Head of Faculty of Education at University of Cambridge and Dr. James Biddulph, Executive Headteacher of University of Cambridge Primary School (UCPS), conducted a dialogue on the theme of, “Possibilities for Creating Realistic Utopias for Producing Education Futures.” They shared the case study of UCPS and University of Cambridge to illustrate how basic and higher education institutions can collaborate to bring feasible innovation to schools by providing quality courses and teaching resources. Dr. Bo Stjerne Thomsen from LEGO Foundation emphasized  five key barriers to innovation in the education system: a) reframe assessments, b) create conditions to scale up school models and networks, c) support teacher development with new tools, d) develop transformational leaders, and e) engage families and communities to understand the value of innovative pedagogies, inside and outside of schools. 

Chinese Perspectives Echo Global Trends for Collaborative Innovation in Education

The rapid economic and social development within Chinese society has created a fertile ground for collaborative innovation possibilities in education. Over the last ten years, China has continued to achieve great strides in education innovation, leading the country to respond robustly to the developing trend of global collaborative education innovations and create its own path. Dr. Qian Tang, the former Assistant Director-General of Education at UNESCO, stated that global education governance includes innovation of education concepts, rethinking of rules, establishing and monitoring robust global education goals, and sustaining cross-border education cooperation and exchange. He encouraged that China should take on the responsibility of being a major international player within the global education field by using Chinese experiences and ideologies to contribute to forming new educational concepts and rules, promoting inter cultural understanding through exchanges and creating a welcoming international education development environment in the country. Dr. Shuifa Wang, Deputy Director of Shenzhen Municipal Education Bureau asked the question: how do we develop quality education and reconstruct education ecosystem? As way of response, he used the case study of Shenzhen city to suggest four steps: understanding who to train, creating a training system, guaranteeing implementation of the system and developing relevant assessment and motivation systems. Teacher Cihang Liu, Dean of Weiming Academy of Affiliated High School of Peking University, shared that if schools are to better prepare students for the future, they should ensure that students have the ability to think critically and take actions accordingly. Therefore, students today cannot be assessed using the same tools as before. He cited that the Academy has thus personalised its curriculum to cater to individual student needs to better achieve individual goals. Dr. Rick Jin, CEO of Flickering Information Technology Co., Ltd., talked about developments within education industry. He unfolded the development and operational journeys behind Ahaaa Math APP and the mathematics laboratory. He further considered the use of digital technologies in making the learning process more interesting and effective for children by fostering interaction, exploration, and trial and error. 

Yidan Education Forum is an annual international education summit aimed at fostering dialogue between education researchers and practitioners to encourage education innovation in both theory and in practice. Through this gathering, we hope to create a platform to discuss and debate pressing issues in global and local education arenas. Each year, CYDF chooses a keyword for the year that inform our two major projects: a) Keynote Report, for which we conduct in-depth research, and b) Annual Forum, for which we invite local and overseas scholars to have discussions on related topics. 

As we strive to overcome current challenges and prepare for the future, the paramount aim of education systems and the society should be the building of a sustainable, thriving community. Themes of boundaryless education and lifelong learning are here to stay, but understanding how to realise these shared global aims will be the decisive success factor. Professor Wei Ha provided closing remarks to the forum by inspiring us to build a comprehensive and reliable assessment system to evaluate the participation, efforts and contributions of all participating entities within an education ecosystem. He further quipped that this process could eventually lead to an “Education Balance Sheet,” which would hold institutions and individuals accountable for their contribution  to the sustenance of education ecosystems. The forum was concluded by observations from Ms. Ruirui Rao, Secretary-General of CYDF. She hoped that the forum would promote open and engaging dialogues between members of the society. CYDF supports and encourages innovation in education through diverse projects. Please join us in shaping a better future by building collaborative and inclusive education ecosystems.