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Opening Remarks by U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona at the 2023 International Summit on the Teaching Profession

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Welcome to the 2023 International Summit on the Teaching Profession.

I am honored to host on behalf of the United States, together with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and Education International.

And it’s wonderful to be joined by excellent partners in the U.S. delegation: Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers; Becky Pringle, President of the National Education Association; and Carissa Moffat Miller, CEO of the Council of Chief State School Officers. 

Not only are they partners in the U.S. delegation, they are trusted co-conspirators in this work to improve public education in the United States of America.

Thank you to all of you from around the world who have joined us here today.

In the United States, I often say that we need to “Raise the Bar” for education. The countries you represent are here because, in one way or another, you ARE Raising the Bar.

So as head of the U.S. delegation, let me be clear: we approach this summit with both pride in our strengths, and humility about our struggles.

We know we can, and we will, learn so much from your examples.

Today, as we begin this 13th International Summit on the Teaching Profession, we face a world that is courageously rebounding from the tragic disruption of a global pandemic and its impact on our young people.

At the same time, over the last three years, the challenges – and the opportunities – we see in education have evolved.

I recently traveled to Zambia, in Africa to attend the Summit for Democracy.  It was a beautiful event.  At the hotel in Zambia, I spotted 3 gazelles roaming close by.  That reminded me of a metaphor I share that is based off the African gazelle. 

I learned, from a podcast I listen to regularly, that, in the African savanna, gazelles and their young face danger from all around. So, they do something smart: when they are together, they sit in a circle, with each gazelle facing outward.  They do this to form an “alert circle.”

Together, they can see any danger that’s coming from any direction, 360 degrees – and one gazelle can quickly warn the rest.

When I used this example at the height of the pandemic, I pointed out that many of us, in many countries, were forming our own “alert circle” around our children.

Teachers, unions, education leaders, medical professionals, governments alike recognized the dangers of an unprecedented crisis. And by coming together, like the gazelles, they worked their best to protect our young people.

Today, forming an alert circle remains part of our function in coming together from all over the world.

In our summit sessions, we’ll all benefit from each other’s perspectives on risks and challenges you see students facing in your countries.

In the session on leveraging digital technologies, for example, perhaps we’ll hear some concerns about the impact of social media on students’ mental health.

But as we move past the height of the pandemic, we also need to think bigger than risks and recovery – to challenge complacency and push for transformative change at a time when the system has already been disrupted for us. If we return to the status quo, we fail our students. 

So I hope over the next few days, we can also form what I’ll call an “opportunity circle,” too.

Let’s position ourselves, with all of our different perspectives, to get a better view together of the opportunities to reimagine our education systems for the better.

In session 1, on elevating and enhancing the teaching profession, I’m looking forward to hearing from other countries that are doing bold and creative things to respect and support their teachers – helping us see the same opportunities in our own systems.

And finally, in addition to alert circles and opportunity circles, let’s think in terms of “action circles.”

Let’s do what ISTP has always done incredibly well – and look at concrete ways we can act together to help our young people.

When we have our session on educating for global and cultural competence and civic engagement, for example, are there steps we can take to advance multilingual education together so our students have the language skills they need to engage with the world?

Can we work together to make sure our students have more pathways to fulfilling, successful careers?

When the United States started and hosted the first of these summits in 2011, no one knew that it would become a major annual event.

Now, we have reached the 13th Summit – and we are just one of many different countries that have stepped up to host throughout this summit’s history.

Throughout that history, we’ve functioned as alert circles. Opportunity circles. Action circles.

But whatever the needs of the moment, the bottom line is this: we’ve come together. We’ve worked together. We’ve Raised the Bar.

Together, I know we can do so again – and use this Summit to drive transformative change that will last.

Our children are counting on us.

Our teachers are counting on us.

Our countries are counting on us.

So let’s get to work. Thank you.

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