Masai Classroom, Tanzania (pic: Roger Barr)
No walls but instantly recognisable as a classroom: Masai children with their teacher in Tanzania (pic: Roger Barr) 

Carol Bellamy and Andreas Schleicher usually present to world leaders, but this week it's to the rest of us  
The two top global education priorities are: reaching and engaging the 57 million children who aren’t in school; providing far more relevant, modern teaching and learning for those who are.

And two top experts in both those areas – the Global Partnership for Education’s Carol Bellamy and PISA’s Andreas Schleicher  – will share with educators and learners around the world to lead the Education Fast Forward (EFF) online debate “Access & Quality in Education - Can We Achieve Both?” (Wednesday July 17, 13:30 BST).

Education Fast Forward, created by Promethean and supported by Cisco, has pioneered a series of powerful online debates conducted over Cisco’s high-quality TelePresence video-conferencing network. Promethean ‘fellows”, educators and learners join the debate from studios across the world and the event is streamed across the internet through Promethean Planet.

Debate supports build-up to United Nations Millennium Development Goals

The current debate marks the progression of the series to support the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals which are working to a 2015 target. The theme will be revisited at the Education World Forum in London in January 2014, reporting all the way to ‘judgement day – the culmination of the UN drive in 2015.

Jim WynnPromethean's Jim WynnEffectively EFF7, “Access and Quality in Education”, cuts out the usual ‘middle men’ of politicians and policy makers to deliver the important messages of both these experts and other guest speakers – how to achieve universal schooling and how to improve schools in line with the crucial need for 21st century skills. Through EFF7, these discussions are opened up to the education workforce to be extended through social networking on Twitter so feedback can loop back into the EFF speakers and presenters.

“As a global community, we have some serious issues to tackle when some 57 million students cannot even get access to school and when the number of students who have left the education system is approaching the total population of the United States,” said Promethean chief education officer Jim Wynn. “But by taking action and bringing to light the barrier to access and quality through forums like EFF, we believe change is possible.”

Andreas Schleicher is in charge of the OECD's PISA tests (Programme for International Student Assessment) which have become the global ‘rankings’ for education that politicians are so fond of using as justification for their policies. But forget any controversies about the rankings or the tests themselves (incidentally, they are moving towards problem solving), this man slices and dices education data in all sorts of fascinating, revealing ways to get to the key levers that countries can use for system-wide change.

Andreas SchleicherAndreas SchleicherUnfortunately, his words rarely get over to the people who matter most in education – those who work with learners and their schools. So EFF7 should be a rare and very welcome opportunity to share views on how teachers and school leaders can bring about their own changes for their learners without waiting for approval from the politicians and advisers who currently appear not to have caught up.

Carol Bellamy is chair of directors at the Global Partnership for Education and a former boss of Unicef. She works with developing countries and their partners on education strategies to engage more children in quality education.

Carol BellamyCarol BellamyA former lawyer, with lengthy experience within financial institutions, her passionate drive to improve the life chances of children worldwide has helped her bring together crucial partnerships to find the funding for education developments for kids who have never been to school.

Her priorities are in line with those of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals which include bringing all children into primary education and ensuring that girls are not left out. It’s a massive challenge although she reports some successes.

The number of children out of school in 2000 was estimated at more than 100 million but by 2011 the figure was down to 57 million. While this is a huge improvement, especially for some key countries and the narrowing gap between girls and boys, she reports that the hard to reach remain hard to reach and warns, “There is no silver bullet.”

As 2015 approaches her concerns include where the journey continues, which is likely to intensify the quality element and this will be part of her presentation.

Of course there will also be the usual range of global contributors to the EFF debate. These include: Vera Lucia Cabral Costa, an expert in public policy and ICT for learning in São Paulo, Brazil; incisive policy analyst Niel McLean who leads the Futurelab Research Centre at NFER; David Martin, head of the British Council's Schools Programme; the co-founder of one of the world's largest student-voice organisations, TakingITGlobal, Michael Furdyk; Kenyan community activist Agnetta Nyalita; and Teachers Without Borders founder Fred Mednick.

The big challenge for EFF7 is to fully harness social media channels and Twitter in particular. “During EFF, ordinary teachers have a unique opportunity to share their views directly with policy influencers via social media channels (Twitter) during the live debate," added Jim Wynn. "Through activities like this, we can open-up dialogue and help bridge the chasm between policy and practice and give young people, teachers and place to hear each other.”

More information
The EFFT debate “Access  Quality in Education – Can We Achieve Both?” takes place on Wednesday July 17 at 1.30pm and is streamed live via the EFF page on Promethean Planet. Viewers can respond and contribute via Twitter or Facebook.
Education Fast Forward on Twitter @effdebate 
Twitter hashtag #eff7 
EFF on Facebook 

Did you Know? About 137 million children began primary school in 2011 but at least 34 million children (some older than the official school age) left school before reaching the last grade of primary education.

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