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APS Distinguished Speaker Series

Presenting Sir Michael Barber

Date: 16 November 2012, Friday
Time: 3.00pm to 5.30pm
Venue: Equinox Complex, Private Room 2 (Level 69), Swissotel The Stamford

OCEANS OF INNOVATION: The Atlantic, the Pacific, Global Leadership and the Future of Education


There is much debate in academic and intellectual circles about whether we will see an ‘Asian’ or a ‘Pacific’ century ahead, or whether the US will emerge from the doldrums and lead in the next century as it did in the past one. This paper takes a different perspective. We take as a point of departure the fact that, after 350 years of Atlantic leadership of the global economy, we will see the Pacific rise. At the very least, the Pacific will share that leadership.
The questions we focus on and the debates we believe necessary are: What kind of leadership will the 21st century require? To what extent is the Pacific region ready to provide this leadership? And what are the implications of the answers to these questions for public policy in the region and for education systems in particular?
Our answers to these questions emphasise the importance of innovation. Innovation drives economic influence; economic influence underpins global leadership; and global leadership requires innovation to solve the many problems facing humanity in the next half century. If this is correct, and innovation is the key, then even the best education systems in the world, many of them clustered around the Pacific, need to radically rethink what they offer every student.
This philosophy of everyone as an entrepreneur and innovator is not what underpins education anywhere in the world right now. If the Pacific region is to provide global leadership, or a large share of it, then education systems there face a major challenge of transformation. This is the case we make here.
This paper is the result of constant dialogue among the authors as we’ve worked together, first on education reform in Pakistan (in which we are still involved), and second as part of an innovative team at the heart of Pearson, the world’s largest education company, where we are seeking to resolve the dilemmas of providing quality education to people of all ages on every continent. In addition, we share a restless curiosity and an insistence on evaluating the world we live in.
We want to draw attention to two specific aspects of our dialogue. The first is that each of us was born and raised on a different continent – a European, an American and an Asian – and each therefore brings a different perspective. In addition, all of us have worked and travelled in many locations around the world. Of course, we are still no more than three individuals seeking to understand the complexities of the 21st century, but we do have at least some capacity to bring a global perspective to bear on the issues.
Second, our dialogue is intergenerational – Michael as a 50-something engaged in vigorous debate with Katelyn and Saad, two 20-somethings. As our debates rage, we have a feeling, perhaps borne out by some of the recent literature on creativity and innovation, that intergenerational dialogue is potentially highly productive in inspiring innovation, and ought to be consciously developed by organisations that want to thrive in the 21st century. For this reason, Michael suppresses his periodic tendency to wish that his younger colleagues would show deference, while Katelyn and Saad smile sympathetically at Michael’s attempts to come to terms with modern technology.
For the same reasons, we share equally the responsibility for the resulting paper and for any errors that remain.


About the Speaker

Sir Michael Barber is the chief education advisor at Pearson, leading Pearson’s worldwide programme of research into education policy and the impact of its products and services on learner outcomes. He also chairs the Pearson Affordable Learning Fund, which aims to extend educational opportunity for the children of low-income families in the developing world.
Prior to Pearson, he was head of McKinsey’s global education practice. He previously served the UK government as head of the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit (2001–2005) and as chief adviser to the secretary of state for education on school standards (1997–2001). He is a visiting professor at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow and author of numerous books including Instruction to Deliver: Fighting to Improve Britain’s Public Services (2007) which was described by the Financial Times as ‘one of the best books about British government for many years’

Have You Got A Story To Tell?

This story-writing contest is co-organised by the Ministry of Education and the Academy of Principals (Singapore). It was launched by Mr Heng Swee Kiat, Minister for Education on Thursday, 2 Feb 2012 at Greenridge Primary School. The contest is open to both MOE teachers and members of public, with the aims to provide budding writers a platform to showcase their creativity in telling Singapore stories that are not only engaging but will help children understand and be proud of Singapore’s history, culture and folklore. Winning authors will see their stories been published and used by children in their classroom. In addition, winning authors will also get to win attractive cash prizes. More information on the contest can be found on http://www.singaporestories.org.