Kerala-born education entrepreneur Sunny Varkey, founder of the Global Teacher Prize, on Wednesday launched a new worldwide representative body for independent schools as a knowledge sharing initiative to improve educational outcomes. The new Global Independent Schools Association (GISA) is planned as a partner in achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4: ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education for all by 2030. Varkey called on India’s independent schools, estimated at around 340,000, to join in this new mission to make their voice heard. “India’s huge variety of independent schools are shouldering a huge responsibility for educating the nation’s children,” said Varkey, founder of GISA. “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 India’s young people. This frontline expertise of educating children from vastly different backgrounds will make efforts to improve education throughout the world more effective,” he said. According to recent World Bank data, over 50 per cent of secondary school pupils and 13 per cent of primary school pupils in India are enrolled in an independent institution – including not for profit, profit, run by a private body such as a non-governmental organisation (NGO), religious body, special interest group, foundation or business enterprise. The new GISA initiative hopes to tap into their knowledge, expertise, and frontline experiences of educating children from different backgrounds. “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,” said Andreas Schleicher, Director of Education and Skills for the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), in support of the new GISA initiative. UNESCO estimates show that around 350 million children are educated in the independent schools sector globally. GISA membership for such organisations is designed to co-create resources and provide access to cutting-edge research and reports, innovative workshops and events. GISA also aims to hold an annual conference where governments, businesses, NGOs, and leading thinkers gather once a year for a high-level discussion on how to speed up the goal of achieving quality education for all. “From important areas such as supporting the professional development of teachers to the latest uses of technology in teaching and learning, we can make an even greater impact on education by working together,” said Andrew Fitzmaurice, CEO of Nord Anglia Education and Chairman of the GISA Executive Board. The association’s call to action aims to attract a full spectrum of members from around the world, including those from single-classroom private schools in low-income countries, schools run by a charity or foundation, and schools operating within a multinational chain.