New education body 'Atlantis Group' launched at Global Education & Skills Forum


KUALA LUMPUR: A new group of education experts, known as the ‘Atlantis Group’, comprising 20 former Education Ministers and Heads of State who will provide advice on global education issues to current governments, was launched at the Global Education & Skills Forum (GESF) 2017.

Varkey Foundation chief executive Vikas Pota said this is the first such group to be formed, and it will have a powerful impact on current global education debates.

“Members of the group have deep experience, unique perspectives and can speak freely as they’re no longer tied to particular government positions. We look forward to seeing their recommendations.

“Education is constantly evolving and we can learn from the experiences of the past in terms of what worked, what didn’t and how we can use that knowledge to better develop the education systems of the future,” he added.

Varkey Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation established to improve the standards of education for underprivileged children throughout the world.

In a statement, the Foundation said that the Atlantis group met for the first time at the GESF, and was named after the location of its first meeting: The Atlantis Palm in Dubai.

It said the founding principle of the group is “to bring together the skills and experiences of former Education Ministers and interested former Heads of State across the world to help address ongoing challenges in global education.”

Members of the globally-diverse group include Arne Duncan, former United States Secretary of Education under President Obama; former United Kingdom Education Secretary Michael Gove; former Greek President George Papandreou; former Lebanese Minister Elias Bou Saab; and former Peruvian Minister and incoming Head of the World Bank Education team, Jaime Saveedra.

Together, members of the Atlantis Group have more than 65 years of experience in public office overseeing education systems around the world.

The group, the Foundation said, will act as an advisory body to education ministries around the world who are dealing with issues relating to education in their own country, drawing upon the views and experiences of members to provide the highest quality expertise and recommendations.

“The group will meet at the GESF every year and on at least one other occasion annually.

“In addition, individual members and small sub-groups may be asked to conduct further work throughout the year – such as visiting countries at the request of education ministries that request advice,” it said.

The group will be advised by Irina Bokova (Director-General, Unesco); Andreas Schleicher (Director of Education and Skills, OECD); and Professor Fernando Reimers (Faculty Director, International Education Policy, at Harvard University).

The Varkey Foundation, which established the GESF and the Global Teacher Prize, will provide the secretariat for the group.

According to the Foundation, the group will initially undertake a year-long piece initiative to consider the issue of the future of education leadership at all levels.

“The topic has been selected because the ability of any education system to deliver on the ambitions which governments, teachers, donors, students and citizens have for it requires excellent leadership at all levels.

“The challenge only grows as education systems around the world face increasingly complex issues, new challenges and opportunities such as technological advancement.

“In addition, the group will consider the issue of political leadership. Education Ministers often have no specific expertise of their brief before taking up office and have little or no time to undergo training or preparation, meaning it is even more important that there is a shared understanding on how to be an effective leader of a national education system.

“The unique membership of the Atlantis Group makes this element of study particularly interesting,” it said.

GESF 2017, a Varkey Foundation initiative, was held at The Atlantis, Dubai, on March 18 and 19, with leading figures from the public, private and social sectors in attendance.

The fifth annual GESF, held under the patronage of Sheikh Mohammed Rashid al-Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai, focused on the theme of “How to make real global citizens”.

Widely referred to as ‘the Davos of Education’, the GESF debates new ways for education to transform our world.