The 'Open-Door' Era of Global Education

How do we educate all for a global world? Education leaders and entrepreneurs from around the world gathered on May 12 for Asia Society’s Global Education for a Global World conference.

Dr. Minxuan Zhang of Shanghai Normal University and a leader in the Shanghai Municipal Education Commission (and winner of the 2014 Asia Society Leadership Award) gave an enthusiastic audience a glimpse of how Shanghai has succeeded in its modern miracle of education—and where it's going next. Framing four “traditional” elements and eight “modern” elements, Dr. Zhang provided lessons for other systems, schools, and districts looking to create a world-class opportunity for students.

Van Ton-Quinlivan of California Community Colleges spoke about the evolving needs of the workforce and the reality that no skills last forever in a world of constant change. She reflected on how technology has become a shape shifter, constantly reinventing the game.

Zhang and Ton-Quinlivan were joined in conversation by Wendy Kopp of Teach For All (also a 2014 Asia Society Leadership Award winner), Carola McGiffert of the 100,000 Strong Foundation, and Tony Jackson of Asia Society. The group discussed education for all and issues of immigration and migration, particularly in China. Speakers considered the rise of educational entrepreneurship, as witnessed by the growth of Teach For All, a collection of Teach For America-like organizations sprouting up globally, working in locations around the world to bring top students into the teaching workforce. They also touched on technology as a tool in education, the incredible opportunity and yet the responsibility it places on the learner to be motivated for his or her own education—a responsibility that is a challenge for many students. As Kopp noted, nothing replaces the foundational relationship of education between teacher and student. Zhang agreed, stating “education is the interaction between human beings....Technology is a process. Education needs people.”

Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller of Coursera, also Asia Society Leadership award winners, reflected that they were on an educational quest. Currently reaching 7.5 million people with their two-year-old company, they’ve only just begun. They view Coursera as an opportunity to reach many people without access to higher education, and while 30 percent of their market now is in the developing world, they see tremendous potential for growth. They agreed that education is fundamentally about the relationship between the educator and the student, and wondered if technology will evolve to expand the time and space for educators to be engaged with students, removing other work from their plates.