International Council Meeting Report, Lisbon, 2017

Friday 6 October 2017

Melanie Aplin, Head of International Programmes and Cultural Exchange reports back on the International Council Meeting 2017.

From Wednesday 27th to Saturday 30th September, delegates and guests from ESUs around the world attended the International Council meeting in Lisbon, Portugal. In the run-up to the ESU's centenary the week was filled with discussions about the ESU’s role in oracy education and how to ensure it remains relevant for the next 100 years. Attendees also had plenty of opportunity to explore Lisbon, sample Portuguese cuisine and get to know each other in both formal and informal settings.

Our Directors of Education from both the ESU in London and ESU US, Duncan Partridge and Carol Losos, gave presentations on their team’s respective education programmes, with the hope of inspiring international colleagues to explore what similar opportunities may be possible within their own communities.

This year, the meeting was chaired by Dr Paul Beresford-Hill, Chair of ESU US. In his opening remarks, he spoke of the role of the ESU in breaking down cultural barriers, and highlighted the common themes and common challenges shared by ESUs around the world. He encouraged all to work together through exchange, friendship and sharing best practice. It was highlighted that the World Economic Forum has recently published a piece of research demonstrating the importance of oracy in education, and the meeting explored the role of the ESU in redressing the balance between oracy, literacy and numeracy. Outgoing President, Lucia Dumont, suggested that the role of the ESU in this regard was to enhance impact, inspire and motivate the future generation.

On the second day, delegates gathered in smaller groups to consider and share examples of their existing work, the state of their education systems and the role individual ESUs can play going forward. There were certainly a number of common trends which emerged around the barriers of getting oracy integrated into school systems: lack of time, lack of government support, under-valued teachers, and the notion that oracy skills are only important when studying a foreign language. It was clear that the ESU has an important role to play in overcoming these.

We are also pleased to report that Margaryta Danilko, of ESU Ukraine, has been elected as the new President of the ICM. Outgoing President, Lucia Dumont, will of course remain active in the ESU network and will support Margaryta as she begins the role.