K-12 education gets its first worldwide representative body

Sunny Varkey, Founder, GEMS Education
Launched by Sunny Varkey, the Global Independent Schools Association aims to be the ‘go to’ voice for the independent education sector

Dubai, Nov 23, 2022: The first worldwide representative body for the K-12 independent education sector was launched on Wednesday. The Global Independent Schools Association has been launched with an urgent call for greater knowledge sharing between the independent sector and governments to help improve education across the world. Crucially, GISA hopes to make its voice heard as a valued partner in achieving SDG4: ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education for all by 2030.

Launched by Sunny Varkey, the Founder of GEMS Education, the global association seeks to co-ordinate, represent and give a voice to the global K-12 independent education sector. The aim is to fill a ‘representation void’ of a sector that educates 350 million children around the world, including 52% of secondary school children in South Asia and 45% of primary school children in Latin America.

The association aims to become the ‘go to’ voice for the independent education sector, showcasing its impact, and acting as a resource for the world’s governments and global institutions to tap into, talk to, and, in times of crisis, lean on. It will provide a forum for the sector to share its vast body of accumulated knowledge and expertise within the independent sector. At the same time, it aims to work with policymakers and governments throughout the world to help raise standards in schools of every background, whether public, independent or third sector.  

Varkey, who has also founded the Global Teacher Prize and is a signatory of the Giving Pledge, urgently rallied leaders across the global independent education sector to form the new body off the back of September’s UN General Assembly, where it became increasingly clear that the time is running out to achieve SDG4.

Speaking in support of GISA’s launch, Andreas Schleicher, Director of Education and Skills for the OECD, says, “Getting the independent sector to raise its voice in service of the public good is hugely important. Tomorrow’s economy will be unforgiving for those without a strong education and skills for the future. Unless the independent sector joins others – governments, business, NGOs – to work out how we educate and skill up a new generation, valuable expertise will remain siloed, and solutions will be lost”.

For the first time, some of the leading names in global K-12 independent education have united to form this new body. GISA’s Executive Board which will shape its strategic direction includes Andrew Fitzmaurice, CEO of Nord Anglia Education; Sunny Varkey, Founder of GISA; Nadim Nsouli, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Inspired Education; Frank Maassen; Group CEO of Cognita; Brian Rogove, Group CEO of XCL Education; and Dino Varkey, CEO of GEMS Education. The association launched with a call to action to attract members from around the world, whether they are a single classroom private school in a low-income country, a school run by a charity or foundation, or a school operating within a multinational chain.

Influential education luminaries have also agreed to join the Advisory Board of GISA to help shape its strategy and direction. Members include Victoria Colbert, Columbia’s former Vice-Minister of Education and Executive Director of Fundación Escuela Nueva; Sir Anthony Seldon, former Vice-Chancellor of Buckingham University; Professor Li Wei, Director and Dean of the UCL Institute of Education; Vijay Kumar, Executive Director of the Abdul Latif Jameel World Education Lab at MIT; Mercedes Mateo, Head of Education at the Inter-American Development Bank; Dr Siva Kumari, former Director General of the International Baccalaureate; and Trevor Rowell, Chair of the Council of British International Schools.

Andrew Fitzmaurice, CEO of Nord Anglia Education and Chairman of GISA’s Executive Board, says “Independent schools are often centres of innovation that introduce new methodologies, pedagogic styles, and technologies. GISA members can provide considerable insight and best practice, which can be shared to benefit state and independent schools everywhere. From important areas such as supporting the professional development of teachers to the latest uses of technology in teaching and learning, we can make an even greater impact on education by working together.”

With 35 per cent of children in least developed countries (as classified by the UN) attending schools in the non-state sector and 18 per cent in fragile and conflict affected situation according to the World Bank, GISA particularly hopes to share the impact and innovations from these schools to help deliver a quality education in parts of the world where it is most urgently needed. GISA believes this is more important with data showing that on average, students globally are eight months behind where they would have been due to the pandemic.

GISA members will be able to share knowledge, co-create resources, and receive access to cutting-edge research and reports, innovative workshops, and prestigious events. GISA also aims to hold an annual conference where governments, businesses, NGOs, and leading thinkers will gather once a year for a high-level discussion on how to speed up the goal of achieving quality education for all.

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