12/21/2012 01:46 pm ET Updated Feb 20, 2013

Are We Inspiring the Next Generation of Leaders?

This is a question that garners agreement and begins debates. We cross a turbulent landscape where competing definitions of leadership abound; where the very nature of leadership is the stuff of argument, where conflicting philosophies of education each generate their own understanding of what makes for an effective leader and how a good leader should behave, and where notions of how we must go about educating and training the next generation of education leaders scatter in every direction at once.

But such observations are not a counsel of despair. Far from it! Just as education itself can never be a science in any accepted sense--it is a sphere in which battles will always be fought between philosophies, beliefs, ideologies, cultures, prejudices and histories--so these same battles are reflected in the ever-restless and exciting debates and discussions around leadership in education.

Whatever our own standpoint might be, we should accept that one voice is often missing from this unruly discourse: that of young people, the very group most often affected by the decisions of education leaders. Just as they are absent from educational debates generally, so youthful voices are too often muted when the topic is the leadership of the social good that is utterly central to their futures: their education.

Education Fast Forward (EFF), an organization sponsored jointly by Promethean and Cisco, brings together leading global experts and change agents from the world of education to discuss "the topics that matter most." Joining with the online leadership community the organization seeks to leverage all forms of social media to distribute knowledge and awareness of these important topics.

In July 2012, in the most recent of the five debates organized by EFF, a group of elo-quent and youthful voices debated the topic 'From Learner Voice to Global Peace'. The young people were located all across the globe and came together primarily through the wonder of Telepresence (TP), a high-definition video conferencing technology. The discussion that day was not only intelligent and thoughtful: it was truly inspiring for everyone involved. The full debate can be watched and listened to on Promethean Planet.

And now, in January 2013, during the annual Education World Forum, to be held in London, another group of exceptional young people will come together through the magic of TP to talk about 'From Learner Voice to Emerging Leaders'. It will bring together articulate and intelligent voices from the world's youth to discuss issues relevant to young people themselves and to their education. Those of us involved in EFF have some hopes and expectations of what might come out of the event, but we are also highly aware that there must be a genuine space in amongst our presumptions for the young people themselves to come to the fore during and beyond the discussion.

The discussion to be had will involve:
  • the structure of curriculum
  • how education is delivered across the world
  • the relevance of education to their lives
  • how to encourage real change in the relationships between people in education systems

As this event brings together many education policy makers, we need all policy makers to take on board the knowledge that they are making decisions now that will affect the generation ahead, and perhaps more than one generation ahead. We also need the policy makers to realise the extraordinary value that can be created by tackling education's challenges with people rather than doing it to them.

And all of this will be happening across a truly international matrix of connections, crossing countries, cultures, and communities. In the New Year I will be blogging again with details of the date and time, and with information about the key speakers, young and not-so-young, who will be leading the discussion. Watch out for that!

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