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A timeless mission for complex times

14 February 2024

Friday, 1 March 2024


The opening plenary session of the 2024 UWC International Congress will set the stage for the entire Congress with a focus on Education as a Force: A Timeless Mission for Complex Times. In this session, we will focus on the UWC mission and the UWC educational model as more relevant now than ever before, given the various complex challenges of our time. We will be inspired by a keynote speech delivered by UWC alumnus and Honourable Minister of Education, Culture, Research and Technology of the Republic of Indonesia, His Excellency Mr Nadiem Makarim; as well as a dialogue between him and UWC Thailand student from China, Danlan Xu.

The world today has been described as being in a state of “polycrisis” - an unprecedented convergence of political, social, economic and ecological instability. This combination of interrelated global challenges accentuated by the pace of technological advancements, rapid changes in the world of work, lower levels of trust in public institutions, and the rise of disinformation, intolerance and hate speech, is creating a need for revised educational models to meet the demands of the 21st century. We believe that if the challenges facing the world today are interconnected, then education needs to evolve in order to prepare the next generation to think systematically and develop new approaches to safeguard human and planetary existence.

Across the UWC movement, we believe that we are well positioned to meet the needs of our time given our history of deep investment in education innovation; extending opportunities to high potential young people from all over the world, particularly those from under-resourced backgrounds; and the power of our global network of alumni, educators, volunteers, donors, and supporters. Through the Congress, we will revisit the UWC mission and our educational proposition, refocus on strategies that offer the highest promise and re-energise our global community about our future direction.

Keynote Speaker

His Excellency Mr Nadiem Makarim (UWC SEA, 2000-2002)

Nadiem Makarim serves as Minister of Education, Culture, Research, and Technology of the Republic of Indonesia. In October 2019, he was first appointed as Minister of Education and Culture by President Joko Widodo and subsequently appointed as Minister of Education, Culture, Research, and Technology in 2021.

Under his leadership, the Ministry has launched an ambitious and comprehensive education reform movement, Merdeka Belajar (Emancipated Learning) aimed at transforming education in the country. Technology serves as one of the important leverages in the movement for enhancing critical thinking and problem solving skills for Indonesia's approximately 48 million K-12 students and 9 million university students, and offering greater flexibility, autonomy and professional learning for teachers.

Prior to entering politics, Nadiem was a highly successful multi-award winning entrepreneur. In 2010, he founded GO-JEK, a leading on-demand multi-service platform which became Indonesia's first startup valued at over US$10 billion. GO-JEK was named on Fortune's 2017 Change the World list, the only Southeast Asian company to do so and subsequently announced its international expansion into Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore and The Philippines - turning Indonesia's first ever home-grown unicorn into an international technology company.

Before founding GO-JEK, Nadiem was a management consultant with McKinsey & Company. He founded Young Leaders for Indonesia, a non-profit that taught leadership modules to the best university students across Indonesia in order to prepare them for the professional world. Nadiem was also Co-founder and Managing Director of Zalora Indonesia, which has now become Indonesia's leading online fashion site. He has consulted for numerous startups, and is a World Economic Forum Global Shaper. In 2019, he was named on TIME’s 100 Next List.

Nadiem holds a BA from Brown University, an MBA from Harvard Business School and he is a proud alumnus of UWC South East Asia.