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18.6.2024 |

Community Lead: Özgen Bagci

What does the future of education mean? For Özgen, HundrED Community Lead, it means equity, adaptability, and an eye to the long-term.

What is your name?

Özgen Bagci

Where do you call home?

I’m originally from Turkey and for the last six years I have been living in Olbia, Sardegna, Italy working mainly with schools and institutions in the Netherlands, Finland & Denmark for a company based out of the US.

I was 17 years old when I moved to Ankara, about 300 km away from my hometown for my university education and since then I have lived in various cities in different countries. This is a pretty challenging question that I’d like to answer with a quote from one of my favorite books, Nostalgia: When Are We Ever at Home?, by Barbara Cassin.

An Island, At Home, Not at Home

It looks like I’m going home, but it’s not home. Maybe it’s because I have no home. Or maybe it’s because it’s when I’m not home that I feel most at home, in a place that feels like home.

And, for me, at the moment, Olbia feels like home.

How does education fit into your life?

I strongly believe in the transformative power of education on an individual's life. I have seen and witnessed how education can empower individuals to break free from limitations, broaden their perspectives, and shape their own destinies.

I also recognize the dynamic nature of the educational landscape in the different contexts I have been working in and strive to stay ahead of the curve, ensuring that the initiatives I contribute to are aligned with sound educational principles.

On a personal level, this perspective combined with my work experience as an educator has deepened my appreciation for the role of education in fostering global understanding. It has become a bridge that connects diverse perspectives, fostering an environment where ideas can flourish.


Sardinia, where Özgen feels at home

What brought you to educational innovation?

A couple of weeks ago, I was at the beach, walking and listening to a podcast where Simon Sinek was talking to Thomas Heatherwick. I had no idea about who he was but, of course, knew about his work.

He was saying that he is on a mission to make the world less boring and more human.

One part of his speech struck me the most. In that part, he said:

“I think of what a Victorian engineer would think if they arrived now. They would look up at the satellites and go, 'Wow, what did you do? Amazing?' They would look at the mobile phone technology and say, 'That's incredible.' They'd see an airplane. They would see that and say, 'that's so impressive.' And then they would look at the buildings and just say, 'what happened? What were you thinking?'

Something weird happened, and we're stuck in a bunker.”

Then I thought about the schools, and the school buildings, the classrooms.

I came back home and searched for a Victorian classroom. Ever wondered what Victorian schools were like? Not really different from what we see even today in most schools all around the world.

This is exactly what I thought when I first stepped into a classroom as a teacher in a public primary school in Italy. The school building itself was not like a place where you’d wake up in the morning and feel really excited about going. That was my first teaching experience, and I was 21 years old back then. After two years, I started to teach English at a private school in Turkey and the classrooms were similar in terms of design and the activities involved. 

Reflecting back, I see that it encouraged me to take a more active role in making everything a bit better, by playing a small part in shaping the future of education, making it more engaging, effective, and less boring.

What are your biggest inspirations in educational innovation?

I am inspired by the potential for technology, creative pedagogies, and dynamic classroom designs to transform education into a space where students and educators alike are inspired to learn, question, and grow. Ultimately, my inspiration lies in contributing to a shift towards a more progressive and relevant and human educational experience for the benefit of future generations.

Envisioning the future of language education, we can foresee engagement with multimodal realities taking diverse forms. And recognizing the transformative potential of technology and AI, and through these envisioned engagements, we can anticipate a future where language education transcends traditional boundaries. In a context like this, with the desire to challenge traditional norms and bring excitement and curiosity into learning motivates me to explore and implement innovative approaches.

What challenges do you see facing the educational system today?

The digital divide remains a significant challenge, with disparities in access to technology and the internet in addition to the inequities in educational access. Disparities in access to quality education on a global scale limits the potential of thousands, millions of students.

On the other hand, where schools have access to technology, they struggle to adapt to technological advancements, with outdated, inefficient teacher training programs. Teachers feel constrained to a system that feels like stuck in time and which doesn't provide the support teachers would need to develop themselves professionally.

Addressing these challenges requires a concerted effort from policymakers, educators, and stakeholders to create a more inclusive, adaptable, and responsive educational system that prepares students and teachers for the complexities of the modern world.

What are your hopes for the future of education?

I hope for a future where every individual, regardless of their background or location, has equitable access to quality education. Here are my top five aspirations:

  • Equitable access to quality education
  • Holistic skill development
  • Focus on well-being
  • Emphasis on life-long learning
  • Adaptability to change and evolve

Why did you choose to become a Community Lead?

The decision to become a community lead is a personal one, shaped by a combination of passion, skills, values, and a commitment to making a positive difference within education - a sense of responsibility and a desire for positive impact.

I enjoy building connections and relationships. I hope that being a community lead provides ample opportunities to network with diverse individuals, organizations, and stakeholders. I see it as a pathway for personal growth and development that can offer opportunities to learn, adapt, and enhance my skills in various areas.

What are your goals as a Community Lead?

Being a community lead is an opportunity to collaborate with like-minded individuals, share insights, and collectively work towards a shared goal. It's a privilege to be part of a community that values innovation and impact in education. And within this community, I hope to create opportunities to bring individuals together and work on collaborative initiatives by creating platforms for members to share their expertise, insights, and experiences, fostering a culture of continuous learning.

How can our members get involved?

There are many ways that members can get involved by joining in discussions, starting discussions, organizing and hosting webinars, workshops, roundtable discussions, sharing expertise, attending events and so on. The crucial step is to give them a forum, and opportunity to do these kinds of activities also on a local scale.

Continue the conversation! Connect with Özgen

Özgen Bagci