Innovation in Education - a meeting with Charles Leadbeater

Last week I attended Learning Without Frontiers, which is rapidly occupying a similar place in the educational conference universe to the late lamented opulent Learning And Technology World Forum, held each year just before BETT at Olympia, whose 2011 event fell victim to government cuts in autumn 2010.  Among the attractions, at the stand for WISE, a Qatar-based Foundation, was a book signing by Charles Leadbeater, the charismatic consultant who was the research leader of the study Learning from the Extremes, conducted for Cisco Education, which was one of the key influences on the VISCED bid. His book is called Innovation in Education: Lessons from Pioneers around the World.

I had the good fortune to come at the time when the queue was short, so allowing me the opportunity for a useful chat with Charles - as well as getting my copy of his book signed, of course.

I began by asking him if he had any other education work ongoing at present. He said not, but "was always open to interesting offers". Since one of my other interests is organisational change in universities and colleges, I then asked him about recent work similar to his for universities. His answer indicated that there were some discreet studies.

My final question was, out of all the examples in his book, what did he think was most relevant to virtual schools in Europe. Without hesitation he said it was the African Institute of Mathematical Sciences. This educates promising talented African students to study in leading European and US universities. (To date 305 students from 30 African countries have graduated from the Postgraduate Diploma programme.) 

It was particularly interesting that Charles focussed on the bridge from school to university. Perhaps that is one of the things that is not well done in any country in the world, as the depressing OECD figures on retention demonstrate. 

There were lots of other interesting people and events at Learning Without Frontiers, but my meeting with Charles Leadbeater was one of the highlights.


Paul Bacsich, in Sheffield



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