Worlds apart? Imagining the co-existence of the academic and the business life.

“That’s just academic!” snapped Brian when he and Jim from the nearby university were discussing the rights and wrongs of a particular manufacturing process deep in the heart of a failing car plant outside Birmingham.

“You’re just over complicating matters and imagining scenarios which are irrelevant for this particular application. You sit there with your arms folded, a look that says ‘so what?’ and a haircut that was fashionable back in 1982 when you were leading a critical theory module on post-partum physics.

You’ve over thought the whole project in this one business plan and it’s full of words with more than 3 syllables: how dare you use the word performativity when I don’t have a clue what you mean.

That’s the trouble with you academics, your language is obtuse and impenetrable and it fills me with suspicion. And actually I’m not interested in ‘on the other hand’ and ‘it depends’ because in my world, there is no ‘other hand’ and the only thing that anything depends on is whether it generates enough cash in the system. End of.”

Brian’s outburst that wet Monday morning in his Birmingham car plant is nothing unusal. Academia, academics and the academy are terms of abuse in many quarters (sometimes even in schools) especially by those who claim to inhabit the ‘real world’ and who would argue their position as one borne of pragmatism, realpolitik and rationalism. In that world, anything ‘academic’ is at best irrelevant, at worst self obsessed.

The pond which separates the academic from the entrepreneur is sometimes wide, sometimes murky but never without its interest and intrigues. C.P. Snow used to refer to the Two Cultures of the Humanities and the Sciences in the intellectual life of the West as being a major hindrance to solving the world’s problems: but with businesses increasingly spinning out of universities and with businesses frequently reconsidering how they can best transfer the knowledge from the conservatoire to the messiness of their production lines, there’s never been a better time for better cross cultural understanding to enable the academic to speak to the entrepreneur and vica versa.

Brian and Jim eventually patched up their differences over a game of darts in the nearby pub; but whether Brian can apply Jim’s knowledge, and whether Jim is even interested in trying to solve a production problem in an industry which is on its last legs is yet to be established.

All Our Futures: The Business of Education or the Education of Business?

We’re producing our next All Our Futures international education conference in June this year and, as it’s part of the International Festival of Business (IFB) which is being promoted across the Liverpool City Region, we thought it only right and proper to align the focus of the conference with the energy of IFB itself.

Which is all very well until you start thinking about the thorny relationship between those two apparently innocent concepts: ‘business’ and ‘education’.

Surely (and here I’m reminded of Prof. Derek Colquhoun, my Ph.D supervisor’s comment that any sentence that starts with ‘surely’ should ring lots of alarm bells immediately) the links between education and business are obvious and trouble free?

Educating children is about preparing them to get work, create work and become valuable net contributing members of our economy isn’t it? Surely education must attend to the needs of business in order to make sure that our net contributing members of the economy (aka children) can take their fit and rightful place at the big dining table of the Big Society? Surely schools should remember that fundamentally they are businesses in their own right and grow up and behave as such?

Well, surely these ‘surelys’ are going to get a right good going over on this blog in the months to come and throughout All Our Futures too. I hope you can join us – either online or in person – because we surely are going to put the world to rights during that week!

For more information please visit http://www.allourfutures.co.uk

All Our Futures, Brazil 2013: Calling School Prinicipals, Senior School Students and Artists for a once in a life time opportunity!

All Our Futures is Aspire’s annual conference for international school principals, head teachers and senior educators and offers a unique knowledge transfer programme which encourages sharing of skills, expertise and wisdom of school leaders, head teachers and schools principals from across the worlds’ schools.

This year we are planning one of our most exciting programmes ever: a week-long programme experiencing the schools and cultural life of one of the world’s iconic cities: Rio De Janeiro in Brazil.  Produced alongside dedicated programmes for senior school students (the Chaperones programme) and artist educators (the Artists in Residence programme), All Our Futures, Brazil 2013 will be one of the most memorable educational and cultural experiences of the year.

All Our Futures: School Principals and Head teachers programme

We will show you world leading practices in inclusive education; inspiring teacher development programmes; exemplar faith schools; and thrilling international schools and extraordinary community education in some of the world’s poorest communities – all addressing, in their own way, to some of Brazil’s biggest economic, educational and social challenges.

We are delighted to be working with the following partner schools:

SESC High School http://www.escolasesc.com.br/
Colegio Cruzeiro http://www.colegiocruzeiro.com.br
A Liessin Colegio Israelita Brasileiro http://www.liessin.com.br
Colégio Notre Dame Ipanema. http://ipanema.notredame.org.br/
Escola Nova http://www.escolanova.com.br
Instituto de Aplicacao Fernando Rodrigues da Silveira CAP-UERJ
Rede de Educacao Marcelinas Rio de janeiro -Colegio Santa Marcelina

who will be introducing your to their pedagogic practices and demonstrating their approaches to inclusive education, teaching and learning, school management systems and other fields of interest. Visits will include the opportunity to meet staff, observe lessons, meet students and share knowledge and experience of schools from other countries.

Chaperones: Student Cultural Exchange Programme

Chaperones is a fantastic programme of Inter-cultural learning for young people from contrasting backgrounds to learn about each other. With its rich history, iconic architecture and radical spirit, Rio de Janeiro provides the perfect backdrop for a creative educational programme.

Chaperones offers the opportunity to provide parties of up to 24 (20 young people aged between 14 and 18 years and 4 attached teachers) to participate in a one week Cultural Heritage programme cultural centres across Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.

Local schools offer hospitality to young international visitors to visit their young people and teachers. Visitors also participate in a series of placements with local cultural organisations such as Afroreggae and the museums and music venues in Lapa.

Visitors will also observe, participate and contribute to both the region’s heritage and by making contacts with local artists, teachers and cultural workers, ensure that links with students home countries are extended beyond the one week initial visit.

A full social programme will be provided for visiting students and accompanying teachers. This will include visits to local theatres, dance companies, films and of course the football teams!

Artist Educator Residencies

For artists, we are offering 5 day long residencies in a varity of settings which will enable them to develop their skills, expertise and contacts in a unique and unforgettable manner. We can offer residencies for visual artists, photographers, musicians, drama workers and story tellers and dancers.

Combining All Our Programmes!

Participants from both these additional programmes will also be involved in the first and last day of the All Our Futures programme with delegates on the main educational programme. If you would like further information about either of these programmes, please get in touch.

Excursions

No visit to Rio de Janeiro would be complete without a visit to some of the worlds most memorable sites and our programme will offer you a full range of travel experiences to add to the learning and sharing that will take place.  These include:

Sugar Loaf + Corcovado

Corcovado: One of the Seven Wonders of the World. The statue of Christ the Redeemer is the largest and most famous Art Déco sculpure in the World.  It is also the most visited monument in Rio, situated at 710 meters (2,329 feet) above sea level on the top of Corcovado mountain. From there one can have a 360-degree view of the city.

Sugar Loaf  is at 396-meter (1,299 feet) high  from where you can have  panoramic views of Copacabana, Botafogo and Flamengo beaches, Rio-Niteroi bridge and Guanabara bay. Access to the Urca Hill is by cable-car. Unquestionably beautiful views. You can also experience a helicopter panoramic trip (additional costs apply).

Favelas

The Favelas in Rio are lively residential areas, where a multitude of social activities, crafts, music and commerce take place. Besides the friendliness of its inhabitants, you will also be able to appreciate from above the most beautiful views of the city. The favelas in Rio are now safe places to visit with guided tours and recommended by many visitors.

Maracanã was once the biggest football stadium in the World, and  has now been partially rebuilt in preparation for the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup,  the 2014 World Cup which will be the first one held in Brazil since 1950, and also the 2016 Summer Olympics, and the 2016 Summer Paralympics.

Sambódromo is the place where the famous Rio carnival parade takes place. We will endeavour to take you to a samba pavillion too, time permitting!

Historic / Cultural Tour: options of itinerary, may include: Rio City Centre – History and Architecture; Fort and Fortress;  17th century Saint Benedict Monastery’s Church (a gem of Brazilian religion art, Barrocco-style); Santa Tereza (Rio’s Bohemian borough) amongst others.

Beaches Chill-out: enjoy the sun, and the sea. Observe the Brazilian culture of socialising and keeping fit. We will take you as many places as the group wish travel. We can organise the trip to some secluded beaches.

Boat Trip in the Guanabara Bay: the same route taken in 1500 with the arrival of the Portuguese in Brazil. The beautiful city skyline can be enjoyed in all its details. A wonderful start to the day!

Best of Rio Van tour: in a single day we will be visiting: Tijuca Forest, Christ The Redeemer, Sugar Loaf, Maracanã, Sambódromo and the Metropolitan Catedral. Includes lunch at a Churrascaria (Barbecue house)  in Copacabana. A Perfect start!

Jeep Tour:  Tijuca Forest: Statue of Christ the Redeemer, climbing back into the woods. Lunch at the Meadow Grill located at the Jockey Club in Gávea! Morro da Urca and Sugar Loaf, climbing cable car. The view is thrilling! A Must See! Botanical Garden. Considered one of the most beautiful places of Rio,  housing the museum of  Tom Jobim, and  variety of flower plants.

NIGHT ENTERTAINMENT

Plataforma Show: The largest and most traditional spectacle of the authentic Brazilian folklore. The show tells the story of Brazil in rhythms, melodies, songs and dances. For nearly two-hour show, a cast of graceful dancers and talented percussionists perform the cultural origins of Brazilian popular music, a result of the mix of Portuguese, Indians and Africans. The show ends in a parade in rich costumes highlighting some important characters of national history.

Lapa: an authentic Brazilian night-out in the city centre of Rio. Mingle with the Brazilians and feel the beats of live-music everywhere. All cultures in one place. We will be taking you to one the best music bars, where you can indulge in food, a variety of drinks and music.

 Our excursions are produced with our travel partner, Vie Travel

Vie Travel is engaged in promoting language, knowledge exchange and cultural immersion to overseas students and international businesses. Vie is a specialist travel company, concentrating its services on the educational and knowledge sectors. We provide packages and services specially designed to promote learning, language and culture. Our bespoke services are based on exceptional local knowledge, helping those traveling with education and learning in mind.

In addition, Vie also offers the traditional travel assistance such as sales of airline tickets, accommodation and hospitality. From 15 July 2013, language packages will be available for on-line booking.

So… what are you waiting for?!  Just drop me an email if you’d like to know more: nick@aspire-trust.org

Travelling 6000 miles away to find yourself at home: 500+ Reasons to be Cheerful at All Our Futures, Rio De Janeiro, October 2013

Reasons 84 – 584: Travelling 6000 miles away to find yourself at home

The maddening thing about travelling is forgetting the answer to the question you frequently ask yourself: why do you travel so far to do what you do at home? Before long, you eventually remember that travelling has little to do with leaving, as it is with finding, home.

It’s a powerful word ‘home’ and one you realise isn’t necessarily the village, town or country you grew up in; or the school or university you attended, or where the friends you made or the family you’re part of are located. It’s a combination of possibility, atmosphere and attitude that nudges you, where-ever you are, to recognising to yourself – ah yes, this is home: this is where I am tuned into, and this is what has tuned into me.

The concept that we are walking radio antennae has been ever present this week and the visit to Escola Sesc de Ensino Médio (SESC High School) in Jacarepaguá in Rio led to that oddest sensation of coming home to somewhere I have never been before and meeting people I have never met before: and yet, for a morning at least, this amazing campus became home.

To quote from its website:

“In February 2008, SESC High School opened its doors in Rio de Janeiro to a group of young enthusiastic residents from across the country. Those were teenagers aged 13-16 years who were given the opportunity to introduce an innovative experience in Brazil’s educational scenario: top-quality fulltime residential high school education.

This pioneering project was an initiative of Antonio Oliveira Santos, president of the National Commerce Confederation for Goods, Services and Tourism (CNC) and Social Service for Commerce (SESC) National Department, who saw the building of an educational community as an opportunity to educate children within a diversified environment, preparing them for both the job market and the exercise of leadership and citizenship.

He was clearly focused on: ‘Including Brazilian youngsters in the knowledge society with an emphasis on education for life.’”

Much web-speak is often only so much promotional media spin, cluttered up with clichés, cut-and-paste-thinking and as many graphics as the designer is encouraged to get away with. But in this instance, the SESC website reflects the reality and ambitions of its students, teachers and wider communities. We are looking forward to making it home for all our All Our Future delegates later this year.

More at http://www.escolasesc.com.br/

and here:

More here too: http://www.aspirecreativeenterprises.com/ACE/aof_rio.html

More on our travel partners here: http://www.govie.co.uk/events/

Finding Your Dancing Hips: 500+ Reasons to be Cheerful at All Our Futures, Rio De Janeiro, October 2013

All Our Futures, Rio is our next international conference for educators set in this iconic Brazilian city. This week involves visits to schools, educational and cultural partners – and some potentially awesome guests – who will be contributing to the event in October.

Reasons 1 – 4: Finding Your Dancing Hips

I started the week in the spirit which I hope will encapsulate the whole programme – a visit to the Rio Scenarium, a four floor emporium of bars, classic antiques, music and dancing opportunities for anyone and everyone. Couples of all ages swung, grooved, shook their stuff and mamba-ed and samba-ed and bossa-ed the night away. Its an old cliché to say that Brazilians have rhythm coursing their veins, but tonight saw hundreds of night-outers dance their way along the streets, in and out of the bars and along to the early morning. So if you can make it to our October conference – remember to bring your dancing hips. (I left mine at home, sorry to say – but that’s white English men of a certain age for you.)

Ana Chapman Fromm, our travel partner from VIE Educational Travel is spending the week introducing us to colleagues, family and friends who will no doubt make a great contribution to the programme. More reasons to follow!

More here too: http://www.aspirecreativeenterprises.com/ACE/aof_rio.html

More on our travel partners here: http://www.govie.co.uk/events/

Conferência Internacional Todos os Nossos Futuros: Brasil

A natureza da educação está mudando rapidamente em todo o mundo. Novos currículos e novas abordagens de ensino e aprendizagem, as condições de mudanças sociais em que as crianças e jovens estão crescendo, os desafios técnicos e ambientais que todos enfrentamos: todos estes produzem pressões extraordinárias sobre os valores, os propósitos e o papel da educação para professores e alunos.

A natureza da educação está mudando rapidamente em todo o mundo. Novos currículos e novas abordagens de ensino e aprendizagem, as condições de mudanças sociais em que as crianças e jovens estão crescendo, os desafios técnicos e ambientais que todos enfrentamos: todos estes produzem pressões extraordinárias sobre os valores, os propósitos e o papel da educação para professores e alunos.

O programa é um evento sem fins-lucrativos, direcionado para diretores de escolas, professores, líderes e gestores educacionais, visando introduzir as práticas pedagógicas locais para profissionais estrangeiros no setor de educação, com o objetivo de criar uma rede mundial de troca de conhecimento em práticas de ensino e aprendizado.

Sob a direção da autoridade, reconhecida e nomeada, do Dr. Nick Owen, Aspire Trust gostaria de contar com a participação das melhores escolas e iniciativas educacionais do Rio de Janeiro para esse evento – além dos convidados especiais que irão falar sobre diferentes aspectos da sua experiência profissional ligada ao ensino e desenvolvimento dos jovens brasileiros. Precisamos do empenho de sua organização em receber três educadores por 4 dias consecutivos em Outubro de 2013.

Trabalhando juntos, promoveremos idéias originais e visões positivas para o ensino de crianças e jovens no mundo inteiro.

For further information contact me at nick@aspire-trust.org

All Our Futures: International Education Conference at Hull University Welcoming Speech

Hull has been the City which helped me makes send of the turbulent times that had been going on in the English education system since 1997.

I was a relative newcomer to working in schools in 2002 when I joined the Aspire Trust. My memories of primary and secondary statutory education were mixed – a disrupted primary education, marred by parental disputes and continued house moving was followed by a secondary phase which was altogether more stable and safe and provided a context which allowed me and many of my school friends to look back in pleasure at those halcyon school days. Not quite ‘the best days of our lives’ but not far off it we all agreed when we met some weeks ago on a school reunion which took us back to the site where we had met some 40 years back.

But my friends and I were in one sense a privileged few. We had the benefit of having passed the state’s 11+ exam which allowed us then to be accepted at the local grammar school. Others though in our class were not so fortunate. Whether this was due to their being less academically inclined, less prepared to comply with the demands that primary schools made in those days, or just had a bad day when it came to sitting the test, their failure to pass that exam at such a young age meant that they were parcelled off to the local comprehensive school.

Whilst they too may look back at their time in secondary school as being the best days of their lives, we shall never know; that splitting of us at 11 years old made sure that we followed different educational paths, established different social networks and altogether had vastly different expectations of us. It was expected of us that we would be prepared for university; other our friends (who our parents talked about in hushed tones as somehow having ‘failed’ something) were prepared for the world of work – which in those days meant some kind of vocational training in retail, industry or perhaps even the armed forces.

In those days there was a definite split in the English education system – the academically capable went to grammar schools, those who weren’t, didn’t. Those who went to grammar school were prepared for university and careers in the professions; those who didn’t, weren’t. Those who went to university and the professions were prepared to run the country; those who weren’t, didn’t.

This split at 11 year old was – and to a large extent, still is – a reflection of the bipartheid nature of the English education system. This system still perpetuates today the polarity of the academic versus the vocational education in this country.

There are many other awkward and contestable polarities in our education system which you will no doubt encounter this week in your visits to our schools in Hull. The pressure for children to achieves versus the desire for them to enjoy their education; the need to behave within a certain type of socially acceptable behaviours versus the desire to ensure every child’s education should be about recognising them as unique individuals complete with their own dreams and desires; the pressure to train children for the work place and to gain employment in a real job versus the pressure to prepare children for life long learning and the vagaries of the future; the pressure to educate children in order to maintain social norms and to protect cultural values versus the pressure to educate to change the social norms.

These polarities are no doubt echoed in your own schools – and this is why we have called this conference, All Our Futures. It is clear to us that the challenges and joys we face in education here are the same challenges and joys that you face; whether this be dealing with the impact that a dysfunctional family can have on a five year old boys dreams, or witnessing the eureka moment when a 15 year old girl can play Beethoven’s Appassionata piano sonata all the way through for the first time.

Of course, our contexts are vastly different, our languages and cultural practices sometimes hard to fathom. No amount of conferencing will ever be able – nor should it ever endeavour to be able – to wipe away those differences and pretend that we can easily transport one set of educational tips and tricks to a far off land. Providing education is not like selling burgers at MacDonald’s.

Sometimes we may look at each other this week and realise that there are huge oceans of difference between us which can never be bridged. But we hope that our similarities and our common concerns will eventually bind us together this week in search for some solutions for the common good of all our children.

I hope that in our second All Our Futures conference that our mutual work, our shared conversations and our mutual presence will enable us to see ourselves as part of larger human jigsaw picture in which we all, like smaller jigsaw pieces need each other to fit together to provide a reflection of the human race as a whole.

I hope that we can paint a picture for our future generation of children and learners and that they can say that their futures started with All Our Futures here, today.

All Our Futures: International Educational Study Visit to Liverpool in partnership with the British Council Bulgaria

All Our Futures is Aspire’s annual conference for international head teachers which will take place in Liverpool between 4 and 8 March 2013. The event aims to introduce pedagogical practices which are being applied at various levels in English schools by providing participants with exclusive, intense immersive experiences in schools and do generate unique, high quality insights into teaching and learning.

We are delighted to announce that this year, All Our Futures is being produced in partnership with the British Council in Bulgaria: so we will be particularly looking forward to meeting Head teachers from Bulgaria and the wider Balkan region and introducing them to our schools in Liverpool.

Further details are here:

http://www.aspire-trust.org/all-our-futures-2013-2/

and photos of the visit here:

http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151543038237812.1073741827.657337811&type=1

Tips for Business Start Ups: 8 Questions to ask yourself about whether or not to export…

We’re increasingly being invited to talk to business audiences about the perils and pleasures of the export business – no doubt because of the pressures in the UK economic climate at the moment. We make the case that if we can export something – whether this be ideas, experiences, knowledge, products or services – then anyone can. In doing that, we found 8 questions we have kept on asking ourselves about why we started in the first place, and why we continue with it. They are:

1. Why do you want to do it? There has to be a point to you looking beyond your local shores; i.e. not just a bottom line but at least one or two ‘top lines’ which will affect your business, whether this be by improving the quality of your product, service or idea or improving your customer base.

2. Who are your partners? Because you will need partners, lots of them, in lots of different guises. You can’t do this stuff alone and if you can get support from your local LEP, UKTI, British Council or other national institutions then so much the better.

3. Who’s in the room right now? Sometimes (often) you don’t need to travel 1,000 miles to find an export partner. They may be sat right next to you, blissfully unaware of each others presence. Ask people on your own doorstep first, you’ll be astounded as to who they will introduce you to.

4. What are you selling? Products? Services? Knowledge? Access? Ideas? It doesn’t matter whether it’s one or all of these: but you have to be selling something that some-one elsewhere wants. Obvious really but sometimes an export drive can be seduced by the thrill of flights, cheap beer and balmy evening temperatures. As Milo Mindbender in Catch 22 infamously remarked, “There will always be trade.”

5. How do you deal with difference? Because you will be dealing with a ton of difference; not just food clothes and customs, but how people talk with you, their expectations of you, their business manners and table manners. If you think that your homeland can teach those people over there a thing or two about how to behave in business, then export may not be the right thing for you.

6. What language do you want to learn? You will need to learn another language – not just the phonetics, grammar and niceties of the spoken and written word- but the languages of money, of relationships, of success, of failure.

7. How will the cash flow? Once you’re talking turkey about selling turkeys to Turkey, then that’s the time to get the cash flow agreement in place. This is not easy but requires a dedication to duty sometimes beyond what is reasonable. But it matters immensely.

8. Are you running a sprint or a marathon? Are you in it for a quick fast buck or to build long term relationships? Both have their places and only you will know what’s right for your business; but just remember the nasty infections that lurk around the strangest corners. Cast your mind back to your school or university days if need be.

And in the end, the final question to ask is, Am I enjoying this? Because if not – you’re best staying put at home.