28 March 2023
HTT Summit 2023. Columbus (Ohio, US) for two days became the center of worldwide discussions on school education
HTT Summit 2023 constituted an assembly venue for committed, forward-thinking teachers and education activists from around the world. Following their presence in the United States, the HTT has been enriched with an array of invaluable insights derived from dialogues on holistic education.
Prof. Pasi Sahlberg, co-creator of the internationally admired Finnish education reform, who was one of the speakers at HTT Summit 2023, compared the teachers gathered at the event to mosquitoes fighting for better schools. A single mosquito, he said, will not change a whole world. – But can you imagine a night in a tent spent with one? – he asked. So we can act in our “tents,” in our local communities, and together we have a global reach.
The event was filled with profound, wise speeches given by our presenters. But HTT Summit 2023 started with the premiere of “Good Day,” a film produced by HTT and created by high-class filmmakers such as Ivo Krankowski and Katarzyna Leśniak. The film crew visited a selection of schools in 10 countries worldwide where HTT conducted research on school education (the conclusions of which you can find on our website), from which a thought-provoking and emotional documentary was produced.
The audience gathered at the premiere reviewed the film very enthusiastically, as did subsequent viewers of the documentary. The viewers emphasized that the film, shot in such geographically distant countries, shows that schools all over the world face the same problems: dehumanization, forcing students to memorize material they are not interested in, and a sense of the meaninglessness of school spreading among students.
Pasi Sahlberg’s speech
The keynote speaker at HTT Summit 2023 was a man who needs no introduction to those interested in education: prof. Pasi Sahlberg, one of the creators of Finland’s phenomenal education reform, a former senior specialist at the World Bank in Washington, DC, and author of the world-famous book “Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland.”
Among other things, he talked about trends in global education and a holistic understanding of education. He emphasized that the key drivers of successful education are, among others, cooperation and customized curriculum (namely, more flexible and designed with a greater agency of teachers.)
He called for rethinking the purpose of schooling. – We should move away from standardized production to personal growth in schools, he said. – Students should have a voice and agency. Young people can do than they are given credit for,” he concluded.
Prof. Pasi Sahlberg’s speech was lively, highly engaging (the educator had a great rapport with the audience), and inspiring, which was stressed by all HTT Summit 2023 attendees. Additionally, and importantly, Prof. Sahlberg emphasized his support for HTT’s mission and efforts, as well as offered his support in its development.
HTT and its partner organizations presented the foundation and results of its work.
HTT executive director, Justyna Pokojska, Ph.D., told the educators gathered at Ohio State University about IDS (Interdisciplinary Subject), a methodological tool designed by HTT and its grantees that will enable a transformation of teaching priorities toward holistic education.
Justyna Pokojska talked about HTT’s mission: for schools worldwide to be not only a place where students acquire subject knowlede, but also social competencies that enable them to live happy, responsible lives among other people and nature.
Also, all of our partners and grantees from the first phase of the grant program (we write about the second phase here) had presentations summarizing their cooperation with HTT on creating the IDS.
Ryan Bramley, Ph.D., from the School of Education, University of Sheffield (UK), presented their IDS concept entitled “My Media, My Power, My Work” (you can read more about the University of Sheffield proposal itself here.) A representative from the University of Sheffield stressed that HTT’s purpose is to teach children in schools how to be happy, fulfilled people in the future. The concept of “My Media, My Power, My Work” is designed to promote conscious and active participation in social life, teaching children how to find themselves in relation to the world, others, nature, and their bodies, which aligns with HTT’s mission.
Human Restoration Project, our partners in the US, during their presentation, showed an example of an IDS lesson created through cooperation with Holistic Think Tank. The topic of the lesson was ChatBots and Artificial Intelligence, and AI itself partially created the presented lesson.
In turn, Sherry Lassiter and Rodney Williams of FabFoundation (also US) talked about the idea of constructionism in education and building thriving relationships and communities around schools.
After lunch, workshops were held in smaller groups. They were led by teachers from Poland.
Bartosz Wilimborek, an English teacher and the headmaster of the Institute for the Deaf in Warsaw (the school for students with hearing impairment), led the workshop “IDS – Diversity and Inclusion in Classroom.” The workshop participants discussed how to manage students’ individual needs or what are the strengths of teaching diverse groups.
Magdalena Jurewicz, a teacher (social studies), sociologist, and trainer from the School of Education of the Polish-American Freedom Foundation and the University of Warsaw, conducted a workshop entitled “IDS – Rethinking Assessments.” Participants collectively reflected on the evaluation: are assessments beneficial at all, and what, if anything, to replace them with?
A lecture on the Polish education system and its reforms, delivered by Magdalena Radwan (a director for the development of the School of Education of the Polish-American Freedom Foundation and the University of Warsaw), met with great interest and a very positive response among teachers from other countries.
Many English or American educators later indicated that one of the greatest values of participating in HTT Summit 2023 was precisely learning about the Polish perspective – and, therefore, different from theirs.
Actions to be taken
During the second, more intimate day of the HTT Summit 2023 (this event, unlike the one on the first day, was not open to everyone – HTT this time invited only its associates), we focused primarily on summarizing the event – gathering conclusions, observations, comments and advice from teachers from different countries.
Teachers and education activists gathered for a few hours at a round table to consider what holistic education means to them, how they envision the implementation of IDS in schools, what difficulties we face, and what is crucial in the context of HTT activities.
Key lessons from the discussions and HTT Summit 2023 itself:
- The idea of holistic education as well as the IDS proposed by the Holistic Think Tank, is met with support from foreign educators. HTT Summit 2023 proved once again that the direction we are heading – is the right one.
- We need to strengthen cooperation with foreign partners further. By working together with other educational activists, we are more powerful.
- When proposing any solutions, we need to consider teachers’ voices very strongly. In fact, it is a call for IDS implementation to be introduced from the bottom up as much as possible. We need to act not only for teachers but also with teachers.
- Teachers, principals, education activists, and the authorities need to rethink the purpose of education: from standardized production to personal growth, from passive consumers to active creators, and from excellence for some to equity for all (inclusive and equal opportunities education.)
- It is highly advisable to engage young people as agents of change: turning schools into children’s favorite places to be and providing them with a strong voice and agency towards student-led learning.
- It is recommended to support curriculum designs in schools. More flexible steering from the top would be preferable. In addition, our function is to prepare teachers to have agency in curriculum design, which needs to go along with trusting teachers’ collective professional wisdom.