Schools2030: Fostering inclusivity, equity, and pluralism in education

The Schools2030 Global Forum reconvened this summer, bringing together leaders in education to address a crucial question: How can we foster more inclusive schools, equitable education systems, and pluralistic learning societies for all?

Mawlana Hazar Imam regularly reminds us that pluralism is vital to our existence in the modern world. It means that we should encourage our society to be diverse, accepting, and inclusive of other cultures, beliefs, and outlooks. The role of education in this endeavour is central, which is why the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) places high importance on improving education systems around the world.

As part of this broad aim, the annual Schools2030 conference, co-hosted by the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) and the Government of Portugal, took place in Porto in June. The forum brought together education system stakeholders, including teachers, school leaders, youth, civil society leaders, and global organisations, to collaborate and reflect on ways to enhance education delivery.

Prince Amyn and Porto’s Mayor Rui Moreira were present at the opening ceremony, along with Portugal’s Minister of Education João Costa, and representatives from AKDN.

With this year's focus on inclusivity, equity, and pluralism in education, the Global Forum helped to encourage meaningful conversations from diverse perspectives, bridging the gap between school-level and system-level changes. It also provided a platform for educators from Schools2030's programme countries to showcase their ideas and innovations for improved classroom practices and learning outcomes. A new addition to the Forum this year included a Youth Workshop, where young people from around the world had the opportunity to present their recommendations to policymakers and senior leaders in education.

The global initiative, which began in 2020, is a 10-year participatory learning improvement programme implemented in a thousand government schools across ten countries: Afghanistan, Brazil, India, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Portugal, Tajikistan, Tanzania, and Uganda. Focusing on the transition years at ages 5, 10, and 15, the initiative aims to improve holistic learning outcomes for some of the most marginalised students around the world, through a focus on teacher agency. It supports teachers to design and implement education micro-innovations, enabling schools to bring about powerful changes in small, unique ways.

Schools2030 collaborates with 10 national governments, 10 local research and design partners in the Global South, 1000 schools, 50,000 teachers, and 500,000 learners.

Ahead of the Forum, the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) interviewed Bronwen Magrath, AKF’s global programme manager for Schools2030, to gain insights into the Forum and the broader initiative.

“Like education at AKF more broadly, the goal is to raise holistic learning outcomes,” said Dr Magrath. “By that, we mean equipping young people with the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values they need to thrive and contribute to their community.”

She also emphasised the importance of Schools2030's direct collaboration with teachers:

“We recognise and work to amplify teachers as leaders, innovators, and active agents of education. Over the past two years, we've developed a suite of different tools, resources, and training modules with and for teachers to support them in developing, targeting, and contextualising classroom-level educational innovations and improving learning.”

Schools2030's focus on teacher agency is particularly special as it highlights that the best ideas often originate from dedicated and passionate teachers in the classrooms, as well as young student leaders who aspire to create change. Dr Magrath referred to the origin of Schools2030 as an "experimental approach," emphasising that bringing about change in education requires bridging the gap between students, teachers, and policymakers.
When asked about the key learnings between last year's Global Forum in Dar-es-Salaam and this year's event in Portugal, she highlighted the crowd-sourced ideas for the workshops.

“When we invited delegates to the Forum, we asked them to propose challenge session workshops that they would like to lead. For example, is there an equity-related challenge in their programming, research, or funding that they would like to bring to the Forum?”

Dr Magrath emphasised the opportunity given to student leaders, teachers, and other invited participants to present questions about equity, pluralism, or inclusivity, enabling a diverse mix of brainstorming and problem-solving. This underscores the importance of events like the Global Forum and initiatives like Schools2030, as they provide a platform for collaborative work. When asked why it’s crucial to bring the sector together for such events, she reiterated that we are stronger together.

“All our voices, when isolated, cannot address the education crisis,” she said. “However, if we come together, we are stronger. As we said at the last Global Forum, ‘alone we go fast, together we go far.’”

To learn more, visit the Schools2030 website or search for Schools2030 on social media.