Spring 2024

Parallel Organizations… Parallel Trends in Education

In October, as CAP President, I had the opportunity to go to the ESHA conference in Dubrovnik, Croatia.  ESHA is the acronym for European School Heads Association.  This organization is an umbrella organization for European countries, just like CAP is the organization that advocates for the provinces and territories across Canada.  Meeting the ESHA executive, it became quickly apparent that our mission and objectives paralleled in agency and objectives in supporting education in primary and secondary schools.  Similar to Canada, where education is provincially and territorially administered, the separate countries have their own independent states of education.

The conference showcased educational leaders across Europe, focusing on topics that included, but were not limited to, trends in educational practices, challenges in classrooms, as well as many sessions that focused on technology, especially in AI.  One of the presenters, Professor Andreas Schleicher, Director for Education and Skills at the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OCED), is responsible for the initiation and continues to overseas PISA, as well as being involved with other international instruments that support policy making.  His presentation was a hologram of himself.  His keynote focus was how to create spaces for global digitalization.  Professor Schleicher cautioned that education needed to be a social contract with citizens.  Deep questions to be answered include what education needs to look like to promote first class humans.  As Professor Schleicher explained there must be a time built in to learning to allow application, extrapolation, reflection, and evaluation.  As an accelerator, technology can support all students, with the power to enhance inclusion and decrease inequality in education.  In many ways, technology has the potential to change education at its core.

Boris Jokic, the Director of the Institute for Social Research in Zagreb, a university in Croatia, presented information from his work in the field of the psychology of education.  His keynote was framed in the question… Can Education Conquer All?  He shared data on the kind of world we are living in, documenting extreme polarization.  Professor Jokic shared how education is underperforming, but technology is also underperforming.  The challenges to education today, as Professor Jokic says, is that it is based on a linear model where learning facts are primary.  Instead, education needs to focus on how to learn, how to be solution-makers, how to explore through the arts, and how to manage personal feelings.  Overall, Jokic states that education should strive to be multi-disciplinary and interconnected, with a foundation based on human relationship.

In both these presentations, and follow up breakout sessions during this conference, it became increasingly clear, that challenges we are experiencing in Canada can also be seen in Europe.   Running throughout the breakout sessions, common themes emphasized elements of sustainable professional learning, challenges with teacher workload and well-being, and measuring the impact of traditional vs transformative practices.  At the top of the list was teacher retention and recruitment, followed closely by classroom complexity, inclusion, and equity, along with mental health concerns.  Similar topics are being discussed within our own borders and will be explored at our upcoming CAP 2024 Conference being held in Toronto, ON April 23-26, 2024. It was interesting to hear about the importance of ‘trust’ being a key ingredient to building a learning community where teachers feel efficacy and valued. In talking with educational leaders from different countries, there does seem to be more financial support, in dealing with concerns that schools are facing, but as was shown, financial support alone is not rectifying all the issues. 

In summation, the challenges we experience in education are global in nature.  In talking with Peter Kent, President of the International Confederation of Principals, he reiterated these perspectives.  The post-pandemic reality crosses over all boarders.  Even though there were issues in classrooms before Covid, the post-pandemic reality has exasperated the situation. 

Carol Sarich
CAP President

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