No figure has made greater impact on schools across the world than German born statistician, Andreas Schleicher, Director of the Programme for International Schools Assessment (PISA) at the OECD. Schleicher began to develop his PISA studies 20 years ago into the worldwide measure of the performance of student ability in mathematics, science and reading. First produced in its modern form in 2000 and repeated every three years, it has had a profound impact on governments’ priorities internationally for schooling. He is seen as the high priest of testing. Much good, as well as much damage, has flowed from his PISA studies, as education has been narrowed down to teaching to the test. But he has now become a strong champion of well-being and character, regarding them as every bit as important for schools to focus upon as traditional testing. Doing so builds better learners, citizens and employees. Governments worldwide have yet to understand this. Britain for one has been reluctant to embrace the PISA studies of adolescent well-being.

The Seldon List 2017


These 20 figures, ten women, ten men, encompass those who I believe are having or will have the most powerful effect on our schools and universities. Some are household names, many are not. They all should be. Education at every level is riven by major disputes, and now more so than ever. The list of 20 contains those with pungent views on these debates, which include: whether we should be educating young people to lead a good life or merely for jobs; whether a traditional academic curriculum is suitable for all and whether it is right that it fails a third or more; and whether the state or the market should be dominant in deciding the content and delivery of education.

Reducing the figures to just 20 was agonizing: a further ten at least were very close to inclusion. Next year’s table will drop 10 from here. The key factor in the selection is who is setting the agenda for education, whether leaders of individual institutions, politicians and administrators, or academics and writers.

As education affects all of us, far more than we may think, these 20 contain some of the most influential figures in the country today.

Sir Anthony Seldon

Sir Anthony is one of Britain’s leading contemporary historians, educationalist, commentator and political author. Anthony Seldon is currently the Vice Chancellor of Buckingham University. He was head of Brighton College and of Wellington College, two of Britain’s leading independent schools. He is author of over 40 books on contemporary history, including the inside books on the last four Prime Ministers, politics and education, is co-founder of Action for Happiness, honorary historian to Downing Street and a Director of The Royal Shakespeare Company.



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