The World Education Frontier Summit: Applying the Latest Research to Education

Group photo at the World Education Frontier Summit

The inaugural World Education Frontier Summit took place in Qianhai, Shenzhen, in October 2018. At the invitation of the China Education 30 Forum, experts from around the globe presented and led roundtable discussions on a range of topics, with the theme “Learning Revolution: Learning Science Leads the Future of Education.”

As defined by Professor Emeritus Cheng Jieming, chairman of the World Education Frontier Summit, a member of the Chinese Education 30 Forum, and a former vice president of the University of Hong Kong, “learning science” refers to the use of advanced expertise to drive focused research into human learning. At the summit, experts explained how the field is at a critical juncture of scientific discovery, demonstrating how the global education sector is entering a new stage of high-quality development.

The goal of the summit was on practical application: By discussing how to apply recent achievements in learning science in the world of education, Cheng encouraged teachers to embrace learning science to further student development.

Focusing on the global perspective, Whittle School & Studios founder Chris Whittle discussed ongoing reform efforts in the education sector worldwide. Whittle, also a pioneer of the U.S. charter school movement, touched on the challenges facing reformers today, as well as the defining characteristics of modern schools and students.

Whittle School & Studios Chancellor and Vice-Chairman Nicholas Dirks, formerly chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley, also attended the summit. He gave a lecture on the current debates surrounding teaching and learning in higher-education institutions, and the influence of learning science in that particular context.

Ren Youqun, secretary-general of the Ministry of Education’s Informatization Expert Group and vice president of East China Normal University, spoke at the event as well. “The study of learning science can bring about a renaissance in human ability, and help all human beings to develop further,” he said. He argued that learning science must play a more central role in global education culture, adding that concrete steps must be taken to integrate the multidisciplinary field directly into the learning environment.

Recent research into the human brain and cognitive sciences has progressed rapidly, greatly enriching and deepening experts’ understanding of how students learn. This is providing an important scientific basis for improving student learning efficiency, as well as healthy development. With in-depth understanding of the human brain, cognition, learning, and development, it is possible to evaluate students’ abilities more objectively and accurately, said Dong Qi, president of Beijing Normal University. That means it is possible, among other benefits, to promote personalized education, he added.

Other specialists at the summit described local achievements made in the field of learning sciences. Ye Wenzi, director of the Educational Science Research Institute of Shenzhen, described how K-12 schools in his city are gradually shifting away from a teaching-focused model toward a learning-focused model.

He described how Shenzhen’s progress in learning science–related development has focused on six key areas: promoting the development of diversified curricula, promoting research and project-based learning in schools, creating new learning environments by reimagining learning spaces, establishing digital development files for K-12 students, improving and updating teaching styles, and developing comprehensive evaluation models.

The World Education Frontier Summit was co-organized by Whittle School & Studios, the University of Hong Kong’s Faculty of Education, and the Shenzhen Institute of Education Sciences. Established as an annual event in Shenzhen, it provides a platform for promoting education reform in China, as well as the exchange of research findings and ideas.