Tony Blair has called on leaders of the world’s richest countries to hold an education summit that works out ways of improving schooling in the developed world.
The former British prime minister said education had become a “global good” and that meant that governments should join together to develop learning everywhere. He also called for “radical” and “profound” changes in the way children are taught.
Mr Blair, who came to power in 1997 after famously proclaiming that his priorities were “education, education, education”, wants the G8 and G20 – clubs of the world’s big economic powers – to give education the same prominence as he had.
“It would be great to see the leading countries in the world have some education compact in which they agree to support and enhance the capability of countries to deliver a better education for their people,” he told the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai, last weekend.
Mr Blair cited the G8 summit he hosted at Gleneagles Scotland, in 2005, which aimed to provide developing countries with debt relief, as a model for what could be done for education.
John Bangs from Education International, a global federation of teachers’ unions, said: “The idea is superficially attractive because it focuses leaders’ minds on education and whatever you think of Blair he did make education his priority.
“But I think it is exclusive. Whether it is a G8 or G20 it leaves out lots of countries that are not part of that grouping and you end up with a two-tier system.”
But Mr Blair argued that it was up to the richer nations to come up with ways of supporting education in the rest of the world.
“If you can create education as a global good, those countries that are wealthier have got to be focusing their education programmes on how they help developing nations to get that effective capacity to deliver a change within their system,” he said.
“Being able to together produce some benchmarks that countries agree to of what you should be trying to do with your education system, and also to find some way of sharing best practice about that. I think is really important.”
Mr Blair also said that technology was “transformative” and “revolutionary” for education. “It should change profoundly the way we teach,” he said. “There are dangers but they are far outweighed by the potential benefits.
“Nowadays the teacher is not the repository of knowledge. When I was at school if the teacher didn't tell you something or you didn't read it in one of your textbooks, you didn't know about it.”
But now, he said: “The teacher is a guide. The teacher is not where [the pupil] gets all his information from.”
“The way we teach has got to change radically, the way we regard the profession of teaching,” he added.