The Background to the Education Futures Collaboration

Improving education systems is an elusive goal. Despite considerable investment, international studies such as the Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) project run by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the McKinsey Report, How The World’s Best Performing Schools Come Out On Top, indicate that improving the quality of our educators is more important than increased financial investment. Both reports challenge governments, academics and practitioners to adopt new ways of sharing and building knowledge. For example, the current UK government policy is focused on structures of schooling rather than more complex issues of learning and teaching. The Education futures Collaboration aims to address the latter.

“The challenges facing education systems and teachers continue to intensify. In modern knowledge-based economies, where the demand for high-level skills will continue to grow substantially, the task in many countries is to transform traditional models of schooling ... into customised learning systems that identify and develop the talents of all students. This will require the creation of ‘knowledge-rich’, evidence-based education systems, in which school leaders and teachers act as a professional community with the authority to act, the necessary information to do so wisely and the access to effective support systems to assist them in implementing change.... The results from TALIS suggest that in many countries, education is still far from being a knowledge industry in the sense that its own practices are not yet being transformed by knowledge about the efficacy of those practices.” (OECD, 2009a, p. 3).

The Education Futures Collaboration provides an e-infrastructure to support education as it transforms into a ‘knowledge industry’ and supports knowledge transfer, collaborative knowledge building and sharing within education sectors in individual countries as well as worldwide. Knowledge management (KM) tools and web 2.0 tools are being adopted widely by private companies and other public sector organisations as ways of improving practice but this is lacking in the education sector.

The quality of the professional knowledge base which educators draw upon is rarely discussed, nor are the training needs and qualifications of teacher educators. Existing models for system improvement assume that educators and teacher educators have easy access to a high-quality professional knowledge base and know what to do with it when they get there. Professional knowledge which provides the foundations of practice seems to be treated as a ‘magic ingredient’ which does not require discussion, systematic management, renewal, coordination, resources or support.

The Education Futures Collaboration aims to professionalise teaching through the creation of a sustainable model for Knowledge Management and collaboration using web 2.0 tools in the education sector.