2005 Convention - Opening Presidential Address
International Congress for School Effectiveness and Improvement (ICSEI)
Good afternoon. Buenas Tardes. Bona tarda. Welcome to ICSEI 2005. I’m Louise Stoll, President of ICSEI. On behalf of the ICSEI Board, I would like to welcome you all to the eighteenth annual conference of the International Congress for School Effectiveness and Improvement in this wonderful city of Barcelona. It is the first time that ICSEI has been in Spain, and for those of us who spent New Year here, we have already been charmed by your fantastic Spanish hospitality.
On everyone’s behalf I want to offer my most sincere thanks to the organising committee and all of the assisting organisations for the very hard work and support that has made it possible for us to be here this year. We have over 600 people registered from 51 different countries in every continent, which is fantastic.
Before I continue, I know I speak for everyone in saying that our hearts go out to the people in those countries affected by the tsunami. Words cannot express our shock and horror at this terrible tragedy. Some of us have lost friends and colleagues and, as educators, we are profoundly concerned by the devastation to the infrastructure in several countries and the trauma and loss for many children. I would like to ask you to stand and observe a minute’s silence as a mark of our respect.
We also want to make a contribution from ICSEI members to the relief fund. I have asked for some collection boxes to be located at the back of the auditorium where you can place donations. If you could donate in Euros, that would make it easier for us. Thank you.
Our Spanish hosts have chosen Breaking Boundaries: Radical Innovation in Education as this year’s conference theme. This is very timely. First, in dramatically changing times, it is essential that we can all be creative in thinking of new ways to solve both unresolved and new challenges facing school effectiveness and improvement and the conference strands help us to do that.
Second, this is my last address as President of ICSEI – at the Annual General Meeting my friend and colleague Lejf Moos will take over as President. I want to take a few minutes to reflect on ICSEI as an organisation, its purpose, challenges, the boundaries it has already broken and the potential that lies ahead.
ICSEI was established in 1988. Its purpose is to provide a truly international forum for researchers, policy makers, school leaders and teachers, district administrators, and professional developers to share ideas, promote research, and encourage practices that will enhance the quality and equity of education for all students. Members in about 40 countries and everyone else who attends our conferences share a goal to learn from each other through research, dialogue and development opportunities how to address issues of equity and excellence in schools across contexts as varied as Africa, Asia, the Pacific Islands, North and South America and Europe.
What are our challenges? Of course, one of our greatest strengths is that we are an international organisation. This is also a challenge, with a secretariat in one country, web master in another, newsletter editor in a third, and board members on most continents. We believe it is important, however, to retain this democratic mode of operation to ensure that colleagues from all around the world have an input into ICSEI strategy and development.
ICSEI is also a virtual community. Ongoing communication can be a challenge, despite the best intentions and even though many of us meet once a year at the conference.
ICSEI is also almost entirely a voluntary community, driven by people’s commitment to make a difference. Inevitably, we all juggle this as part of very busy lives.
Finally, in common with all educators and educational organisations worldwide, ICSEI members are faced by increasingly complex global change forces that need new solutions.
ICSEI – a changing organisation
Over 18 years, ICSEI has worked hard to rise above the challenges and has seen some radical changes, from its roots as a group of mainly researchers to an organisation that is proud to count among its members researchers, policy makers, local politicians, school and district staff, members of NGOs and others who support schools.
It has also extended its reach into all continents of the world and, while each country faces its own particular challenges, we share a genuine desire to work together as an international community.
Another important feature is that, despite people’s different roles, ICSEI is not a political organisation. Everyone comes to ICSEI open to learning from each other, and bound by a common passion – to improve education and make it as effective as it can be for all children and young people everywhere.
If you have been involved with ICSEI for a number of years, it is easy to take all of this for granted, but you shouldn’t. This organisation is unique and you have helped make it so.
So, how do we move forward? ICSEI cannot afford to stand still. In the last couple of years ICSEI has started to break new boundaries, but we have further to go. We have changed our membership arrangements and have our own secretariat. Already, ICSEI members:
But being an ICSEI member means participating actively in an international learning community that has already influenced policy and practice in many countries. World events constantly remind us that ICSEI as an organisation has a key role to play in enhancing global knowledge sharing and mutual understanding. If you are not already actively involved in ICSEI, please find a way to contribute to our community. Let us know if you would like to set up an ICSEI network, and share your news, develop innovative international research, development and policy projects and initiatives with ICSEI colleagues, offer support to ICSEI colleagues who need it. We are also constantly aiming to be more inclusive in our membership: I am delighted that ICSEI has been able to help sponsor an international group of school students who are presenting at this conference and hope that some of them would like to join ICSEI and work with us to develop our organisation.
If you haven’t already joined ICSEI through the website or as part of the conference registration process, there are membership forms at this conference.
Lejf Moos, our Board colleagues and I hope to meet as many of you as possible during the conference, and to hear your thoughts about the future development of ICSEI. Please come to the Annual General Meeting on Tuesday afternoon at 18.30 where we would appreciate your input on how to continue developing ICSEI further and ensure that we keep breaking boundaries. Also, do come along to one of our network meetings tomorrow (Monday) afternoon at 18.30.
I hope that everyone will return home after this conference with new ideas to help address the challenges to sustainable improvement as well as a commitment to becoming an active member of the ICSEI community to help develop an even more powerful voice to promote educational quality and equity in all countries. To help sustain this process, I leave you with some questions to reflect on during and after the conference:
Have a great conference!