ALL-IN: An Emerging Knowledge Hub for School Leadership Globally

Here’s the latest from guest bloggers Azad Oommen and Sameer Sampat, co-founders of Global School Leaders, who attended the All-In meeting in New York City last week.

Azad Oommen
Sameer Sampat

This week, The Education Commission released a report on Investing in Knowledge Sharing to Advance SDG 4 (ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all). The report calls for three key elements of knowledge sharing infrastructure in education – global public goods, capacity development and networks. This call to action resonated with our work at Global School Leaders, where we are working on creating effective school leadership in the Global South. We see a tremendous need for our colleagues in the field to network, exchange information and create common tools that will accelerate progress on increasing the effectiveness of school leaders in the education ecosystem.

The findings of this report were particularly pertinent, as we had just participated in what we hope will be a real life example of such an investment – the ALL-IN (Agile Leaders of Learning Innovation Network) meeting hosted by the Qatar Foundation’s WISE Initiative. ALL-IN is focused on school leadership globally and is designed to be a networking and knowledge hub on this issue.

The meeting in New York, part of the WISE@NY event, was attended by around 25 participants from countries such as Australia, Belgium, Canada, Kenya, Morocco, Lebanon, Ghana, India, Qatar, South Africa, UK and the US. This meeting was the third in a series of exploratory conversations – the first was in Doha at WISE 2017, and the second was earlier in 2018 at WISE@Accra.

Participants at the ALL-In meeting hosted by the Qatar Foundation’s WISE@NY event

At GSL, we are an active member of ALL-IN as it serves a critical purpose as a knowledge hub for school leadership globally. During our initial work on school leadership at the India School Leadership Institute, we found it very difficult to access information on best practices, innovations, and evidence of impact for school leadership, particularly related to the Global South. As we invest in the field of school leadership in Asia and Africa, we find many allied organizations have a similar hunger for knowledge and networking.

The discussions at the ALL-IN meeting in NY highlighted four pressing needs in the field of school leadership:

  1. Networking – there is a need for a forum where stakeholders can come together across geographies and function to create a composite picture of initiatives related to school leadership. ALL-IN can provide an opportunity for donors, academic researchers, and school leadership training providers to come together to discuss their interests and visions. Participants in the meeting mentioned consistently that ALL-IN was an opportunity to meet organizations that they did not know existed and with whom they would find value in interacting and collaborating.
  2. Knowledge Hub – as school leadership organizations have developed their programs in countries, there has been little systemic capturing of either their experiences or the tools that they have developed. Hence, many organizations felt that they are recreating tools and programs without the benefit of knowing what others have tried before them. They voiced the need for a knowledge hub that exposes them to resources and knowledge in the field.
  3. Investment in evidence of impact – Outside of a few countries in the Global North, there has been limited systemic analysis of the role of school leaders and organizations are grappling with assessing the impact of their programs on student outcomes. Many participants spoke of the need for robust evidence of impact frameworks that could help them evaluate their own progress but also make the case for more investment in school leadership.
  4. A more diverse vision for school leadership – as organizations discussed the varied contexts of school leadership in their countries, one theme that emerged is that there is a need to include more voices in defining models of school leadership. Many countries are engaged in defining professional qualification frameworks around school leadership and as these crystallize, the field should incorporate these emerging voices.

ALL-IN is an evolving network and we are excited about its potential. It has the opportunity to demonstrate how school leadership – an under-invested lever in education – can grow and mature through strategic investment in knowledge sharing. As Dr. Asmaa Al-Fadala, Director of Research at WISE noted, “Leaders need a better how, not just another why.”

We would be glad to connect with people who are interested in the issue of school leadership and want to contribute to the network. Kudos to the WISE team for their leadership and vision in developing ALL-IN.

Sameer Sampat and Azad Oommen

As the school year begins in many countries around the world, here are some fascinating and quick reads on education.

¡Saludos desde California!

News in education development

A good read from The Hechinger Report on literacy: This Mississippi district says these four strategies are helping struggling readers. And here’s one more by Matt Bardin on literacy and adolescents.

Meanwhile the World Bank is urging small schools to merge. And on the returns to investing in education here’s a link to a recent article by education economists George Psacharopoulos & Harry Patrinos.

Reading time in an Ethiopian classroom.

Philanthropy in education

So, Jack Ma, former English teacher and Chinese business investor, and philanthropist, is retiring. He is the co-founder and executive chairman of the Alibaba Group. Here’s a recent article about how he will focus on education philanthropy. Here’s an article about philanthropy in the USA. Religion is still the largest charitable cause in America with education ranking second.



Here’s a story about the European Union and Georgia. And as the new school year begins in Croatia: The experimental “School for Life” reform program begins. In France, a new law means that students can no longer use mobile phones in school. Here’s a video of students’ opinions. Your thoughts?

Education in Southeast Asia

Here’s an article on what’s happening in education in the Philippines. And here’s what’s new on the topic of literacy in several countries in Southeast Asia . This article on the Dongria Tribe in eastern India is fascinating. Education does indeed open doors to new opportunities for children but it also pulls them away from their traditional ways of life.

Education around Africa and the Middle East

Interested in why some schools are outliers? Read this blog on positive deviance in action. School leaders in Kenya who are willing to try things out!  Meanwhile in Ghana our University of San Diego team is working with Ghanaian colleagues to ensure that caning students is a thing of the past, but look at what’s happening at a charter school in Georgia in the US.

The world of low-fee private schools (a world I’m working in) is controversial. Here’s a recent article from Ghana. The train is out of the station so let’s focus on how we can improve these schools and ensure they offer quality education to all. This is a fascinating topic to follow—the bottom line is the issue of equity. And here is something to watch–The Education Commission (chaired by Gordon Brown, former UK Prime Minister) and the Global Steering Group for Impact Investment have established a $1 billion Education Outcomes Fund (EOF) for Africa and the Middle East. According to their website: “The Fund aims to help transform educational attainment in the region and achieve SDG 4, by pooling grant funds from official aid donors, foundations, and private philanthropic funders, to deploy into pay-for-success programs, with impact investors providing working capital at risk through development impact bonds (DIBs).” Social impact bonds, pay for success and similar approaches to financing education are hot in the impact investment world. It’s controversial and the union, Educator’s International (EI), has responded. Related to this is the request for input on the Guiding Principles on private actors in education from The Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. You can submit feedback since the consultation is open until September 30, 2018.

Video suggestions

My colleague and I have been writing about learning transfer for school leaders.  We are exploring the barriers and inhibitors to learning transfer for adults. Here’s a short and informative video (3:35) on learning transfer for students by Larry Ferlazzo. And in case you missed this 2017 article and video on an Indiana school’s language of love. Here it is.

Twitter suggestions

For some of the latest blogs on education development, school leadership and related topics you might want to follow:

Harry Patrinos @hpatrinos  He is a manager at the World Bank’s education sector.

Henry F. DeSio @henrydesio   DeSio is the Global Ambassador for Changemakers.

Global Schools Forum: @GSF_talks GSF supports and represents non-state schools and school networks operating in low and middle-income countries.

Global School Leaders: @gschoolleaders  GSL incubates, connects and supports organizations that train school leaders to improve the learning of students from underserved communities around the world.

And if you are interested in school leadership development in South Africa, check out:  @SchoolLeadersSA

Finally, I’ve always been a big fan of the University Council for Education Administration (UCEA) which is a consortium of higher education institutions supporting school leadership development. @UCEA

Movie suggestion

I’ve spent many years in higher education as a professor of leadership studies. So much written about leadership is generic to many different professions. If you missed Apollo 13 – it’s all about communication, creative thinking and collaboration.


Diverging (quite) a bit from the topic of education, I’m always fascinated by the food in Ghana.

Finally, here’s a great quote that we use in our school leadership workshops from the… oh so talented… Sir Ken Robinson!

The real role of leadership in education…is not and should not be command and control. The real role of leadership is climate control – creating a climate of possibility. If you do that, people will rise to it and achieve things that you completely did not anticipate and couldn’t have expected.”

meet Paula Cordeiro


Shifting the Paradigm in an Era of World Englishes: What School Leaders Need To Know

Professor Chugani Molina describes how school leaders need to be aware of the changes taking place in teaching English in different contexts.

As a teacher educator, I have had the opportunity to work with teachers and students of English within the United States and abroad in a variety of contexts. What I have come to learn through these experiences is that it has now become increasingly important to re-conceptualize the traditional ways

in which English language teaching has been approached where English is a language that now belongs to its users. These multi-lingual users of English now far exceed users of English in “inner circle (Kachru, 1988) English-speaking countries. English has become “denationalized (Smith, 1988),” as in no longer associated with a particular nation or nations, and “renationalized (McKay, 2002),” as in become a language unique in its own right by users of the language across the globe.  This then challenges our assumptions about the ownership of English, what constitutes a good model of the language for our students, and re-conceptualizing materials and methods that are socio-culturally relevant and pedagogically sound for the local cultures of learning. English language teachers need to also recognize and be sensitive to the societal, political, economic, and educational environment in which they teach as the ideologies and shifting dynamics embedded within the context have a deep implication on classroom practice.

Professor Sarina Molina presenting in Thailand

Recently, I took a group of graduate students from the University of San Diego to Japan to learn about the Japanese educational system and practices. While our graduate students assumed that all countries around the world wish to have their students proficient in English for the global opportunities it provides, we learned that the Japanese were first and foremost concerned about nurturing their national identity with their children first, which meant that they wanted their children to be proficient in their own native tongue first before introducing any other language. The sense of urgency in Japan to be proficient in English was not as great as those in other countries such as Kenya, where I had the opportunity to work with a non-profit agency on providing a Business English for Global Communications program (Molina, 2015; Molina, 2016). The youth in this program were interested in working for multinational corporations and for upward mobility and saw proficiency in English as a way out of poverty. In China, I conducted surveys and interviews with 75 English teachers and learned about one of the Ministry of Education’s goals for English language education of which one was to help their students become competitive in the global market (Molina, 2017). In Thailand, I learned from the English 68 teachers I worked with that like China, students who had access to English language education beyond the schools had better work opportunities with higher income levels than those that did not come from homes with expendable income to afford these classes. In Singapore, in my conversations with the English language specialist at the Ministry of Education, I learned that though they speak their own variety of English, they have refocused their energies on teaching standard English to promote lingua franca communications. What this suggests is that it is important for English teachers and school leaders to understand the political, social and cultural contexts in which they teach as this will determine how they approach language teaching within their particular setting.

In addition to knowledge of the multidimensional influence on the context of language learning and teaching, I believe that language teachers and students need to develop “multi-dialectal competence” (Canagarajah, 2006) to negotiate meaning with English speakers globally and “meta-cultural competence” (Sharifian, 2009) to negotiate their unique culturally-specific expressions and ideas in English to encourage a “bi-directional  negotiation of meaning” (Inoue & Molina, 2011).

TESOL Master’s degree candidate students on visit to Hong Kong with Dr. Molina.

Because English is now used to express unique cultural ideas of its users, the users need to be skilled with communication strategies to express and clarify their culturally nuanced ideas and expressions to other users of English in order to expand and deepen individual and cultural understanding among and between users. There were so many occasions when I was an English teacher where my students would give up and say, “Never mind!” as they were trying to explain an idea, but I would never give up on them and would continue to elicit from them their intended meanings thereby broadening, enriching and deepening my understanding. Kumaravadivelu (2008) calls this “global cultural consciousness,” which no longer privileges the teacher as the sole cultural informant, but includes the students as cultural knowledge-holders as well. When students are placed at the center of the learning process in this way, there is a shift in power, where dialogical learning can take place. When students in the language classroom begin to see their ideas as being valued in a safe space, they begin to use the language in creative ways as they articulate what is meaningful to them individually and collectively as a society.

There was one semester where I had nine students, who were all from different countries and we used our time together to learn from each other about how we understood ideas such as time, space, behaviors, gender roles, societal expectations, marriage, and family to name a few, while at the same time following the curriculum and the language objectives of the course. One summer, I also had the opportunity to teach English to migrant farmers in a non-credit program. I worked with the students to understand their needs and what they hoped to gain from this course, and we collaboratively came up with a project that I believed would help them share their voices. I provided them with disposable cameras to document what was important to them in their lives and experiences and supported them with the language they needed to share their images. I invited the students to speak in Spanish if they did not have the English words and expressions and asked the more advanced students to translate for me so that I could listen, learn, and understand. As teaching moments transpired, I put pertinent vocabulary words on the board and helped students convey their ideas using English expressions without jeopardizing the flow of the discussion or their writing (Molina, 2015).

These are just some of the experiences that profoundly deepened my understanding of my students and their life experiences as a language teacher. I witnessed that the experiences created in these classrooms also deepened my students’ sense of appreciation for their peers’ cultural knowledge and experiences. English language classrooms lend itself to these opportunities for students to share their own cultural knowledge and experiences, but also to understand those of others in their classroom and globally through a purposefully designed curriculum that encourage such interactions. For school leaders, adopting this framework will require

USD TESOL graduates who are now teaching English around the world.

a fundamental shift in our understanding  of English language education and influence how we select and nurture our teachers, adopt and modify the language teaching materials we use within our contexts as well as our pedagogical practice.



Meet Dr. Molina

Canagarajah, S. (2006). Changing communicative needs, revised assessment objectives: Testing English as an international language. Language Assessment Quarterly, 3 (3), 229-242.

Inoue, N. & Molina, S. (2011). Lost in translation: Strategies Japanese language learners use in communicating culturally specific expressions in English. CATESOL Journal, 22 (1), 149-166.

Kachru, B. B. (1988). The spread of English and sacred linguistic cows. In Peter H. Lowenberg (ed.), Language spread and language policy: Issues, implications and case studies (pp. 207-228). Washington: Georgetown University Press.

Kumaravadivelu, B. (2012). Language teacher education for a global society: A modular model for knowing, analyzing, recognizing, doing, and seeing. New York, NY: Routledge.

McKay, S. L. (2002). Teaching English as an international language: Rethinking goals and approaches. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Molina, S. C. (2015).  Transnational English language teaching: Opportunities for teacher learning and development.  English Language Teacher Education and Development, 18, 20-28.

Molina, S.C. (2015). Navigating social responsibility alongside migrant workers in an ESOL classroom.  Social Responsibility Special Interest Newsletter. International TESOL Organization.

Molina, S. C. (2016).  The complexity of providing feedback when teachers and students speak different varieties of English: A case study.  Journal of Teaching and Teacher Education, 4 (1), 61-69.

Molina, S. C. (2017). English language teaching in China: Teacher agency in response to curricular innovations.  English language teaching: Teacher agency and policy response. Ng, P. & Boucher-Yip (Eds.) Routledge.

Sharifian, F. (ed.) (2009). English as an international language: Perspectives and pedagogical issues. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

Smith, L. (1983). Readings in English as an international language. World language English series. Michigan: Pergamon.