GSF Annual Meeting Event Brochure
January 31, 2017
Webinar: GSF Fellowship Programme
December 11, 2017

Recap of the 2017 Annual Meeting

The Global Schools Forum Annual Meeting brought together 80 quality-focused school operators, investors and funders from across the globe – from Peru to the Philippines.

The event took place on 8-10 February 2017 in Wolfsburg, Switzerland, where participants were kindly hosted by the UBS Optimus Foundation.

The focus of the Annual Meeting was: creating and strengthening schools & school networks; building a stronger and more cohesive non-state sector; and how the non-state sector can contribute to larger education systems.

The participants welcomed the opportunity to network and deepen existing relationships. The agenda allowed for plenty of interaction among funders and operators, and for sharing of best practices and lessons learnt from establishing, scaling and managing school networks across the world.

Day 1 “The big picture: Reflecting back and looking forward”

The first day looked at key milestones and shifts in the education sector over the last year. Following a welcome and introduction by John Fairhurst, UBS Optimus Foundation, and Aashti Zaidi Hai, Global Schools Forum, Justin Sandefur from the Center for Global Development delivered an excellent and thought-provoking plenary presentation on some of the recent research and data from the sector, taking a critical look at the demand for and governance of high quality public and private sector education.

Next, Meeting Facilitator Peter Colenso introduced the participants to a creative and playful ice-breaker involving paper, crayons, play-dough, and ultimately orchids! In groups of 8, the participants were asked to design & build their ideal school in a low-/middle-income setting.

The last session was a discussion on the big issues and milestones within the non-state education sector over the last year. Moderated by Peter Colenso, the panellists Norman Atkins (Relay Graduate School of Education), Fathima Dada (Pearson), Harry Patrinos (World Bank), and Asif Saleh (BRAC) also shared their three wishes for 2017.

Day 2 “Building high-quality networks”

The second day was introspective, with a focus on how to create and manage high quality scalable schools, including a detailed look at innovative management, pedagogical practices and the measurement of student progress.

For the first session of the day, three representatives of large school networks shared their experiences creating and scaling a high performing school network. Moderated by Amy Klement (Omidyar Network), panellists Rowena Janeo-Lopez (APEC), Shannon May (Bridge), and Brian Sims (Ark) focused on their approach to achieving quality at affordable cost.

Following this, breakout case study sessions allowed participants to think through solutions to a particular challenge to scaling a school network in smaller groups. The crowd-sourced themes were teacher recruitment, leadership management, use of technology, and education in conflict areas.

The third session of the day consisted of parallel panel discussions; a school management stream moderated by Arvind Nagarajan (PALF) discussed centralisation and decentralisation of school operation management functions, while the pedagogy stream moderated by John Fairhurst (UBS Optimus Foundation) elaborated on personalised instruction for students at different levels.

Looking at approaches to measuring student progress, the fourth session discussed how school networks think about measurement and evaluation across their schools and what funders look for when they commission evaluations of their investees. Moderated by Katelyn Donnelly and Owen Henkel (PALF), the panellists were Ian Attfield (DFID), Steph Dobrowolski (Rising Academies), Oliver Sabot (Nova Pioneer Academies) and Bailey Thomson (SPARK Schools).

At the close of day, a ‘fireside chat’ brought discussion on how government, the private sector and philanthropy can strengthen education systems and outcomes.

Day 3 “Strengthening the eco-system”

Finally, the third day looked at the broader education ecosystem including partnerships with government, working effectively with the media, and the role of the Global Schools Forum in supporting the sector.

Under the theme of building effective partnerships with government, the first session of the day explored how funders and operators have developed partnerships with government. Moderated by Susannah Hares (Ark EPG), the panellists Laura Brown (PEAS), David Harrison (DG Murray Trust), Amitav Virmani (The Education Alliance), and Maya Ziswiler (UBS Optimus Foundation) discussed public private partnerships, implementation support, and service delivery.

After this, the school operators joined Susan Feeney from GMMB for a media masterclass, discussing the need for a communications strategy and exploring how to best leverage the media. In parallel to this, funders and investors had a focussed opportunity to discuss existing and future investments, opportunities and risks of engaging with the non-state sector.

After lunch, Vineet Bewtra (Omidyar Network) moderated a crowd-sourced panel discussion on managing access to finance and innovative financing mechanisms as well as the related risks and challenges. The invited panellists were Ragini Chaudhary (Gray Matters Capital), David Fitzherbert (Progression Capital), and Maya Ziswiler (UBS Optimus Foundation).

Finally, Aashti Zaidi Hai presented the proposed thinking on the Global Schools Forum as a member organisation that serves to strengthen the non-state education sector and create linkages and collaboration between school operators. She introduced all participants to the planned activities and took questions and feedback from the floor to guide the continued development of the organisation.

Thank you to all speakers and participants for actively contributing to making the 2017 Annual Meeting an engaging, meaningful and relevant event for the non-state education sector.

We look forward to hosting the 2018 Annual Meeting!

The Global Schools Forum Annual Meeting brought together 80 quality-focused school operators, investors and funders from across the globe – from Peru to the Philippines.
The event took place on 8-10 February 2017 in Wolfsburg, Switzerland, where participants were kindly hosted by the UBS Optimus Foundation.

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