As ICSEI’s President, it is my pleasure to welcome you to the ICSEI community. It is our mission to enhance quality and equity in education, related to educational and school effectiveness and improvement. This mission has never been more important than in the light of the unprecedented global impact of COVID-19 we are currently facing. At the height of the pandemic, over 90% of the world’s school age population was not in school. Now, as countries begin the complex process of remote learning and school re-opening, there are new challenges and risks for educational effectiveness, improvement, quality and equity. It is likely that this pandemic will impact unequally on people in our society, with particular concerns for people that are already vulnerable (e.g., suffering from existing physical and mental health problems).
The impact on our society is tremendous. For example, many people have to deal with schools closing, parents working from home and at the same time taking care of (and the education of) their children, and people around us getting seriously ill. At the same time, what is heartwarming to see is the capability of people to re-invent themselves and the way they work (a huge thank you to school leaders and teachers around the world for moving entire education programs online), and people reaching out to each other in the most difficult circumstances. More than ever, policy makers, practitioners, and researchers around the world need to work together to mitigate quality and equity risks caused by the current pandemic.
ICSEI is a unique organization, that wants to mitigate the quality and equity risks we are currently facing. ICSEI brings together policy makers, practitioners and researchers around the world to develop knowledge, policies, and practices focused on improving the quality and equity of education. Discussion and debate are crucial in improving education around the world. We need to critically engage with new and innovative ideas, if we want to make our educational organizations more effective, especially in the light of the pandemic we are facing. What policies need to be in place to support quality and equity? How does policy influence educational practice? What are urgent questions from educators that researchers need to address? How can educators learn from research?
Improving the quality and equity of education also means that networking is important. ICSEI is the home of several active networks: Early Childhood Education, Educational Leadership, Data Use, 3P (policy makers, politicians, and practitioners), MoREI (Methods of Research in Effectiveness and Improvement), and the Professional Learning Network (PLN). These networks typically meet at our annual congresses, but they are also active in between congresses. For example, members publish books and papers together and the networks send out newsletters, organize twitter chats and deliver online sessions. Important resources, such as knowledge on how to make educational organizations more effective, travel through these networks and the relationships that people have formed throughout our congresses.
Making educational organizations places of high quality and equity also implies that evidence plays an important role. Therefore one of our purposes is also conducting and promoting research. As an ICSEI community, we discuss different ways of conducting research and different sources of evidence. We discuss and debate innovative ideas, the latest research evidence, practitioner-based evidence, practices and strategies. How we can use all these different sources of evidence to improve education is one of our central questions. An urgent question that has been added to our list of questions is: How can we ensure the quality and equity of education in the time of a pandemic?
ICSEI is also a global organization. We would like to disseminate our knowledge worldwide. We have a standing committee on communications and knowledge sharing, working on, for example, our website, newsletters, and other publications. As a global organization we strive to engage members from all continents around the world in order to give policymakers, practitioners and researchers from around the globe access to everything we have learned collectively. Moreover, as we recognize that we may not be able to travel for a while due to COVID-19, we are also going to organize (more) regional and online events. I would like to stress that we welcome people from diverse backgrounds. Diversity and generational renewal is an important goal of our organization, and our standing committee on generation renewal and diversity is striving to make ICSEI even more international and diverse.
I was very honored to be the first ICSEI president to take our conference to Africa. In Marrakesh, Morocco, we had the chance to meet and learn from and with policy makers, researchers, civil society leaders and practitioners from the Global North and Global South. We learned from the diverse voices that were present at this congress, and got to engage with the rich and diverse Moroccan community. But our journey did not end in Morocco; although we are very sad that we had to cancel our 2021 Auckland conference, we will keep on traveling (online and regionally) to share and mobilize knowledge. I believe together we can improve the quality and equity of education around the world, and I am looking forward to meeting and interacting with you all.