Today marks the start of the Microsoft in Education Global Forum in Barcelona, a gathering of over 1000 of the most innovative and committed educators, school leaders and government officials from nearly 100 countries. This annual event is a chance for education’s best and brightest to learn from their peers, share classroom triumphs and challenges, and collaborate to help transform education for the 21st century. It’s also an opportunity for Microsoft to reinforce our longstanding commitment to building a better future for our young people as part of our global YouthSpark initiative.

At Microsoft, we believe that technology can empower educators and students to meet and exceed their goals. We are all witnessing – and are key players in – a historic shift in education.  As governments and educators worldwide seek to understand which tools and approaches will ultimately benefit students and society as a whole, many claim to have the answers.  But as new technologies and new realities shift the foundations of traditional education, it can be tough for education decision makers to know where – or how – to take the next step.

Against this backdrop, school leaders are looking for solutions that can help hedge against inevitable and constant change and prepare young people for a dramatically different workforce. For their part, teachers want technology tools that not only engage students, but that prepare them for their next steps. Teachers also need tools to help them manage their classrooms, along with the growing demands of their jobs. And, for everyone, the safety and security of these solutions must be reliable and uncompromising.

With a range of affordable devices to suit every age group, running on the anywhere, anytime power of Windows 8, Microsoft offers proven solutions to the shortcomings, privacy concerns and manageability worries that plague so many other education technology implementations. The power of 1:1 computing is unleashed with the cloud-enabled productivity of Office 365, Skype and OneDrive. Classroom technology is easily managed with Windows Intune, freeing up more time for teachers to focus on teaching. Bing search is integrated and ad-free, designed specifically for education. And for the most vulnerable among us – our children -- privacy and security are guaranteed.  No other education technology offering comes close.

We’ve been dedicated to creating meaningful change in education for more than three decades, with $750 million invested in teacher training and professional development in just the last 15 years to ensure that sustainable change is a reality throughout the world. Microsoft's legacy of focusing on teachers, students and school leaders is without equal, and we create products for the world of education with their needs in mind. No other company offers this broad portfolio of familiar, robust and secure software and services created specifically for education. And, our commitment doesn’t stop there. Microsoft’s focus on education is  amplified by the company’s global YouthSpark initiative, to create opportunities for youth in education, employment and entrepreneurship. In the first year alone, YouthSpark has created opportunities for more than 103 million young people in over 100 countries around the world.  

The Expert Educators and Mentor School leaders who are joining us in Barcelona this week are working to build a new world of education – one that respects the right of every child to a quality education and provides each of those students with the best opportunity to succeed in school and in life. And, as we have for more than 30 years, Microsoft is standing beside them.

Today, Microsoft’s top leaders from around the globe are joining me to pledge their support for the teachers, school leaders and students who are shaping the future. We do not take our commitment lightly. We will continue to dedicate our considerable resources to transforming education today, and to creating a future where every child is prepared to lead the next generation of global citizens. And I’m thrilled to be able to share this commitment with the innovators and change-makers who will join us in making this happen. I also want to recognize our sponsors for the Microsoft in Education Global Forum, especially those at the

Platinum and Gold levels: Pearson, Promethean, Dell, Intel, Acer, and School Improvement Network. Your generosity and commitment to education has made this event possible.

Follow the Global Forum anywhere, anytime! Even if you’re not able to join us in Barcelona, you can keep up with the Global Forum through our new Facebook app, on our Twitter feed (#MicrosoftGF), or on our YouTube channel. Watch insightful keynotes and video interviews, experience the competitions and get inspired by the best of worldwide education! Let me know your thoughts at @AnthonySalcito.

- Anthony