The Education Partners

Advisor Spotlight: Brian Schreuder

Brian Schreuder, the curriculum and learning specialist on The Global Advisory Committee, is currently Superintendent-General (Head of Education) of the Western Cape Education Department in South Africa. The Global Advisory Council is dedicated to education change and informs the work of The Education Partners. During a one-on-one interview facilitated by The Education Partners Associate Emily Jensen, Brian discussed his education philosophy, his role with the Western Cape Education Department, and the future of education.


What do you think is the value of education?

Education is the most important tool for changing the world—it’s fundamental for uplifting communities and giving students a better future.  I believe education has the ability to bring people together. In a global context, education is a way to bring people together, create better understandings, and develop entrepreneurship to ensure a greater degree of sustainability.

Education today is in a far different landscape than it was a generation ago, how can educators adopt to changing forces to improve access and the quality of education?

In many countries we still have a 19th century education system, yet kids are being born into a 21st century world, so education is not keeping up. A couple factors are important to this, first we need to make sure teachers have a secure space where they can create effective curriculum that can be implemented, and then they need opportunities to develop their skills. Secondly, there needs to be a global STEM curriculum. Lastly, there needs to be a larger push to integrate technology as a leveler, not just for the sake of integrating technology, but we need to prepare kids for a world we do not yet understand. Thousands of new jobs are going to exist by the time they leave school, yet we don’t have adaptability as a tool in the classroom—we need to give students the ability to analyze and adapt to changing environments.

You mentioned adaptability and analytical skills are important for students to learn to be prepared for the 21st century, what other skills are important to teach students?

Global citizenship is an important competency for students to learn, but there needs to be a stronger link to the outside world that challenges their thinking. So, for example, a student in a world class school should be linked to one in a disadvantaged community, otherwise students will get an idea all schools are the same. This is important in global citizenship—to link students to other nations, if you want to create real global learning.

What are some challenges you’ve seen in implementing education reform?

Leadership change is a fundamental challenge. In all cases when you have sustained systemic transformation you either have longevity in the political leadership or you have longevity in the administrative leadership, but you need sustained longevity. Because otherwise priorities and foci change.

One of the great things I have seen in The Education Partner’s school transformation strategy is that they offer school transformation by analyzing a problem, designing a solution through knowledge partners, and then they don’t just hand it over to local authorities as other systems do, but they offer to be part of the implementation and stay with it towards the end. It’s important to be in it for the long haul.

What have been some of your successes in the field?

We have had some successes in literacy improvement, one reason for this success is that we recognized elements of strategic implementation and found commonalities in systemic transformation strategies. So, how we can get the good areas to be better, and those that are better to be excellent. A lot of the strategies we employed during the literacy program from 2002 to 2010, we are now employing in our e-learning strategy at the moment, and its systemic. Our e-learning strategy is not just a curriculum reform, in fact, it’s a systemic transformation—it’s intended to change the way teachers teach and students learn, and technology is one of the vehicles to do this. 


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