GESF: What to watch at the 'Davos of education'

A scene from the 2018 Global Education & Skills Forum in Dubai. Photo by: GESF

DUBAI — Thousands of education advocates, including Julius Maada Bio, the president of Sierra Leone — and a sprinkling of celebrities — are headed to Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, this weekend for the Global Education & Skills Forum, often described as the “Davos of education.”

'Nobel prize for teaching' shines spotlight on innovative methods

A $1 million prize from the Varkey Foundation aims to raise the profile and status of the teaching profession.

Up to 3,000 delegates are expected for this year’s conference, now in its seventh year, including education ministers, donors, civil society groups, academics, and ed tech entrepreneurs, to discuss how to improve global learning outcomes.

“Changemakers” —  people bringing about educational transformation and how to inspire more disruption in the sector — is the theme of this year’s two-day conference, which aims to showcase the world’s most innovative teachers as well as policymakers who are successfully improving school systems.

The conference will also highlight the latest research and science around learning and technologies and bring together NGOs working to accelerate progress toward global education goals.

The forum will see those working in education, as well as innovators from other sectors to help inspire greater transformation, come together, Vikas Pota, CEO at the Varkey Foundation, which puts on the annual forum, told Devex.

“We’ve all been to conferences talking about reimagining and reshaping education and yet we don’t really see much evidence of that happening … so this year at GESF, we are looking further afield to see who these people are … [and] how they are approaching this change,” Pota said. “There is no reason why we can’t get inspired or learn from that.”

One of the highlights of the event will be the Global Teacher’s Prize, a $1 million award given to a single teacher who will be picked from a shortlist of 10 educators from around the world. It will be announced during a ritzy ceremony on Sunday evening.

Promising ed tech startups will also be in the spotlight during GESF, competing for the chance to win the $25,000 “Next Billion EdTech Prize,” launched at last year’s conference. And the findings of the latest Global Teacher Status index, which measures how the world’s view of teachers has changed in recent years, will be something to watch.

Other highlights from the agenda include sessions on the role of public-private partnerships for education, a controversial topic within the global education community. Devex will be moderating discussions around the potential of innovative financing mechanisms in education; and concerns about fragmentation in the education financing architecture, with a number of new funds and facilities emerging in recent years.

The conference comes at a time when the world is struggling to educate its children, despite international commitments through Sustainable Development Goal 4 to provide free, quality education to all by 2030. Some 260 million children and young people remain out of school worldwide, and the global education community is coming to terms with the realization that many students who are in school are still learning very little.

Devex is on the ground at GESF in Dubai. Follow CEO Raj Kumar and reporter Sophie Edwards on Twitter for updates, and keep an eye out on Devex.com for more stories.

About the author

  • Edwards sopie

    Sophie Edwards

    Sophie Edwards is a Reporter for Devex based in London covering global development news including global education, water and sanitation, innovative financing, the environment along with other topics. She has previously worked for NGOs, the World Bank and spent a number of years as a journalist for a regional newspaper in the U.K. She has an MA from the Institute of Development Studies and a BA from Cambridge University.