[In this op-ed, Wendy Kopp, CEO and co-founder of Teach For All, and Dzingai Mutumbuka, former Minister of Education for Zimbabwe and Chair of the Association for Education Development in Africa, argue that achieving quality education for all requires investing in local leadership. This can be done through investments in the global education ecosystem, which includes new partnerships among bilateral and multilateral donors, the philanthropic community and global nonprofit organizations. The op-ed also references R4D and the Joint Learning Network for Universal Health Coverage and their support for public health ecosystems.]
This month, heads of state and senior officials from all 193 United Nations member states are gathering in New York City to try to make progress on some of the world’s thorniest development challenges — including ensuring quality education for all. Progress on this front is not just a moral imperative; it is also vital to put countries on the path toward sustainable development. But success will not be easy. It will require significant new investments in local leadership — an element of international development work that has rarely gotten the attention it deserves.
“Leadership,” in this case, doesn’t necessarily mean an individual positioned at the top of a government or business hierarchy. Rather, it is defined by actions aimed at improving a community’s wellbeing, and it can come from anyone. We have seen firsthand how the presence of a diverse set of engaged leaders at all levels — educators, parents, students, policymakers, advocates, and others — can make or break efforts by a community or country to maximize opportunities to improve its education system.
The good news is that educators and education advocates worldwide now seem to be recognizing the value of informed local leadership. The International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity recently called for greater investment in a “global ecosystem for education” that would help to cultivate more of such leadership. The rest of the international community should heed that call.