In the past couple of years we have seen an increasing number of arguments and appeals for innovation in our education systems. Most of them focus on internal components of education systems: teachers, pedagogies, curricula, school organisation, leadership etc. The implicit assumption is that education systems have to generate the energy and capacity for innovation internally, and the fact that schools and education system generally seem to be unable to do so is seen as one of their biggest failures. Very few accounts of innovation in education have looked at the broader context and the external relations of schools as drivers of innovation. The outside world is mostly seen as generating the rationales and urgency for innovating schools, such as technological change or societal complexity and diversity. This report argues that we need to see schools as networking institutions and part of encompassing ecosystems of learning and innovation. It is only by conceptualising schools as part of broader ecosystems that we can understand and foster change and innovation.

Schools cannot be left alone to make the difficult process of transformation, but need support not only from policies, but also from other actors and stakeholders. Ecological thinking in education has advanced the notion of learning and innovation ecosystems that encompass not only educational institutions and non-formal learning environments, but also broader communities, social organisations, industry and business. At the same time a more critical approach to globalisation and internationalisation has engendered a renewed interest in locality, the local and regional context in which schools also operate.

This report is produced as a background document for the 3rd Global Education Industry Summit, jointly organised by the OECD, the European Commission and the Government of Luxembourg on 25-26 September 2017 in Luxembourg. The Global Education Industry Summits bring together governments and leaders from the global industry, with the aim of identifying the best policies and practices to foster innovation in education. Two successful events in Helsinki (2015) and Jerusalem (2016) have provided the groundwork for this third edition, which focuses on “Schools at the Crossroads of Innovation in Cities and Regions”.

The report was prepared by Dirk Van Damme, head of the OECD Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (CERI), compiling analyses from recent OECD/CERI publications on innovation, innovation in education and technology-based innovation. In particular, the report draws on the outcomes of different recent CERI projects, notably CERI’s Innovative Learning Environments, Innovation Strategy for Education and Training, and Governing Complex Education Systems projects, as well as on other work by the OECD Directorate for Education and Skills.

The main sources for this report are the following OECD publications: What Schools for the Future? (2001), Cities and Regions in the New Learning Economy (2001), Learning to Innovate: Learning Regions (2002), Working Out Change: Systemic Innovation in Vocational Education and Training (2009), Innovative Workplaces: Making Better Use of Skills within Organisations (2010), Inspired by Technology, Driven by Pedagogy: A Systemic Approach to Technology-Based School Innovations (2010), Learning for Job: Synthesis Report of the OECD Reviews of Vocational Education and Training (2010), Measuring Innovation: A New Perspective (2010), The OECD Innovation Strategy: Getting a Head Start on Tomorrow (2010), Regions and Innovation Policy (2010), Innovative Learning Environments (2013), OECD Skills Outlook 2013: First Results from the Survey of Adult Skills (2013), Regions and Innovation: Collaborating across Borders (2013), Leadership for 21st Century Learning (2013), Measuring Innovation in Education: A New Perspective (2014), OECD Regional Outlook 2014: Regions and Cities: Where Policies and People Meet (2014), Education Policy Outlook 2015: Making Reforms Happen (2015), Schooling Redesigned: Towards Innovative Learning Systems (2015), Skills for Social Progress: The Power of Social and Emotional Skills (2015), The Innovation Imperative: Contributing to Productivity, Growth and Well-Being (2015), Schools for 21st-Century Learners: Strong Leaders, Confident Teachers, Innovative Approaches (2015), Students, Computers and Learning: Making the Connection (2015), Education at a Glance 2016: OECD Indicators (2016), Innovating Education and Educating for Innovation: The Power of Digital Technologies and Skills (2016), PISA 2015 Results (Volume I): Excellence and Equity in Education (2016), PISA 2015 Results (Volume II): Policies and Practices for Successful Schools (2016), Education at a Glance 2017: OECD Indicators (2017), The Funding of School Education: Connecting Resources and Learning (2017), The OECD Handbook for Innovative Learning Environments (2017), Engaging Employers in Apprenticeship Opportunities: Making It Happen Locally (2017), as well as several OECD Education Working Papers ( External research papers and resources have been referred to in the text.

It is recommended that this report is read together with the background report for the 2nd Global Education Industry Summit in 2016, Innovating Education and Educating for Innovation: The Power of Digital Technologies and Skills, which focused on digitalisation and digital skills and their impact on educational innovation.

The following colleagues provided suggestions and resources for the report: Anthony Mackay, Michael Stevenson, David Istance and Stephan Vincent-Lancrin. Rachel Linden, with the assistance of Raven Gaddy and Madeleine Gereke, co-ordinated the production of the report.