International Council of Education Advisers: third report 2021-2023

This is the third formal report of the ICEA relating to their third two-year term (2021-2023) of work.

Moving forward: Future proofing Scottish education

Scottish education is well recognised globally as valuing both equity and excellence. The system invests significant resources to tackle poverty, close attainment gaps and strengthen the teaching profession. The costs of managing the pandemic and financially supporting businesses and their employees have created conditions of inflation and austerity across much of the world. In many jurisdictions, any future educational improvements must be undertaken within stringent budgetary constraints. How will it be possible to motivate teachers and improve students’ learning and well-being in a seemingly unavoidable era of declining resources?

Beyond the cliché of doing more with less, there are possible solutions that might enable cost-savings without sacrificing equity or excellence. These include ring fencing certain high priority parts of education from public sector cuts; exploring digital supports for, or supplements to in-person teaching, learning and professional learning; using AI to support and streamline some areas of work like curriculum planning and assessment; and empowering teachers to engage in inspiring local innovation by removing external obstacles (such as overly complicated lists of outcomes and performance measures).

More support for human-centred, teacher-led change, and pulling back from big structural system changes, will create a dynamic movement of educational transformation rather than imposing an expensive and unwanted structural change on teachers and school leaders.

Difficult times present both a challenge and an opportunity. People are hoping to see changes, for the better and for the future. This is actually a good time to bring reform forward. The recommended actions in this report could be prioritised and implemented through a redistribution of resources that enhances efficiencies, eliminates duplication and therefore minimises the need for new investment. The ICEA recommends that the overarching theory of change in the short to medium term is not to change structures too much (this is expensive), but to redirect energy to focus on improving teaching professionals, professional development, collaboration, and innovation. The idea is to build capacity and remove barriers to grass-roots innovation by identifying points of high leverage.

The need for change is clear and expectations are high. We need to have the wisdom and the will to exercise creativity and high quality thinking when it comes to resource allocation, and to implement direct on the ground interventions that will mean the most to education professionals in providing the best education for their students. New and agile ways of working should be pursued so that equity and excellence can still flourish during austere times. Even as Scotland works through the immediate challenges, it should keep an eye on the future. With creative thinking, thoughtful planning and skillful management, simple and effective measures now can bring about positive developments within Scottish education in the longer term.



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