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Transforming Education for a New Era

The World Premiere of “We are the People We’ve Been Waiting For” took place in Leicester Square in London on 17 November 2009. A Q&A chaired by the Oscar-winning producer Lord Putnam immediately followed the screening and included the participation of Dr. Cream Wright, who recently retired from the position of Global Chief of Education in UNICEF and now heads a new venture called REDI4Change.

"The film convinced me more than ever that major change in education is inevitable and imminent,” said Dr. Wright. “The issue goes far beyond education reform. We desperately need to reinvent our education systems, not only to make them more inclusive, but also to promote multiple pathways to excellence; so that young people from all backgrounds can have greater choice in developing their talents and shaping their future".

The film centers on the lives of five youngsters from the town of Swindon in the United Kingdom from a range of backgrounds representative of the demographics of the country. It shows the many ways in which education systems, in the U.K. and elsewhere, are failing to prepare young people to meet the challenges they will inherit in our world.

It includes comments from leading personalities and key education experts on what is wrong with current education systems and what needs to be done to fix them. Originally conceived by Lord Putnam, who won an Oscar for "Chariots of Fire" and also directed "The Killing Fields”, the film features numerous influential personalities who share their personal experiences and insights on the education system, including Sir Ken Robinson, Bill Bryson, Sir Richard Branson, Henry Winkler, Dame Ruth Silver and Germaine Greer. 
The film highlights some innovative approaches to education around the world and stresses the need for a transformation of education systems in this era of globalization. It challenges us to recognize that there are many paths to success for young people and if given the right support and opportunities, they can truly develop their individual talents.

“I’ve no doubt that ‘We Are the People We’ve Been Waiting For’ has the potential to be a powerful catalyst for overdue educational reform,” said Lord Putnam. “We need to provide all of our young people with an education that motivates them to learn, and enables them to discover what they are good at.  ‘We Are The People We’ve Been Waiting For’ is intended to act as nothing less than a wake-up call.”

Exclusion and high dropout rates are problems that plague education systems worldwide. Young people today face increasing challenges that require them to be more resilient and adaptable than ever before. Poverty, climate change, conflicts and natural disasters, along with the economic crisis, call for more sustainable solutions. In 2007, 101 million children of primary school age – 53 million girls and 48 million boys – were not attending school.  In this era of interconnectedness, the repercussions of this can be felt around the globe.

UNICEF has been tackling these issues through the child-friendly school (CFS) model. Schools are not ‘one size fits all’ institutions, and children have diverse needs. They come to school with unique personalities and backgrounds, shaped by the differing circumstances of their homes and communities. Child-friendly schools build upon these assets. At the same time, these schools adjust for the factors in the home and community that might make it difficult for children to enroll in school, attend regularly and succeed in their studies.

“There are a lot of ripple effects from child-friendly schools that go out into the wider communities,” explains Dr. Wright. “It’s not just about getting a certificate and passing examinations in school. It’s really about preparing young people for the world in which they are going to be living in.”
Ensuring the best possible education for young people is an investment in our collective future. If we fail them, we fail our societies at large. This film gives a human face to a growing problem that affects us all.  Educating the world’s children is our obligation for we are the people they have been waiting for…



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