Senior Associates Bridget McNamer, Nick Kendell, Gez Hayden, and COO Rajiv Bhat enjoyed participating in the annual Leadership Conference of the East Asia Regional Council of Schools (EARCOS) this October 25th–27th in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Excellent keynote speakers and workshop presenters graced the event, whose theme was EARCOS 50th: Celebrating Our Legacy; Inspiring Our Future.
Bridget participated in a session on Women in Leadership. This panel discussion included representatives from International Schools Services, Council of International Schools, Carney Sandoe, and Teach Away. The room was packed with lots of women (and a few men!) who were keen to learn from recruiters about their perspectives on how women can better position themselves for leadership opportunities in international schools.
One of the key messages that came across from the recruiters: Apply! Many women tend to hold themselves back from applying to leadership roles, either because they don't "check all the boxes" of the listed requirements (men with a similar set of qualifications tend to apply anyway), or because they don't feel they can—or want to—handle the position as it is described, or because they just want to get a few more years in the trenches before they feel really ready for the role. Recruiters on the panel addressed these issues and tried to inspire the session participants to apply for leadership roles even if they had some of these concerns. They provided some practical ideas for how to think through these challenges and would-be obstacles.
This year’s EARCOS conference was the largest ever, with over 1,000 delegates. It was also very well attended by exhibitors, and the Search Associates desk attracted a large number of people during the breaks. Discussions included some conversations on teacher recruitment as well as Search Associates’ plans going forward. An email we sent six weeks ago notified Search Associates members of changes in our organizational structure as well as our new strategic plan. Our new application management system APLi has garnered a lot of attention, and Gez guided many school heads and other administrators smoothly through demos of the platform.
As always, the key note addresses were very well attended. The first speaker Sir John Jones is one of a select band of educational professionals who have been globally recognized for their knowledge and passion. One of the most entertaining, inspiring and sought-after speakers on the global educational stage, Sir John’s achievements and reputation for straight-talk, leadership, and creativity have led him to be invited to a number of panels and think tanks. And he did not disappoint! He spoke about lessons from the past, the changing world and its impact on education, what we should leave behind, what we should take with us, essential shifts in global educational priorities, why working smarter together—not harder alone—is the only option.
Pasi Sahlberg delivered the keynote on the second day. Pasi, who has worked as school teacher, teacher educator, researcher, and policy advisor in Finland, has also studied education systems, analyzed education policies, and consulted on education reforms around the world. His widely acclaimed book, Finnish Lessons 2.0: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland, won the 2013 Grawemeyer Award for an idea that has potential to change the world. Currently a professor of education policy at the Gonski Institute for Education, University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, Pais has also been the recipient of many awards. His keynote busted some prevalent and harmful myths related to Finnish schools. He also offered practical ideas for educational leaders to strengthen student learning, well being, overall educational performance, and school leadership. Pasi concluded by delivering, to those who plan to move ahead in leadership roles, a set of adopted models—or solutions—from Finnish and other successful education systems.
Without a doubt, the highlight of the conference was the last day’s keynote given by Kim Phuc and sponsored by Search Associates. Known as the “napalm girl,” or simply as “the girl in the picture,” Phan Thi Kim Phuc is the nine-year-old Vietnamese girl depicted in photographer Nick Ut’s iconic Pulitzer Prize-winning photo, shot after a U.S. led napalm bombing of Kim’s village during the Vietnam War on June 8, 1972. Severely burned and not expected to survive, Phuc endured 17 surgeries and recovered over 14 months. In 1997, she established The Kim Foundation International to help child victims of war. She is a lifetime UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for the Culture of Peace and travels the world sharing her inspiring message of love and forgiveness. Rajiv says,
“Lessons learned from Kim Phuc’s ordeal and her amazing survival resonated with every single person in the audience; her inner struggles, how she learned to forgive and came to see the famous photograph as a powerful way to spread a message of love, hope, and forgiveness was incredibly moving. It is not an exaggeration to say that there wasn’t a dry eye in the auditorium at the end of her talk. Search Associates is very proud to have sponsored her keynote.”
Overall, as always, we were greatly pleased to be at the EARCOS Leadership Conference 2018, among old friends with whom Search Associates goes back decades and among new friends with whom we look forward to building relationships in the decades ahead.