Education holds key to the future

Nikos Savvas, principal at West Suffolk College ANL-160104-110812001
Nikos Savvas, principal at West Suffolk College ANL-160104-110812001

For the vast majority of people the transition between calendar years strongly signifies a period of reflection. Don’t get me wrong, it does for everyone who is in education too but in a slightly different way.

I always find myself reflecting on the year we have just left behind, but being in education means that you get two new starts every 12 months: one for the new academic year, the other for the new calendar year. So it splits reflections into two six month parts.

But no matter how one decides to split the year, what a ‘chunk of a year’ that year was. Not only nationally but also internationally. The unexpected came to pass over and over again, and that is our new reality. The Miriam Webster Dictionary has chosen ‘surreal’ as its word of 2016.

We lost a distressingly large number of well-known and well-loved public figures. But then again every year we lose some whilst others are born.

Violence across the world seems ever-present in the news, but then again when was it absent? The technology that surrounds us makes the world ever smaller and ever more complicated simultaneously. What our knowledge can achieve is remarkable but the veil of civil society is still very thin in many places.

How do you navigate such a fast changing and uncertain world? I believe through education. Education is vital in navigating the modern world and trying to implement positive change.

2016 has also been identified by many as a remarkable year. It has also brought a lot of joy and celebration. India, in a fight against deforestation, planted 50 million trees. Tiger, manatee and panda numbers are rising, and infant mortality continues to fall. Team GB made us immensely proud in the Rio, by showing spirit and rocketing Great Britain to finish second in the Olympics and Paralympics medals tables. The HIV virus was successfully cleared from the system of a British man, meaning a cure for the virus is closer than ever. Andy Murray single-handedly (excuse the pun) lifted our mood and not only won Wimbledon again but is now officially ranked number 1 in the world, overtaking his ‘Nemesis’ Novak Djokovic. Gravitational waves were detected and verified, and we quite possibly have come up with a CO2 storage solution to permanently capture carbon emissions so that they don’t go into the atmosphere.

So as this past year has been a bit of a rollercoaster and as ‘Reflection’ is on the agenda, I always believe that if you don’t like the world as it is, fight to make it better.

As Nelson Mandela famously said: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

It is the key to eradicating gender inequality, closing social rifts, and reducing poverty.

In a world where knowledge is power, education is the most valuable currency, and we all have to invest.

And education has a lot to celebrate. Spring saw a very successful visit from Ofsted for WSC, followed by the exciting approval for the new Bury St Edmunds Sixth Form in September. Our plans for the new state-of-the-art multimillion pound Science, Technology and Engineering Innovation Centre were also initiated which, when complete, will add to a growing ‘learning village’ in our town. And our students continue to amaze us, and achieve incredible results with 2016 being the best year yet.

We may just represent a small corner of a wealthy European country, but that does not lessen the importance of our young people’s education, or indeed the education of individuals of any age who want to learn.

Irina Bokova, the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, eloquently summarised why education, which we are hugely privileged to be able to take for granted here, is more important than ever in our wonderful and kind, yet also challenging and unjust world.

She said: “There is no more powerful transformative force than education – to promote human rights and dignity, to eradicate poverty and deepen sustainability, to build a better future for all, founded on equal rights and social justice, respect for cultural diversity, and international solidarity and shared responsibility, all of which are fundamental aspects of our common humanity.”

Have a great 2017.

Nikos Savvas is principal at West Suffolk College