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The river in which we are swimming: Making sense of the global renaissance in education

Peter Senge 1Peter Senge’s keynote speech provided an inspiring, enlightening and educating start to the second day of the 2015 IB Africa, Europe and Middle East (AEM) regional conference in October. He talked about a global renaissance in education, explaining that “the way we live is a consequence of the way we are educated.”

Peter described how the last 25 years has seen remarkable innovations and novel approaches in education. Diverse initiatives have spread around the world, stemming from a deep longing to give children rich soils to grow in, and to help our societies address the deep changes needed in the coming decades. What prevents these innovations from spreading more widely? Our experience points to two major limitations: lack of clarity and consensus around our overarching focus, and lack of sophistication in leading and managing the change process.

Across diverse success stories, we see three recurring themes: understanding and caring for self (mind-body system), understanding and caring for others (social system), and understanding and caring for the larger systems (community, economy and ecology). Leading systemic change requires a deep commitment to “be the change”— namely, integrating the internal and the external, creating spaces for change rather than trying to dictate and control, and never losing sight of how we as change leaders may need to change ourselves.

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It was great to see that conference participants were so active on social media during his session, here are a few of their tweets:



Take a look at the conference keynote and featured speaker presentations and videos here. Speakers included Thana Faroq, Pasi SahlbergDavid Perkins, Robert Coe and Simon Breakspear. Also read this “storify” collection of social media posts from participants throughout the conference.

The theme for the IB’s regional conferences in 2016 is “learning together”. Find out details and register for an IB conference in 2016.

Register for a 2016 conference


Peter Senge is a senior lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and founding chairperson of the Society for Organizational Learning. He is author of The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization (1990, revised 2006). With more than two million copies sold worldwide, The Fifth Discipline was identied by the Harvard Business Review in 1997 as one of the seminal management books of the past 75 years and by Financial Times as one of the ve most important management books.