Vikas Pota announced today that he is stepping down from his role as Chief Executive of global education charity The Varkey Foundation to lead a new organisation that will the explore the role of technology in education.
Mr Pota, who has been the CEO of the Varkey Foundation since it was founded by education entrepreneur and philanthropist Sunny Varkey in 2011, will now become its non executive Chairman. Current COO Cate Noble will take over as CEO.
During his eight years as CEO Mr Pota helped turn the Varkey Foundation into one of the most recognised and influential foundations in the world. He will be remembered for his pioneering approach in elevating education policy from the preserve of policy-makers and panel discussions into issues that seized the imagination of the public around the world.
By backing bold initiatives he helped subjects such as teacher status break free from the echo chamber of the educational elite into causes that reached the top of the global news agenda. He helped turn education and teaching into issues that were discussed around the kitchen table. And, in an age that reveres celebrity, he understood the importance of seeing the world’s most respected figures champion education – from actors and musicians to politicians, princes and even the Pope.
Perhaps his greatest achievement was to oversee the launch and subsequent success of the Global Teacher Prize which annually rewards a US$1M award to one teacher while telling stories of thousands more great teachers around the world. Since its launch five years ago the Prize has become the most celebrated and pre-eminent education prize in the world. It has gained support from such world renowned figures as The Pope, President Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, Princes William and Harry and the late Professor Stephen Hawking.
Vikas Pota also oversaw the 2013 launch of the Foundation’s Global Education and Skills Forum which is now regarded as the ‘Davos of education’ where education ministers, current and former heads of state, business leaders, academics and NGOs mix with celebrities annually to tackle the greatest education challenges facing the planet. At this forum he banned conventional panel discussions and established innovations like a House of Commons style debating chamber and a US TV chat show style format to energise the exchanges between the participants and to come up with the best ideas and policies.
Under Mr Pota’s tenure the Varkey Foundation has published groundbreaking global reports such as the world’s first Global Teacher Status Index which identified that there were significant differences between the status of teachers worldwide.
The Foundation has also pioneered effective teacher training programmes in countries like Uganda, Ghana and Argentina. The foundation has also launched innovative distance learning programmes for young people in sub-Saharan Africa via a satellite dish, solar power and an interactive live feed. These give children, including in refugee camps, access to a great teacher, whilst also helping to train existing teachers.
It is this liberating potential of technology for the future of education that has inspired Vikas Pota’s next move. He has accepted an invitation from Sunny Varkey to set up an organisation that will look to answer some of the key questions about the role of technology in education, in particular how it can help give a quality education to the billion plus young people that are either not in school or have no access to a good teacher.
Mr Pota is a Visiting Practitioner in Education at Harvard University, a Honorary Lecturer at UCL Institute of Education, a Senior Leaders Fellow at the Centre for Science & Policy at Cambridge University, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, and was selected by the World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader for his work in education. Vikas received a Honorary Doctorate in 2016 and was listed by London’s Evening Standard newspaper as being in the Progress 1000 list of most influential Londoners in 2016.
Vikas Pota said:
“It has been an incredible privilege to have led our organisation since its inception, and I am honoured that the Varkey family and Trustees have now asked me to serve as Chairman of the Board of Trustees. I look forward, in this role, to helping shape its future strategy and provide as much support as I can to its vital mission. We are a Foundation that has much to be proud of and that has so much more to give.
“Cate carries a wealth of experience and is finely placed to lead the Foundation into new project areas. Her expertise in educational development is world-leading and I know, from our working relationship to date, how determined she is to extend the reach and weight of our voice, as well as our impact on the ground. I am certain she will make a great success of her new position.
“I have learnt a lot but I have many questions that remain unanswered, mainly around the subject of technology and the promise it holds. For this reason, I am honoured to have been asked by Sunny Varkey to establish an organization that seeks to build further understanding about the role of technology in education.”