4 Countries to Look to for Innovation in International Education

3 min read

G. John Cole

“Innovation and knowledge, cornerstones of a land’s productivity and prosperity,” will be the theme at the 53rd Annual Assembly of CLADEA, the Latin American Council of Management Schools, this October.

Intercontinental researchers and business people known for their models of innovation and knowledge will share their ideas at the Real Intercontinental Hotel in San José, Costa Rica. And it is a perfect opportunity for participants to meet and exchange their own views on innovation in international education.

Here’s a look at four countries whose educators are leading the way, and who you’ll hear plenty about over three inspiring days in San José.


Indonesian educators are leaders in recognizing the role of parents as external stakeholders in their institutions. This is particularly noticeable on school committees, where increasing invitations to and participation of students’ parents is having significant effects on the way that decisions are made.

This human touch is being paired with increased use of data to assess teacher effectiveness, an approach which may have a positive effect on enrolment numbers. The publishing of student achievement data allows parents to make more empowered choices. And data is also being utilized to shape the national education strategy.

If data is hard at work under the hood, giving teachers improved scope to personalize their lessons, on the surface teachers are working harder to relate potentially abstract subjects (such as math and science) to their use in everyday life.

South Korea

On an international level, a financing gap means that demands for education are struggling to be met. In South Korea, innovative finance mechanisms have been developed to remedy this. Income-contingent loans and human capital contracts allow students to pay for their education with their future earnings.

Strong industry links increase graduates’ opportunities to reach that stage. And South Korea has made sure to invest responsibly at basic levels since students whose reading skills are developed in early on will perform better later.


To maintain their 94% graduation rate at secondary level, the Dutch invest heavily in staff at schools with a higher proportion of disadvantaged students.

Pupils in grades 1-4 can access learning in languages other than Dutch so that kids from different ethnic backgrounds don't get left behind. It’s no wonder the Netherlands is known as a diverse and progressive place to be.

And it’s not just people power: the Education for a New Era (O4NT) program has seen the opening of 11 new “iPad Schools” where students are guided by teachers to direct their own learning at their own pace in virtual classrooms


Technology is also a recurring motif in Brazil, where gamification (learning through playing and achieving scores) is used to stimulate and engage students. Cloud-based learning (MOOCs and online digital materials) distributes opportunity across economic and geographic divides. Hybrid schools and networks such as Innova, Escuelas Bradesco, and Appiario maximize resources by providing a mixture of IRL teaching and online learning platforms.

Teachers themselves are pushing for increased use of digital resources as their institutions reach out to private foundations to advocate for the importance of ICT education in schools. The translation of online resources into Portuguese is an efficient way of investing in the welfare of millions of students at once. This allows for a ‘flipped classroom' whereby students learn at home from videos and texts and then do their homework in class with personalized support from teachers.

And the implications are being felt across Latin America. Chile, Costa Rica, and Mexico excelled in the 2017 edition of the Global Innovation Index (GII), which ranks a nation’s innovative capabilities and measurable results.

There is work to be done, but there is no better place to continue the conversation than at CLADEA 2018, this 7-9 October in Costa Rica.

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