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Taking part in the OECD Education 2030 Project: Looking outward in order to look inward

Carla Marschall, Former Director of Teaching and Learning, UWCSEA East
3 June 2019

Over the past year, Stuart MacAlpine, Director of Teaching and Learning on East Campus and I had the privilege to contribute to working groups as part of the OECD Education 2030 Project. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is an intergovernmental organisation with 36 member countries that seeks to promote global progress, especially in the economic realm. Its Education 2030 project sets out a vision for education and “provides points of orientation towards the future we want: individual and collective well-being” (OECD, 2019, p. 4). Specifically, the project "aims to help education systems determine the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values students need to thrive in and shape their future" and to identify how schools and other educational systems can deliberately develop them.

With an interest in both the UWC movement and Stuart MacAlpine’s work with Sky School (a global high school for refugee and displaced youth and UWCx initiative), we were invited to share our perspectives across a number of project areas. As we took part in working groups, made up of educational leaders from across the globe and a variety of contexts, we reflected on the relevance of the UWC mission and the choices we have made as a College in the construction of our learning programme. The aims of the OECD Education 2030 project will sound very familiar to anyone who has spent time at UWCSEA or read about our learning programme. Indeed, when we reflected on how our current and future thinking about education connects to global trends and developments, a few parallels became evident. Here are our conclusions:

Relevance of the UWC mission

Firstly, and most importantly, the UWC mission to make education a force to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future has never been more relevant. One of the goals of the OECD learning framework, called the Learning Compass 2030, is to develop students’ “sense of purpose and responsibility while [they] learn to influence the people, events and circumstances around them for the better” (Ibid, p. 4). This action-orientation, evident in both our mission and the articulated goals of Education 2030, invites students to use their hands, hearts and heads to meaningfully engage with and inspire change in the world around them. As a result, our learners actively contribute to the sustainable development of local and global communities, doing their part to tackle the myriad social, economic and ecological issues emerging around the globe.

Developing student agency

In order to enact our mission, students need to develop their sense of agency, another core theme of the Education 2030 framework. Student agency goes deeper than choice or autonomy. It relates to the development of identity grounded in, “motivation, hope, self-efficacy and a growth mindset” (Ibid, p. 15). When we invite students to take part in service-learning opportunities at the College, local or global level, for instance, they see how their actions can indeed make a difference. By understanding and recognising complexity through real-life experiences, our students can identify leverage points whilst seeking to minimise unintended consequences of their actions. This realisation that they can influence the world around them in positive ways shapes their identity as a changemaker.

UWCSEA’s holistic learning programme provides breadth and balance of opportunity. Throughout the diverse set of experiences it affords, one way we build learner’s sense of agency is by developing the Skills and Qualities of our UWCSEA Learner Profile. The Science class that asks students to hone their skills as a critical thinker and the after school swimming session that builds resilience combine to create individuals who can engage flexibly and conscientiously with the world around them. Designing opportunities for students to develop their agency within our learning programme continues to guide strategic thinking of the College.

Creating a curriculum that enables transfer of learning

Another connection we made to the Education 2030 framework was the idea of explicitly “teaching for transfer” and making transfer of learning an expectation of our programme. The Education 2030 framework acknowledges how, “Teaching to big ideas can lead to deeper learning and more effective transfer of knowledge and skills.” (Ibid, p. 51). The design of UWCSEA’s concept-based curriculum, centred around big ideas and significant concepts, enables us to facilitate transfer of learning. We do this in the classroom by inviting students to construct and express their own conceptual understandings and apply them to new contexts. When students can transfer their knowledge, skills and understandings, they can use their learning critically and creatively in new situations. Thus our Learning Programme actively builds student agency and supports students in enacting the UWC mission both during and after their time at the College.

Taking part in working groups as part of the OECD Education 2030 project has granted us the valuable opportunity to look outwards in order to look inwards. Our work at UWCSEA both mirrors global trends as well as provides us with inspiration for future developments.


Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, OECD Future of Education and Skills 2030 Concept Notes, 2019.