Last weekend, CEOs from across the Teach For All network met in Shanghai to experience first-hand PISA’s highest ranking education system, often called “the best school system in the world.” During their stay in Shanghai, the group visited local public schools, met with the city’s Minister of Education, and explored the reasons behind the system’s success with national and international education thought-leaders, including Shanghai Normal University President, Zhang Minxuan, and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Tom Friedman.
“It was striking to hear Professor Zhang, who was among the leaders of the city’s educational transformation over the last two decades, cite their ‘open door policy'—their search for best practices from around the world—as among the greatest drivers of progress,” shared Teach For All Co-Founder and CEO Wendy Kopp at the Global Conference opening lunch on Tuesday. “It seems obvious that we should take a global approach, but it is news given a prevailing ideology that education is inherently local.”
Javier Rogla, CEO of Spanish partner organization Empieza por Educar, summed up the most compelling collective take-aways from Shanghai:
“Great outcomes can be obtained by a sustaining value set and a great system in place. In the case of Shanghai, the value set is: 1) high expectations, 2) hard work and 3) fairness. The system is constructed around high investment in professional development for teachers, an openness to innovation, and a pursuit of improving the lowest-performing schools and learning communities.”
Strong relationships with parents, integration of students, and purposeful use of technology were also widely evident.
Teach For All Chief Operating Officer Nick Canning was both “frustrated and inspired” by the implications of the CEOs’ shared experience in Shanghai. “Frustrated by how straightforward and well-known the drivers of success are and how little the politicized education debate focuses on them in many countries in the network. Inspired by what Shanghai had achieved in such a short period of time, the applicability of their lessons, and the potential for our network in spreading them."
New York Times columnist Tom Friedman joined the CEOs throughout their visit, and was equally impressed by what the architects of Shanghai's education system have achieved. In a column published in the paper today, The Shanghai Secret, he demystifies the drivers behind the system’s success.