The Partners in Learning (PiL) programme from Microsoft has been running for 5 years now (and 3 years in the UK), and has supported a wide range of educational projects in conjunction with government and educational agencies worldwide. In the UK, we've been working with organisations including the TDA, Childline, Becta and Futurelab on a wide range of projects (you can read about some of them on this blog, by searching on the PiL tag on the left).
I was reading the worldwide 2007 PiL Progress Report. With case studies themes of professional development, the developing world, ICT skills, innovative learning, collaboration and leadership, it appears there's something for everybody. Amongst all of the examples of projects around the world, there was a profile of a couple of UK specific parts that I thought you'd be interested in. What grabbed me was how the UK education system, and the changes we're undergoing are described to a worldwide audience:
The Enquiring Minds programme, which was designed by Futurelab, and which we support (not least with a a £1M PiL grant), was profiled within the report in the "Innovative Learning" section. I'll quote the author of the report:
The British education system has produced some of the greatest writers, scientists, and thinkers of the modern world. In recent years, however, educators and policymakers in the UK have begun to question whether the country's highly structured national curriculum and focus on examinations are developing the knowledge and skills that students need for the 21st century. Enquiring Minds, an innovative new approach to learning designed by UK research organisation Futurelab, and supported by a US$2 million grant from Partners in Learning, looks beyond test results toward a different goal: enabling children to become effective researchers, innovators, and creators of knowledge
The other article on the UK was about the Education Evidence Portal (EEP), which is a website designed to help teachers, and teacher trainers, find research on effective teaching and learning practice. Again, I'll lift directly from the introduction of the report:
A growing volume of research is identifying more effective teaching and school administration practices, but finding that information can be a major challenge for teachers, administrators and policymakers. As part of a government effort in the UK to support such "evidence-based practice," Microsoft UK is providing funding and technical support to help create an Education Evidence Portal and an E-librarian service that will enable educators, teacher educators, school administrators, and policymakers to quickly find the data they need to improve the quality, efficiency, and accessibility of education scholarship.
I'm all for this - it always strikes me that there's plenty of research going on, but it's difficult to find. So I went there and put in "whiteboards", and on the first page of results, got five research reports published by Becta on their contribution to teaching and learning, three Teachernet articles (including a "how to use whiteboards" article, and a Q&A) and one research report from the Economic & Social Research Council. That's pretty good, but what amazed me was that I didn't get anything else. No adverts for whiteboards, no sponsored links, no link to ebay to "Get great prices for whiteboards". Only quality educationally-relevant results. There's even a downloadable desktop search toolbar. Personally, I wish I'd discovered the EEP website years ago.
You can download the full Partners in Learning 2007 Progress Report, or read individual sections of the report on the website. Case studies from around the world include stories about what is happening in Brazil, Argentina, India, Colombia, Estonia, Hungary, Eqypt, Singapore, Australia, Cambodia, Thailand and the US.