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Sir John Daniel: Education and Democracy

Sir John Daniel

Maria Dubecki
Congress 2012 Correspondent

Distance education, institutional leadership, and international development were three topics explored in Sir John Daniel’s Education for Democracy keynote that took place Tuesday morning. By sharing his discoveries and experiences from Open University, the Education for All campaign, and Commonwealth Learning, Sir John Daniel revealed that education and democracy are more crucially related than we might currently believe.

Inspiring listeners towards accessible educational systems, Sir John Daniel proposed:

« A broad availability of educational opportunities for whole populations promotes democracy. »

Turning his discussion to the world’s greatest educational challenge – education at the secondary level – Sir John Daniel informed listeners of some unexpected (at least to me) findings: mainly, that Canada has ranked 9th in the 12 most democratic countries, but failed to make the top 20 in the list of countries with the highest secondary enrollment.

But the challenge of secondary education enrollment is a universal problem. Sir John Daniel shared that the success of the Universal Primary Education program (which aimed to make universal primary education a reality by 2015) emphasized the lack of universal secondary education. Children are completing primary education but have no secondary path to continue on.

Sir John Daniel’s solution? Accessibility – which includes open schooling, distance learning, and open educational resources. Interestingly, Sir John Daniel argued that a more accessible educational system might also include private education for the poor. He explained that in many countries, such as India, public teachers often fail to show up to their assigned students, but private teachers prove to have a higher level of commitment. Inspiring and awakening listeners to the subject of accessible secondary education, Sir John Daniel expressed that “the problem is so desperate that any means that can be used should be used.”

It was an inspiring and eye-opening experience to hear Sir John Daniel’s keynote address at Congress 2012. In two days he will step down from his full-time position as the President of Commonwealth Learning to begin his new part-time assignment with Beijing DeTao Masters Academy – we wish him the best of luck!