GTCS and its message internationally

Tom Hamilton, GTCS Director of Education, Registration and Professional Learning

‘How would you feel about completing the training exercise in the Maldives?’

An interesting question to be asked in an email from a colleague working for the World University Service of Canada.

However, the next sentence gave a little more context and a pause for thought.

‘Dubai has fallen through as the Afghans can’t get visas for there but the Maldives government is prepared to accept them for a working visit.’

So what is GTC Scotland doing in connection to Afghanistan? Well, making a contribution to the development of its Initial Teacher Education (ITE) system, that’s what, through being part of a Canadian government financed scheme entitled the Teacher Certification and Accreditation of Teacher Training Institutions in Afghanistan (TCAP).

Which is why I recently spent four days in Malé, the capital of the Maldives, presenting on the GTC Scotland approach to the accreditation of ITE.

My fellow presenters were one from Canada and two from New Zealand; all very experienced academics who had worked extensively internationally and knew about accreditation systems from various parts of the world. The audience was 14 staff from the Afghan Ministry of Education, 10 male and four female. We also had the support of one Afghan technician and two translators, one male, one female.

And I had two days of leading the input to explain, debate and defend the Scottish approach to the accreditation of ITE.

Arriving a day early I was privileged to hear my Canadian and New Zealand colleagues give excellent presentations on the academic underpinnings of accreditation systems and key points about their place within the governance and quality assurance of education systems. This was really good to have heard before my presentations as it allowed me to give greater emphasis to some points and also to provide practical examples of issues that had been presented in a theoretical manner on the day I observed.

I began with some contextual background about Scottish education and GTC Scotland and its central role within the education system. The Afghans found the GTC Scotland role fascinating and were very clearly struck by the notion of an independent body carrying out the functions that GTC Scotland has. They were senior civil servants, and no matter what country they come from civil servants always see things through that governmental lens, so to have an independent body taking forward what they saw as government tasks was very thought provoking for them.

I explained how GTC Scotland’s Council is constituted with a majority of members being elected registered teachers, but also having places for nominated members and, finally (and very importantly), places for lay members. I explained about the need for GTC Scotland always to act in the public interest and stressed the difference between a professional regulatory body and a union. I explained the significance of GTC Scotland reporting to Parliament rather than to the Scottish Government. This last point is a subtlety for many in Scotland but the Afghans, as government officials, quickly understood the significance.

I told them about the powers of GTC Scotland to determine teaching qualifications and the programmes that lead to them. I stressed the Scottish Standards for teachers and the Guidelines for Programmes of ITE in Scotland and I explained our process of accreditation through which all Scottish ITE programmes must successfully pass in order to run. I elaborated how our accreditation panels are constituted and stressed the necessity of having independent external members as well as GTC Scotland Council members on the panels. I stressed the need to have absolute probity in the process with declarations of interest and the avoidance of conflicts of interest.

I explained at some length the need to have organisational mechanisms to ensure the processing of documents, making sure that practical and logistical arrangements work. We talked about the necessity of having a clearly identified Servicing Officer to act as a guide and adviser to the panel, and also acting as note taker and report writer.

I presented on the roles of those on accreditation panels and stressed the importance of the Chair’s position. We discussed collegiality and how to encourage openness from ITE providers so that the process was seen as rigorous but not punitive.

A lengthy section was reserved to how the decision-making process was completed. Should the programme be accredited or not? With or without conditions? With recommendations? What’s the difference between conditions and recommendations? The Afghans accepted that GTC Scotland has 50 years of history and experience on which to draw but they still found it difficult to accept that panel members could come to a consensus on a decision simply through discussion. They wanted (and are probably right to want at this early stage of the development of their processes) clear guidelines on scoring systems with overtly stated criteria on which a decision would be based.

They asked really insightful questions and were often several steps ahead of the presentation, jumping to the really key features of processes. They engaged extensively in debate with me and the other presenters. They engaged extensively in debate amongst themselves which was really gratifying to see as it suggested that my presentation was relevant to their system and its developments.

All in all it was two fascinating and really worthwhile days.

My final half day with them was a visit to the Maldives Qualifications Authority (MQA) where they met the Maldives Education Minister and heard about the role of the MQA: a mixture of SQA and the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education here in Scotland. I found this really interesting – which probably says something sad about my own interests! Also of real interest to me was how the MQA, with permission, had made extensive use of the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework. Scottish educational influence indeed.

Now, for those of you picturing me lying on a sun kissed, desert island beach, let me tell you something about Malé, the capital of the Maldives. Malé is on an island less than three kilometres in length, an island which you can walk round in 45 minutes, with a population of 150,000!

Space is clearly at a premium so they simply build up on any available piece of land, with multi-storey buildings everywhere. There’s only so many roads you can have on an island that size but they still appear to have a lot of cars – and then there are the motorbikes. I’ve never seen so many motorbikes, and no quarter is given to pedestrians. You took your life in your hands every time you stepped off the pavement. (Indeed the Chief Executive of the MQA was only just back at work after being seriously injured having been knocked down by a motorbike, while he had been parking his!)

And can I just mention the weather which was in some ways remarkably like Scotland for most of the time I was there – low cloud and poor visibility, blowing a gale and punctuated by torrential downpours. But admittedly it was also 30 degrees … unlike the 4.5C it was when I returned to Edinburgh.

Am I over egging the weather pudding? Perhaps, because on my last day the sun did come out, and then it was far too warm. Typical curmudgeonly Scot.

And what about the Afghans? They were fascinating with some genuine cultural differences to contend with. They were smart folk with senior posts within the Afghan government. They had lived through really difficult times and yet they all believed in the power of education to improve things. In 2002 there were hardly any pupils in Afghan schools, and certainly not girls. The school system now has 13,000 schools with 9,000,000 pupils, although they admitted that that still doesn’t include many girls in remote areas. Afghanistan used to have four teacher training colleges and now it has 48. There are now 180,000 teachers in Afghanistan but the civil servants were open about admitting that over recent years the focus had been on quantity, while they now needed to begin to focus on quality, hence the desire to accredit teacher education programmes.

The male-female dynamics of the group were also fascinating with the four women civil servants deferring to their male counterparts in making points or asking questions. They were clearly valued colleagues but the culture was of the men speaking up first and then the women coming in later. Not quite what you would expect of Scottish civil servants – and certainly not of Scottish teachers.

That said, one of the women spoke good English and in conversation with her one morning I asked what they had done the previous evening. The women had gone to the cinema. And what had they seen. Well, obviously, the film of the moment – Spectre.

So, some cultural differences but also lots of things in common including a belief that education can make a difference, that the quality of teachers matters and that Initial Teacher Education has to provide the foundation for a teaching career. Was it worth my travelling a long way to make this input? That’s really a question for the Afghan audience but my perception of their interest levels and engagement was that it really was worthwhile, gave them food for thought and spread the word further about the success of Scottish education.

Scotland to host International Teaching Summit

Scotland has been chosen to host an International Summit on the Teaching Profession, an event that brings together education ministers, teacher trade unions and education leaders from across the world to share global best practice in education.

The news was announced at the close of this year’s summit in New Zealand, held on 28 and 29 March. Canada, Germany and Hong Kong have also been selected to host the event, with the summit in Scotland provisionally scheduled for 2018.

A Scottish delegation attended this year’s summit in Wellington, led by Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning Michael Russell. The delegation included Ken Muir, Chief Executive of the General Teaching Council for Scotland, and Larry Flanagan, General Secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS).

Mr Russell, who made a joint presentation with Mr Flanagan to the summit, said:

“The past two days in Wellington have brought together Education Ministers, teacher trade unions and education representatives, from across the globe, and facilitated discussions on how best, our teacher workforces can be supported in delivering education for children and young people.

“The collaborative approach we take in Scotland in delivering education has attracted great interest and enabled a number of productive bi-laterals with Education Ministers from around the world.

“The considerable interest in what we do made our invitation to come to Scotland all the more powerful and I am delighted that the OECD has accepted our bid.”

Larry Flanagan, General Secretary of the EIS, said:

“The key feature of these particular summits is that they focus on joint trade unions and government discussions. This allows teacher trade unions to present a united front to represent their members, on the issues that face them in the classroom every day. Given the emphasis on OECD PISA this is a significant debate that teacher trade unions must be involved in, at this international level.”

Can you imagine a World’s Fair in 100 years’ time? Will we be able to celebrate our planet and our global success in securing an equitable future for all?

In 2016 we’re faced with significant global issues including mass migration and climate change (particularly at the forefront of people’s minds following the recent UN climate agreement in Paris). The United Nations was created by world leaders at the end of the Second World War as a way of systematically and collectively addressing the global issues of the time – international peace and security, and managing the mass relocation of people and homelessness. Today, however, despite the best of efforts, the world and the planet remain at risk.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has described climate change as a “quintessentially global issue”. It is clearly a challenge that no country can meet on its own. So how are we going to deal with this global issue? Where does education in the 21st century fit in and how can it positively contribute?

According to Professor Charles Hopkins, who recently visited Scotland and GTC Scotland in his role as UNESCO Chair in Reorienting Teacher Education, the UN remains the best tool we’ve got. When speaking at a University of Edinburgh open lecture, he described the UN as a meeting place, where nations can come together in an effort to deal with big global issues. Back in 1985, Professor Hopkins was tasked, along with others, to come up with a global development model that would address the desire of 80 per cent of the world’s population “to live like Europeans and North Americans” and simultaneously the desire of 20 per cent of the worlds’ population (those in the Americas and Europe) for environmental protection – no easy task.

He explained that the pragmatic decision was, “we’ll go with development, but it should be development that is sustainable”. This is the compromise that remains today. Embedded in this decision are so many important questions and in particular – “sustaining what and for whom?”

Positive action and results have followed out of this initial piece of work. First there was Agenda 21: the first work programme established by the UN (in 1992) to advance sustainable development. This was followed by The Millennium Development Goals and in September last year the world agreed on a new set of goals – the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

As a nation, Scotland was one of the first countries to offer public support for this universal agenda for sustainable development for the next 15 years.

What is the Role of Education?

There is no doubt that education has a crucial role to play in the development of future generations and leaders in order that they have the skills and confidence to develop innovative solutions for a better future.

Goal 4 of the SDGs is Quality Education, with the goal being to “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote life-long learning opportunities for all.”

But it’s not just about ensuring access to education. Target 4:7 reads: “By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development”. There are strong echoes of GTC Scotland’s Professional Values here (embedded in the Professional Standards), of which respect, social justice and learning for sustainability sit front and centre. It is the role of schools and teachers to make these values live every day.

The challenge

“Education for sustainable development” is a reorienting of education to meet sustainable outcomes, not about adding a new subject or area to the Curriculum. In reality, it demands the repurposing of the world’s entire education system. Hopkins explained: “After Rio in 1992, education for sustainable development was “considered” but people didn’t understand what it was and saw it as something for someone else. We started working on guilt: ‘If this is the world we’re giving young people then what is our responsibility as education leaders? That worked a bit. But now what we’re finding is that it is a part of education quality. How can you have a quality education if you’re not addressing [sustainability]?”

Professor Peter Higgins, University of Edinburgh, who also spoke at the open lecture, explained that in Scotland, we instead use the phrase “Learning for Sustainability” to describe our particular approach. “It is more than Education for Sustainable Development; it includes global citizenship and outdoor learning too”. He explained that Learning for Sustainability has become a feature of Scottish Government policy over the last 10 years. Scotland is recognised internationally for being forward-thinking and proactive in this area. And in terms of the work of GTC Scotland, Learning for Sustainability is embedded throughout the Professional Standards at all levels. However, although much has been done to embed Learning for Sustainability within the Scottish education system, there is more to do.

So what next? What else can we do? This is what GTC Scotland Chief Executive Ken Muir asked Charles Hopkins. His answer: “Re-examine the purpose of education'”. Ask the fundamental question, “Why are we educating people?” And, if it’s not for a sustainable future, ask what is it for?”

World Teachers’ Day – empowering teachers, building sustainable societies

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In the busyness of our day-to-day lives we don’t always have time to sit back and put things in perspective. The minutiae of everyday living overwhelms the big picture. But today I’d like us all to take the time to stop and think about that big picture.

Education and good teachers in particular are understood to be the key to creating sustainable societies, fit for the future. Each and every one of us has a role to play in preparing young people for a future in which there are no certainties.

It is important to remember the central role that teachers play in society at a time when negative views about education are presented in the press on a regular basis. Negativity can de-motivate us, so let’s remember today the exceptional work that is going on in schools and colleges across Scotland and beyond. The complexity of teaching is not something that is readily understood by those outwith the profession. The job of a teacher is challenging, without a doubt, but it’s hugely rewarding. The hard work and dedication of the profession to deliver high-quality learning and teaching, and make a difference to the lives of young people, day in day out, is not always recognised but it cannot be underestimated.

World Teachers’ Day is also a time to look beyond education in Scotland and think about teachers in other parts of the world. What we may consider to be basic necessities – electricity, technology, science equipment, textbooks – are lacking in many classrooms. However, the differences between our own education system and that of other countries, of course, extends well beyond resources. It is important to think about what we can learn from our colleagues in other countries, and what we have to offer them.

Despite the undoubted challenges of being a teacher today, I am always enthused by the passion displayed by our profession. This is a passion that we need to share and pass on to the next generation. Worldwide it is estimated there is a need to recruit 25.8 million school teachers if every child is to receive a primary education by 2030. The Scottish Government has launched a recruitment drive to encourage more people into the profession. We need to recruit and retain high-quality teachers in the profession; teachers who match up to the professional standards set out by GTC Scotland and who accept regulation as a key element of being a professional. We owe it to the students of the future, as well as future society, to do all we can to ensure that teaching is seen as an attractive and rewarding lifelong career.

However, not only do we need to recruit and retain more teachers, we need to ensure that they are equipped with the necessary skills they need to do their job properly, and that they are supported in their career-long development. Promoting professional learning, developing enquiring professionals and engaging in a meaningful way in Professional Update are all key elements of the infrastructure designed to do these things. All of us have an important role to play in building a stronger, self-sustaining profession that supports lifelong learning and teaching.

World Teachers’ Day – a time to say thank you

The theme for this year’s World Teachers’ day, ‘Invest in the future, invest in teachers’, aptly recognises the important role teachers, lecturers and other educational professionals play in society, our joint futures and the wider world in which we live.

Teachers have the enormous responsibility of educating a future generation who will go on to hold roles in all corners of Scottish society. And teachers are responsible for educating global citizens, who will play an active and important part in a globalised multicultural society. The critical role of teachers to prepare young people for this challenge in a rapidly changing world cannot be underestimated. It is a demanding and complex job; something that is not always fully appreciated.

Today is about recognising this and thanking teachers all over the world for the work they do in educating and improving the life chances of our children and young people.

World Teachers’ Day is also a time to look beyond education in Scotland and think about what life is like for teachers in other parts of the world. Think of what we have that others do not; for example, what we may consider to be basic necessities – electricity, resources, classroom facilities. But also think about what we can learn from our colleagues in other countries.

We recognise that teachers and young people face ever-changing demands on them, and we applaud teachers for rising to these challenges and delivering high-quality outcomes for their learners. We also recognise that some teachers still have concerns about the recently launched Professional Update process. We want to reassure teachers that Professional Update is about supporting them in their Professional Learning – it is an investment in our teachers, in order that they can deliver well for our current and future learners.

On behalf of everyone at GTCS, I send thanks to teachers around the world for their invaluable work and express our commitment to continuing to support and invest in the teaching profession in Scotland.

International showcase for Scottish education

Education Secretary leads delegation to New Zealand in partnership with Trade Unions
Scotland will lead a UK delegation to the International Summit on the Teaching Profession, organised by the OECD and Education International, being held in Wellington, New Zealand on March 28 and 29.

Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning Michael Russell and Larry Flanagan of The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) will make a joint address to the annual summit which brings together education ministers, national teacher trade union leaders from 13 states including the USA, Germany, Japan, Denmark and Sweden.

Ken Muir, Chief Executive of the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) will also be part of the delegation which will represent the UK and highlight Scotland’s key educational strengths while identifying best practices worldwide that will strengthen the teaching profession and raise student achievement.

Mr Russell said:

“The key priorities of the Summit align with our own priorities for Scottish education: breaking the link between poverty and attainment, investing in teacher excellence and a curriculum focussed on pupils’ experiences to help them achieve success.

“Scotland’s teachers are amongst the best in the world. This is an opportunity to promote the excellence of our workforce and its critical role in helping our children and young people to achieve success while learning from other delegations including other top performing states.

Mr Flanagan commented:

“The International Summit on the Teaching Profession is an important event which will bring together teacher trade unions and education policy makers from across the globe. The summit provides an important opportunity for countries to work together to address the many challenges facing education around the world and to share their knowledge and expertise.

“It is significant that each delegation will be comprised of both teacher representatives and government Ministers; in Scotland we have a strong political consensus around Education and the summit will allow us to highlight the importance of constructive dialogue and partnership working in ensuring high-quality education provision. The EIS, together with kindred teacher representatives, will play a full and active role as part of the Scottish delegation alongside Scottish Government, led by the Cabinet Secretary.”

Mr Muir added:

“I am honoured to be part of this education delegation. GTCS already has strong links with the New Zealand Teachers Council and we have shared regulatory best practice over the years. I look forward to providing the conference with information about the on-going work of GTCS including the scheme of Professional Update which launches in August and our revised Professional Standards which have already generated much interest from overseas.

“We know Scottish education and the close cooperation amongst all parties involved is highly regarded abroad, but there is much we can learn from other countries and it will be interesting and useful to engage in this two-way communication of ideas.”

The Summit is jointly organised by the New Zealand Ministry of Education, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and Education International.

Building characters of the future

How appropriate it is for Mr Michael Russell, Cabinet Secretary for Education, to enshrine the memory and legacy of Robert Owen in the history of Scottish education.

His vision for The Robert Owen Centre for Educational Change is that it ‘will be devoted to our understanding of how to improve the life chances of our young people’, and provide a window into the world, in which others will learn with and from Scotland and further the cause of educational equity – a hallmark of Owen’s legacy.

The centre will promote successful practices and be a lighthouse for educators across the globe. It will further advance the cause of equity of outcomes and solidify Scotland’s place in the global community. What an honour it was for me to receive the Robert Owen Award and I was grateful for this bold recognition.

As I read about Owen’s beliefs, philosophies and achievements, I see many parallels between these and our modus operandi as educators today. For example:

1. Robert Owen believed in the importance of education

Robert Putnam (1993) once concluded that communities which succeeded socially and economically did not become civil because they were rich, but rather became rich because they were civil. The best predictors of success, he concluded, were strong traditions of civic engagement. Putnam described these aspects of civic engagement as social capital.

A literate society with an educated citizenry is certainly the lifeblood of democracy. Society is dependent on the human capital that is nurtured by a good education system.

Teachers contribute to the development of a civil society. We enrich public participation and contribute to nation building. We encourage democratic values and responsible citizenship, giving students the skills to anticipate problems and to contribute to solutions. We also help them to understand what it means to be human in our increasingly interdependent world. As educators, we must ensure that our country continues to be the embodiment of a civil society with strong social capital. Each day, within our classrooms, we create the society that our children and grandchildren will inherit.

Literacy, one of the most important outcomes of schooling, is an investment in human capital and the foundation for future learning and success in school. Being literate is liberating and empowering. By focusing on educating young children, Owen not only engaged in community development, but also made one of the best investments in the development of human capital and a civil society.

His focus on literacy enhanced students’ life chances. Because literacy is the gateway to all learning and an important means of social mobility, he made it possible for individuals to extricate themselves from a life of poverty. It follows, then, that as teachers, we must recognise the potential of our publicly-funded education system to bring about significant changes within our society.

I know educators do not like to be compared to other professions because teaching is such a unique occupation. But I cannot resist sharing the following perspective hoping it will stimulate vigorous debates. Whittle (2005) said: “In schools of the future leaders will assume highly consistent academic results the same way flight crews assume flawless performance, the same way doctors and patients now expect near perfection in certain basic procedures.

“In hospitals and airplanes, lives are on the line. In schools, the quality of those lives is determined. The standard should be the same.”

2. Robert Owen believed in the power of education to create a more just, harmonious society

Character education offers great promise for us to educate both hearts and minds and is the deliberate effort to nurture the universal attributes upon which schools and communities find consensus. These attributes, such as respect, honesty, fairness, empathy, and perseverance, provide a standard for behaviour against which we hold ourselves accountable. They bind us together across socio-economic, racial, religious, cultural, gender and other lines that often divide people and communities. They form the basis for our relationships.

Our experience demonstrated that implementing a character development programme based on community engagement in a systematic and intentional manner allows us to find common ground within a diverse society. Character development continues to be important in schooling. Parents and businesses want schools to develop the habits of mind and heart necessary to develop the important “soft skills” required for personal fulfillment and successful interpersonal relationships.

Teachers have always been character developers. What is new is that there should be a provincial or national focus on ensuring communities play a key role in determining the attributes upon which these programmes are based.

We also learned that, when there is a whole school effort to infuse these attributes in all policies, programmes, practices and interactions, there is a positive impact on school culture. Student achievement also increases as teachers spend more time on teaching and less on discipline.

In the early stages of implementation of character development programmes in Ontario, we asked schools to send us anecdotal accounts of the effect this initiative was having. Their stories demonstrated it was making a difference in schools. Our early efforts proved that when character education is done well, it has the potential to further the goals related to student engagement, motivation, achievement, volunteerism, and citizenship.

Owen was one of the early proponents of character education, believing in its importance and writing extensively about the formation of human character. What I admired most was that he was not just interested in making money, but in creating a new type of community at New Lanark. Drucker (1999), in his book, Leading Beyond the Walls, also exhorts us to create community, saying: “Society in all developed countries has become pluralist and is becoming more pluralist day by day… But all early pluralist societies destroyed themselves because no one took care of the common good. If our modern pluralist society is to escape the same fate, the leaders of all institutions will have to learn to be leaders beyond the walls. They will have to learn that it is not enough for them to lead their own institutions, though that is the first requirement. They will also have to learn to become leaders in the community. In fact, they will have to learn to create community.”

As professionals, we keep our optimism alive. We continue to envisage a future bright and full of possibilities because we chose teaching as a profession. We are asiduous in efforts to improve public confidence with a sense of urgency, recognising that children cannot wait. In doing so, we stand on the shoulders of education reformers like Owen and view the world through his lens of equity and social justice. If we choose to act on our beliefs, we will certainly uphold Owen’s legacy.

Resources to support active global citizenship

Scotdec Global Learning Centre works with schools and educators to promote active and participatory global citizenship education.

Scotdec has created a number of practical, classroom resources which support active Global Citizenship in many curriculum areas.

Global Youth Work

A Global Citizenship resource for youth work and activities suitable for school use. Using six everyday commodities as a starting point to explore global interdependencies: water, tobacco, chocolate, textiles, mobile phones and sustainable food.

Our Forest, Our Future

An online resource to help teachers and pupils explore the interdependence of people and forests and the vital role forests play in sustaining our environment.

Failte Malawi

A Global Citizenship resource for primary schools. The activities in this resource pack encourage pupils to explore the links and commonalities that are shared between Scotland and Malawi.

A’ Adam’s Bairns?

Exploring equality and diversity in Scotland past and present. This online resource explores slavery and the slave trade in the context of Scotland’s history and the issues which challenge us in Scotland today.

ICET World Assembly – Moving forward in curriculum, pedagogy and leadership

I recently attended this conference to present papers from the GTCS in partnership with Glasgow University and SCEL. The presentations focused on the recent research Gillian Hamilton and I had been involved in with our colleagues in Glasgow on sustaining teacher professional learning and models of leadership and learning in Scotland. We are also hoping that these papers will be published in the near future.

ICET’s main focus is to promote high quality education for all learners and to improve the learning experiences and outcomes for all learners across the world by providing opportunities for those involved in their education to share knowledge, practice, resources, expertise and to build strategic partnerships. The conference was an opportunity to do exactly that by bringing educators from all over the world to Ontario for three days to focus on high quality teaching and learning. Organising a conference of this size and magnitude is not easy and there had been considerable difficulties with visas for colleagues from Nigeria which had resulted in headaches for the organisers and non attendance for some of the Nigerian educators. However colleagues from Pakistan, Portugal, Jamaica, America, Canada, Uganda, England and Australia were among the delegates at the conference and all brought such interesting and diverse experiences and perspectives.

I attended several seminars led by Nigerian educators, there was a strong focus on Inclusion and Justice, research findings were presented about the educational issues for street children and learners with special needs and how counselling strategies can enable and empower these children. There was also a really interesting session about the remaining British influence in many of the Nigerian schools and how this leads the children and young people in Nigeria to be confused about their cultural identity and can lead to a perception that British and American values and culture are the way to be successful in this world often to the detriment of their own indigenous culture.

It was inspiring to listen to the experiences of educators in Uganda who shared with us their progress in retaining girls in school who become pregnant. In Uganda the leading cause for girls to drop out of school and fail to re-enter is pregnancy. Almost 12% of girls between 15 and 19 years were pregnant while 19% had given birth and almost 20% were married. The researchers from Uganda were exploring a systematic solution to the continuing education of these girls which would be acceptable to all those involved including the government

There were many more stories from various parts of the world relating to the impact of poverty on the educational opportunities and chances for children and young people and though we see this also in Scotland we do not have systemic opposition to education, particularly for girls, that many other parts of the world experience.

From the conference in Oshawa I travelled with my colleague John Daffurn from the Scottish College of Educational Leadership (SCEL) to Ontario where we had meetings with the Ministry of Education and the Ontario Principals College. We discussed the Ministry’s initiative to improve the achievement of all students in Ontario’s publicly funded schools and about teacher professional learning to support these initiatives. What was very impressive was the significant amounts of money from the Canadian government to invest in teacher learning and leadership development across Canada and how this is informed by research and literature. Michael Fullan and Ken Leithwood, both leading writers in these areas, inform and guide the Ministry and support with policy development.

I particularly liked how the Ministry of Education had researched what the learners thought about teaching and learning and what they were looking for in excellent teaching.

I think the learners in Scotland would share some of their Canadian peers’ reflections.

After these visits it was time to return to Edinburgh and though it was a short visit and a very packed timetable it was worthwhile in what I learned and also what the delegates learned from us about Scottish Education during the two seminars we presented and the professional discussions we engaged in our time in Canada.