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Oceans of Innovation

The Atlantic, the Pacific, Global Leadership, and the Future of Education

Institute for Public Policy Research, August 2012

CREDIT: Thomas Tolkien (CC).

By Michael Barber, Katelyn Donnelly, and Saad Rizvi


There is much debate in academic and intellectual circles about whether we will see an Asian or a Pacific century ahead, or whether the United States will emerge from the doldrums and lead in the next century as it did in the past one. This paper takes a different perspective. We take as a point of departure the fact that, after 350 years of Atlantic leadership of the global economy, we will see the Pacific rise. At the very least, the Pacific will share that leadership.

The questions we focus on and the debates we believe necessary are: What kind of leadership will the twenty-first century require? To what extent is the Pacific region ready to provide this leadership? And what are the implications of the answers to these questions for public policy in the region and for education systems in particular?

Our answers to these questions emphasize the importance of innovation. Innovation drives economic influence; economic influence underpins global leadership; and global leadership requires innovation to solve the many problems facing humanity in the next half century. If this is correct, and innovation is the key, then even the best education systems in the world, many of them clustered around the Pacific, need to radically rethink what they offer every student.

This philosophy of everyone as an entrepreneur and innovator is not what underpins education anywhere in the world right now. If the Pacific region is to provide global leadership, or a large share of it, then education systems there face a major challenge of transformation. This is the case we make here.

This paper is the result of constant dialogue among the authors as we've worked together, first on education reform in Pakistan (in which we are still involved), and second as part of an innovative team at the heart of Pearson, the world's largest education company, where we are seeking to resolve the dilemmas of providing quality education to people of all ages on every continent. In addition, we share a restless curiosity and an insistence on evaluating the world we live in.

We want to draw attention to two specific aspects of our dialogue. The first is that each of us was born and raised on a different continent—a European, an American, and an Asian—and each therefore brings a different perspective. In addition, all of us have worked and travelled in many locations around the world. Of course, we are still no more than three individuals seeking to understand the complexities of the twenty-first century, but we do have at least some capacity to bring a global perspective to bear on the issues.

Second, our dialogue is intergenerational—Michael as a 50-something engaged in vigorous debate with Katelyn and Saad, two 20-somethings. As our debates rage, we have a feeling, perhaps borne out by some of the recent literature on creativity and innovation, that intergenerational dialogue is potentially highly productive in inspiring innovation, and ought to be consciously developed by organizations that want to thrive in the twenty-first century. For this reason, Michael suppresses his periodic tendency to wish that his younger colleagues would show deference, while Katelyn and Saad smile sympathetically at Michael's attempts to come to terms with modern technology.

For the same reasons, we share equally the responsibility for the resulting paper and for any errors that remain.

External Link: CONTINUE READING: Oceans of Innovation

Read More: Communication, Culture, Diplomacy, Economy, Education, Globalization, Innovation, Technology, Youth, Americas, Asia, Oceania

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