31 interviews with former ministers to think the future of education

“Daily fast-pace does not always allow us to stop and think about the direction of the educational task. However, the goal cannot be to return to “normalcy” because many children did not find it useful. We have to reimagine education as something better than what it used to be. This book is an invitation to do so”.

Arne Duncan, former U.S. secretary of Education in the Obama administration

“31 candid interviews with expert sources from all over the world. Decades of experience: Porres conducts a global chorus of voices that places children back at the center of the education conversation. Again and again, we are reminded that the path to achieve quality education is found in the full development of teachers”.

Maggie MacDonnell, ganadora del Global Teacher Prize 2017

“We have to deepen the dialogue to understand what has worked and what we have to keep thinking about. As a society, we have to listen to all voices and take on this enormous challenge that lies ahead. The crisis challenges us to think calmly and act decisively. Agustin invites us to that conversation with that double rhythm of vision and thinking about the long term”.

Stefania Giannini, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education

How to improve education?

How can we make education over partisanship?

What changes could remain?

Does the pandemic represent a turning point?

How to bet on the long term while attending to emergencies?

How to make education a public demand?

How to improve education? Where to start? and does the pandemic represent a turning point? In May 2020, as the first steps of a tough quarantine began, Agustin Porres decided to put those questions on the table.

Who could answer them? In that search, he began to talk via Zoom with former ministers of education from all over the world, whom he knew from his work at the Varkey Foundation. But Porres did not want to hear only about their successes. Rather, he wanted to know the battles they had failed to win, the reforms they had left pending, the decisions they would not take again.

And on the other hand, he wanted to know what concrete opportunities they saw presenting themselves in this post-pandemic scenario. The result is a frank conversation with world leaders in education.

The book is prefaced by Andreas Schleicher, Director for the Directorate of Education and Skills at the OECD and head of the PISA report, and features the voices of 31 world education leaders, including Arne Duncan of the United States, Julio María Sanguinetti of Uruguay, Ju Ho Lee of South Korea, Stefania Giannini of Italy, Daniel Filmus and Esteban Bullrich of Argentina, George Papandreou of Greece and Julia Gillard of Australia.

The voices of the protagonists:

Excerpt from the foreword by Andreas Schleicher

It takes time to discover the hidden social fabric of education systems and to understand the political economy of educational reform. But a new education minister will rarely have that time. From day one, they need to make tough choices when evaluating policy alternatives. Should they pursue what scientists tell them is most effective and technically feasible? What is most politically and socially desirable? What can be implemented quickly? What can be sustainable over a given time horizon?

While these challenges are real, we make our lives unnecessarily difficult by too easily discarding valuable experience that was gained in preceding electoral cycles. Sometimes blinded by political choices and ideological imperatives, policy-makers rarely consult educational leaders engaged in past administrations when initiating new reforms.

Agustín Porres has taken that as an opportunity. He has asked former education ministers to share their experience with reform priorities, what they did to put those into practice, but also where they struggled and what they would do differently if they were given another chance. The lessons offer powerful insights and provide a rare moment for reflection on how to build better, fairer and more effective education systems.

Powerful insights in an exceptional time

Excerpt from the foreword by Andreas Schleicher

About the author

Agustín Porres

Buenos Aires, 1984

@agustinporres (Buenos Aires, 1984) studied Philosophy at the Catholic University of Argentina, where he also completed a postgraduate degree in Politics, Government and Administration. He also holds a master’s degree in Public Policy from Georgetown University’s McCourt School.

He is the Regional Director of Latin America at the Varkey Foundation, an organisation dedicated to celebrating and empowering the teaching profession around the world. He worked in the Ministry of Education of the city of Buenos Aires, as well as in the National Social Security Administration.

He led the Educational Policy sector of Fundación Contemporánea and was Executive Director of FormarHub in the United States. Additionally, he is a founding member of the Latin American Coalition for Excellence in Teaching, a group that brings together experts from the region to design reforms for the teaching career.

He frequently writes for the leading media organisations in Argentina and Latin America at large, and is annually invited to serve as a judge for organisations that work to recognise teachers in the region.

He is a visiting professor at the Austral University, has taught at various universities and is a member of the alumni board of the McCourt School at Georgetown University. He is married to Inés and they have three children.

“We have to change the models of surveillance for those of trust”.

Gloria Vidal, former minister of education of Ecuador

“Today’s context presents an opportunity to discuss what to teach”.

José Weinstein, former viceminister of education of Chile

“Reforms only exist when they reach the classroom”.

Leonardo Garnier, former minister of education of Costa Rica

“The greatest success will never be mine; it belongs to the students”.

Arne Duncan, former secretary of education of United States.

“Educational systems have to be above party politics”.

Androulla Vassiliou, European Education Commission

Available in bookstores