Trust in teachers needed to transform education systems across the world - RSA

Trust in teachers needed to transform education systems across the world

Press release

We should trust teachers more, says a new report from the ideas organisation the RSA and the World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) which is calling for the transformation of education practice around the world.

The Creative Public Leadership report published today explores how school systems can create the conditions for successful innovation. The focus is on primary and secondary students.

Director of Creative Learning and Development at the RSA Joe Hallgarten said:
“The logic of the current reform model has one central flaw – it is at heart doubtful of the value of teacher professionalism. Instead, it has created a form of ‘managerial professionalism’, driven by heavy scrutiny linked to rank-able performance measures. These practices have been exported to developing countries through funders and aid agencies. The ability of developing countries to successfully adopt the features of more westernized schooling paradigms is used as a criterion to receive aid.

“But debates and practices are becoming increasingly global in nature. We need an approach to education change which is built on teacher empowerment, values the broader outcomes of creativity, agency and well-being, and works deeply with civil society as partners in learning. This could enable developing systems to improve far more rapidly, possibly leapfrogging us and others in the process.”

The RSA and WISE say this transformation will require a move towards a new concept of leadership with governments playing the role of an authorising, facilitative and supportive platform for systemic innovation.

WISE Chief Executive Officer Stavros N. Yiannouka said:
“Our world is facing unprecedented challenges. It is becoming more diverse, more complex, less sustainable and less equal. And if we are to mount any meaningful response to the collective challenges we face we have no choice but to change, starting with our public education systems.

Rather than focusing on where we need to innovate - something that has been and continues to be debated extensively - this report focuses on the tougher question of how to create public education systems that are conducive to widespread innovation and possess the capacities to adopt and scale those innovations that are shown to work.”

The report sets out nine first steps to re-orient the role that public system leaders might play:

  1. Build the case for change;
  2. Desist from waves of centrally-driven short-term ‘reforms’;
  3. Develop outward as well as upward accountability, to learners and localities;
  4. Create and protect genuine space for local curriculum designs;
  5. Prioritise innovations that transform approaches to assessing students;
  6. Place intentional, rigorous focus on the development of teachers’ innovation capabilities, throughout their careers;
  7. Redirect some proportion of a jurisdiction’s education spending to an explicit incubator program, tasked with radically innovating on behalf of the system as a whole;
  8. Build systems of collaborative peer learning to support the adaptive scaling of innovation;
  9. Put ‘system entrepreneurship’ at the heart of system leadership.

Louise Thomas, Education Programme Lead at Innovation Unit said:
"It is well understood that the world is changing fast. Demographic, technological and environmental change will continue to accelerate in coming decades, with unpredictable consequences for economies and societies. Old certainties about the security offered by university degrees, and the adequacy of a standardised schooling offer, are starting to be eroded. Creative public leaders of education recognise this and know they must respond. We at Innovation Unit work with system leaders across the globe to understand how.

“Creative Public Leadership is an important contribution - and challenge - to anyone involved in the leadership of systems of public education. It raises critical questions about the adequacy of traditional education leadership and policy making to the task of meeting the urgent changes required. I look forward to joining in conversations about how the alternatives proposed might become reality in education systems worldwide."

The RSA and WISE say that if transformation is to come from within education systems themselves, rather than left to market forces or developments in technology, then it will depend upon the emergence of this different kind of leadership.

System leaders need to support schools to think more often, more deeply and more radically about their mission. Whilst systems can be far better at creating the enabling conditions and cultures for innovation, schools need to take ultimate responsibility for their own ethos. Inevitably, this points to a significant leadership challenge at all levels.

The Creative Public Leadership report analyses how school systems are performing in and responding to a changing global context. It contains a brief tour on the science of social and system innovation and reports on the current state of education innovation, outlining the barriers to progress.

In conclusion, the report argues that if we are to improve performance overall, ensure equity, and develop and a wider set of outcomes, then serious, disciplined and radical innovation is required at all levels. Whilst the role of government remains crucial, we need to draw on resources from both within and beyond traditional public institutions.

Notes to editors:
1. For more information contact RSA Interim Head of Media Sarah Horner at [email protected] or 0207 7451 6893 / 07799 737970.
2. Twitter: @theRSAorg; #teacherpower
3. Website:
4. The World Innovation Summit for Education ( was established by Qatar Foundation in 2009 under the leadership of its Chairperson, Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser. WISE is an international, multi-sectoral platform for creative thinking, debate and purposeful action. Through the Summit and a range of ongoing programmes, WISE has established itself as a global reference in new approaches to education, promoting innovation and partnership

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