Commonwealth Civil Society Roundtable on Education

Posted on 10/03/2016
By Joe Byrde
Commonwealth High Commissioners’ Roundtable on Education

Transformative Education and Sustainable Development in Small States: Towards a 2030 Implementation Agenda

On a platform not often seen, civil society and government representatives came together to discuss their shared interest in the development of education at a roundtable discussion held in London at the Commonwealth. Civil society representatives addressed the need for transformative education for sustainable development in Small States with a view to influence policy change.  The gathering was attended by 17 government representatives.

In his opening remarks, the Director of the Commonwealth Foundation, Vijay Krishnarayan, noted the importance of this roundtable as an opportunity to broaden and deepen dialogue with Commonwealth Member States. He highlighted the need to see the roundtable not as a one off intervention, but part of an ongoing process of constructive engagement which, has so far encompassed policy dialogue meetings on education in The Bahamas and Malta. He spoke of the importance of a shared dialogue and an opening of the space for civil society engagement with policy makers.

The Chair of the Roundtable, Dr Joel Warrican of the University of the West Indies Open Campus, introduced the concept of transformative education. He looked at the colonial roots of education and suggested that there is a need to shed some debilitating, traditional practices of coloniality. He acknowledged that there is often an aversion to change but argued that change is vital for the sustainability of Small States and indeed all states that have been affected by colonialism. The call is for education that is transformative where there is a re-envisioning of what is known and practiced to bring new perspective to future actions of people.  He stressed that this approach is not a way to burden the current curriculum but is rather a re-envisioning and a rethinking of education in its current format. A format that incorporates content reflecting sustainable development themes of gender, class, ethnicity, environment; one that encourages critical thinking and an ownership of learning for students in the 21st century.

The roundtable heard three presentations from civil society. Dr Vincent Caruana of the University of Malta presented on how transformative education is embodied in current projects and the importance of training and communicating with teachers, parents and students in this approach. Speaking on the way forward for transformative education, Ms Fatimah Kelleher emphasised that there is a direct linkage of transformative education to Small States and the global SDG agenda.  She examined how to operationalise the concept of transformative education and highlighted the importance of civil society engagement emphasising that demand needs to come from the local level, and the process must be both consultative and collaborative in nature.  Mr Sonny Leong of the Council for Education in the Commonwealth, offered some immediate actions that can be taken to push forward transformative education through research, partnerships and technical assistance and maintaining pan commonwealth dialogue on the issues.

A lively discussion followed from the representatives, responding to the ways in which education can be re-envisioned through, but not limited to, the experience of Small States. The idea of encouraging critical thinking in young citizens and how transformative education could be incorporated into all areas of education was well received. The need for a continued conversation on the state of education was highly evident from both sides as they maximised this opportunity to come together to speak about a valued, shared interest that reaches out to all corners of the Commonwealth.

Commonwealth High Commissioners’ Roundtable on Education