EP 2021_Event Photo

Expert Panel 2021: Where Do We Go From Here?

On Monday, 22 February, 18:00 – 20:00 CET, The British School of Brussels (BSB), in proud partnership with the British and American Chambers of Commerce, Belgium, had the pleasure of hosting a virtual Expert Panel on the Future of Education.

Chaired by Daniel Dalton, Chief Executive, The British Chamber of Commerce EU & Belgium, the discussion set out to explore how ongoing developments in education have and will continue to impact the individual learner, teachers, the learning environment, and educational policy. Keynote speaker, Jim Knight, The Rt Honourable Lord Knight of Weymouth and Chair of Whole Education, was joined by an international panel of leaders in the field: Georgi Dimitrov, Acting Head of the Digital Education Unit of the European Commission’s Directorate General for Education and Culture, represented the Commission’s updated Digital Education Action Plan (2021 – 2027); Meritxell Fernández Barrera, Policy Analyst for the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, presented the OECD’s skills-and-competencies-focused Learning Compass 2030; Katherine Hermans, Founder of Global Changemakers, shared the NGO’s efforts to support young people in bringing their social action projects to life; and Elin McCallum, Director of Bantani Education, spoke from her organisation’s deep foundation in building entrepreneurial skills and mindsets.

After a student musical performance and welcome by BSB’s Principal & CEO, Melanie Warnes, Jim Knight kicked off the evening by urging us to take a more holistic approach to education, thinking of children ‘in the round’ and reconsidering our current systemic approach to issues of social-emotional well-being, equity, assessment and teacher training, among others. He noted that the immediacy of COVID-19 has brought a number of existing challenges to light, observing that “…we’re at an inflection point and we can’t go back…we have to change, and we have to trust each other, and, principally, we have to trust teachers.” Lord Knight concluded with a thought that was echoed throughout the ensuing discussion – that the best way to prepare students for their futures, in school, in their careers, and in life, is to equip them with the mindset to not fear change.

The panel conversation that followed was driven by the event’s audience of BSB students, parents, and staff members, heads of local schools and corporate partners, who submitted questions in advance as well as during the webinar itself. The discussion flowed naturally between vision and practice; what does the future of education ideally offer, and how can this be achieved at ground level? Elin McCallum envisioned school as “…a safe space for kids to experiment, to understand themselves, in a place where it’s supported”, and called for an emphasis on resilience, asking “Is failure actually failure when you’ve learnt from it?”. Katherine Hermans proposed that educational leaders and policymakers do more to include young people in decision-making, ensuring that they have a say in their own futures and feel empowered to create change.

The panellists also tackled the important question of online learning and equity. Georgi Dimitrov described how the pandemic has exacerbated the education gap by distinguishing between those who do and do not have access to online learning resources, and hoped to see it alleviated through infrastructural changes, updated curricula that more deeply embed hybrid learning, and professional development resources that enable teachers to build their own digital competencies. The OECD’s Meritxell Fernández Barrera agreed but presented an additional perspective for consideration – that online learning can offer an equity advantage in certain situations, providing a new incentive for individuals with long-term hospitalisations and countries with high drop-out rates. To end the discussion, all panellists agreed that, in spite of today’s difficulties, we find ourselves in a moment of immense opportunity to enact positive change for the future.

Following the panel discussion, it was our pleasure to welcome Astrid Ruts, Change and Communications Lead at Cargill, and Hannah Van Deun, RA Specialist Benelux at Edwards Lifesciences, who offered closing remarks on behalf of The Young Professionals Committee at AmCham Belgium. In addition to sharing the mission of the Young Professionals Committee, they considered the skills that are so commonly required of early-career professionals today, placing resilience and a learning mindset at the top of the list. Ms. Ruts concluded by poignantly reflecting that “It is far more important these days to have the skill of observing the world around us with kind, explorative eyes and being that lifelong student…if our education system can embed that thinking into the next generation, it will make a big difference.”

To close the evening, the audience was invited to enter breakaway sessions with the panellist of their choice, led by trained BSB student facilitators.

Thank you to all who contributed to this thought-provoking discussion. This panel was organised in the framework of our BSB Futures programming that supports young people as they explore their personal strengths and aspirations, offering opportunities to engage with professionals from all backgrounds and sectors. For more information, please contact Amanda Nocera at anocera@britishschool.be.

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