Sub-Saharan African independent schools, which collectively educate around 40 million children, were today urged to join forces with schools from across the world in the first worldwide representative body for the K-12 independent education sector – the Global Independent Schools Association. A key aim of the organisation will be to improve education provision throughout the world, in all sectors, by sharing knowledge.

According to recent figures from the World Bank, over 21% of secondary school pupils and 4% of primary school pupils in sub-Saharan Africa are enrolled in an independent institution – whether not for profit, profit, run by a private body such as a non-governmental organization, religious body, special interest group, foundation or business enterprise.

The new body, which was launched today, with an urgent call for greater knowledge sharing between the independent sector and governments to help improve education across the world. Crucially, GISA hopes to make its voice heard as a valued partner in achieving SDG4: ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education for all by 2030.

Founder of GEMS Education Sunny Varkey, who also founded the Global Teacher Prize and is a signatory of the Giving Pledge, urgently rallied leaders across the global independent education sector to form the new body off the back of September’s UN General Assembly where it became increasingly clear that the time is running out to achieve SDG4. He is now urging independent schools across sub-Saharan Africa to bring their knowledge, expertise, and frontline experiences of educating children from vastly different backgrounds to this group.

Sunny Varkey, Founder of GISA, said:

“I urge sub-Saharan African independent schools to join this new global representative body.  Sub-Saharan Africa’s huge variety of independent schools are shouldering a huge responsibility for educating the nation’s children.  They have a huge body of knowledge that can be used within their sector – and beyond – to help improve education around the world.  For the future of children in and out of school globally, it’s vital that they make their voice heard.   

“Any policy discussion on education or the future economy that doesn’t include the independent sector is missing out on a vital perspective from schools that, each day, see in sharp detail the challenges and the opportunities experienced by sub-Saharan Africa’s young people. 

“This frontline expertise of educating children from vastly different backgrounds will make efforts to improve education provision throughout the world more effective”.  

This global association seeks to co-ordinate, represent, and give a voice to the global K-12 independent education sector – which educates 350 million children around the world. It aims to become the “go to” voice for the independent education sector, showcasing its impact, and acting as a resource for the world’s governments and global institutions to tap into, talk to, and, in times of crisis, lean on. It will provide a forum for the sector to share its vast body of accumulated knowledge and expertise within the independent sector.  At the same time, it aims to work with policymakers and governments throughout the world to help raise standards in schools of every background, whether public, independent or third sector.  

Speaking in support of GISA’s launch, Andreas Schleicher, Director of Education and Skills for the OECD, said:  “Getting the independent sector to raise its voice in service of the public good is hugely important. Tomorrow’s economy will be unforgiving for those without a strong education and skills for the future. Unless the independent sector joins others – governments, business, NGOs – to work out how we educate and skill up a new generation, valuable expertise will remain siloed, and solutions will be lost”.

For the first time, some of the leading names in global K-12 independent education have united to form this new body. GISA’s Executive Board which will shape its strategic direction includes Andrew Fitzmaurice, CEO of Nord Anglia Education; Sunny Varkey, Founder of GEMS Education; Nadim Nsouli, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Inspired Education; Frank Maassen; Group CEO of Cognita; Brian Rogove, Group CEO of XCL Education; and Dino Varkey, CEO of GEMS Education. The association launched with a call to action to attract members from around the world, whether they are a single classroom private school in a low-income country, a school run by a charity or foundation, or a school operating within a multinational chain.

Influential education luminaries have also agreed to join the Advisory Board of GISA to help shape its strategy and direction. Members include Victoria Colbert, Columbia’s former Vice-Minister of Education and Executive Director of Fundación Escuela Nueva; Sir Anthony Seldon, former Vice-Chancellor of Buckingham University; Professor Li Wei, Director and Dean of the UCL Institute of Education; Vijay Kumar, Executive Director of the Abdul Latif Jameel World Education Lab at MIT; Dr Siva Kumari, former Director General of the International Baccalaureate; and Trevor Rowell, Chair of the Council of British International Schools.