If you were running the education system, how would you define success?

How would you define success for our education system? And once you’ve defined it, what would you choose to keep track of as the  “indicators” of success?

Those are the two overarching questions of People for Education’s 15th Annual Conference.

And this isn’t going to be one of those conferences where the “experts” just talk at you all day. This conference is interactive. It’s about conversations, solving problems together and, collectively, figuring out what we think the goals for education should be.

There are parents and others coming from Thunder Bay, Windsor, Flesherton, Parry Sound, Morrisburg, Ottawa, Terrace Bay, Toronto and everywhere in between. And there are speakers coming from Alberta, Ontario, New Brunswick, Boston and Finland!

Together we’re going to learn, come up with answers and share information.

Once again this year, we’re partnering with TVOParents to produce the conference – which means that more parents will have access to conference sessions, film clips and a live-streamed panel of experts who are going to help us figure out What Makes a Great Teacher. The teaching panel will be ably hosted by TVOParents’ Cheryl Jackson at 1:15 p.m. on Nov. 5th, and there will be a live Twitter feed! (#p4e2011)

Day 1 is going to start with the new Minister of Education, Laurel Broten. This is Ms. Broten’s very first speech as Minister of Education, but she brings with her lots of experience from her time as Minister of Children and Youth Services. It will be interesting to hear what her priorities are going to be in her new education file.

From Ontario, we’ll move to Finland. And we’ll have a conversation with Pasi Sahlberg, a very smart and very charming Finn who has spoken around the world on education. Pasi has a fascinating new book called Finnish Lessons – What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland? (He’ll have books with him.) Pasi’s not going to make a speech. He’s going to talk with us instead – answering questions from me and from the audience. We’ll ask him what Ontario can learn from Finland and we’ll get him to give his answers to the overarching questions from the conference.

Day 2 is really an “unconference” and it  will be driven by the participants. Our goal by the end of the day is to have collectively answered the overarching questions. How we get there is up to the attendees.

There are a few things I love about the conference. I love it when everyone introduces themselves in the morning and we realize how far people have come and how many places are represented. I love the hands-on practical information that’s available and I love the philosophical conversations about education.

So I hope lots of you can come, and you can think about this: Our kids are doing pretty well in reading, writing and math, we have labour peace, the graduation rate is going up, and Ontario would come out close to the top if we were in an education competition with other provinces and territories. But is that enough?

See you on the 5th and 6th.

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