Connecting with Network Alumni and Education Experts at CIES 2019

Yusra Akhtar, Teach For Pakistan Alumna
(Left to right): Teach For All network alumni Saki Malose (Teach For India), Yue-Yi Hwa (Teach For Malaysia), Priyal Gala (Teach For India), Yusra Akhtar (Teach For Pakistan), and Judit Llavina Serra (Empieza por Educar)

Last month, I was lucky enough to attend the annual Comparative and International Education Society (CIES) Conference in San Francisco. The theme of the conference was Education for Sustainability, and the diverse attendees from across the field of education made for an exciting week in a dynamic city. A palpable vibe engulfed me as soon as I stepped into the conference hotel, with a plethora of activities taking place at every corner!

I was invited to the CIES Conference to present a paper I’d authored and was excited to share my findings while also looking forward to the opportunities for collective learning and sharing that the conference promised. I hoped to connect with others working in different areas related to education, to learn more about other thematic areas and regional systems, and to make meaningful connections. I am happy to say that I had a chance to do all this and more.

The conference was packed with academic, professional, and social activities and it was extremely inspiring to have such a diverse gathering of people under one roof—from students and researchers to academics, practitioners, and experts. Some of the most meaningful moments for me included the opportunities to push the boundaries of my knowledge, and the occasions when researchers and practitioners initiated discussions with me about my own work and research. One of the most insightful and impactful experiences I had at the event was participating in an intimate round table discussion with five attendees about educating and integrating immigrant children, issues that are very meaningful to me.

Another highlight was meeting and sharing some enlightening moments with other Teach For All network alumni at the conference! Our group included myself, Yue-Yi Hwa (Teach For Malaysia), Saki Malose (Teach For India), Priyal Gala (Teach For India), and Judit Llavina Serra (Empieza por Educar in Spain). It was our first time meeting each other, but what was amazing (and this is not the first time I have felt this with alumni from across the Teach For All network) was the natural affinity and bond that quickly developed between us.

What really stuck with me from the time I spent with my fellow network alumni was an understanding and realisation of how many like-minded alumni there are all over the world, and how empowering it would be to share a space with many more of them where we could discuss our experiences with our students, and our hopes and dreams for them. For someone like me, who draws immense motivation and power from alumni networks and their potential, an opportunity like this was eye-opening. I think all Teach For All network alumni should have a chance to connect with others in their region and around the world.

What's great is that there are so many ways to do so—from global events like the CIES conference, to the helpful platforms Teach For All's global organization supports, including Communities of Practice and alumni Facebook groups, to simply reaching out on social media and email! There are so many of us creating, innovating, and making great strides in our collective mission, across borders. While we may come from different countries and backgrounds, so many of the issues we are collectively tackling for students are universal and systemic in nature.

It amazes to me to think of the wonderful Teach For All network alumni I met at the CIES conference, and how the global network connects us to so many others spread all over the world who are also working towards educational equity. I would encourage all network alumni to take the initiative and just reach out.

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