"We don't choose this profession to be wealthy or to be famous, we all choose it for very moral and altruistic reasons," he says launching into his opening keynote.

Lauded as one of the most in-demand educational consultants in North America, the CEO of New Frontier 21 Consulting certainly packs a verbal  punch and wastes no time in getting to the nitty gritty of what he wants to discuss; namely, the inequality, discrimination and fixed mindsets that keep gaps in educational achievement a firm reality in our school system.  

"If I were to come to your school and observe the achievement of your students based on gender, on race, on economic status ... would I be able to observe a gap in performance?" he poses to delegates.

The response, which of course Muhammad has already predicted,  is a resounding 'YES'. 

The key to rectifying this disparity, according to the author, researcher and advocate of cultural change, is not dependent on a schools access to the latest technological equipment or new-age teaching modules. Rather, it is the result of systemic cultural belief systems that always champion some students at the expense of others. 

"We (have) technical inventions, we have studied ways to improve practice, but ... the greatest resource in your entire institution is the human resource," Muhammad says. 

The problem, he suggests, is when our own pre-determined notions of  what constitutes a 'good' or 'bad' school, student  or teacher gets in the way of our students reaching their full potential. 

"Culture is like soil, and technology like (the) seeds. Why have payed so much attention to the seeds and ignored the soil?" he asks.

Well, it's a whole lot easier to change a software system than deal with people's deeply held beliefs, Muhammad reasons.  

It is now that the stoic driver of cultural change forces his audience to really re-examine their own attitudes. 

"No technical device will overcome gaps with a discriminatory mindset," he notes, adding that "technical change without cultural change is a waste of time."

"We love equality as a concept, but how much of us want to live in a world where its actually equal?"

Drawing upon his visionary soil/seed conception, Muhammad moves on to discuss how educators can begin to fertilise their own soil (ie create a culture of equality in their school system) to allow all students to flourish, regardless of their socio-economic background, capabilities, race or gender. 

"You don't improve schools by telling them that they are terrible ... you just help them," he says. 

Measures like grading schemes, national testing and school accountability ratings all work to re-enforce a schools' mindset of having privilege or  of being a victim. Both, according to Muhammad , hinder student performance in dramatic ways.

We over test, we provide labels and we vilify those at the bottom and give resources to the top, he states. 

The good news is that together we have the power to rectify this. 

"Do we know enough to close achievement gap? The answer is a resounding YES ... the problem is that we haven't developed the collective will to do what for all children what we do for some," Muhammad says. 

"We have to have a commitment to equality." 

Part of this is recognising that the silent majority will never be able to initiate change. Speak up for what you believe in, Muhammad urges, even if that means going against the status-quo. 

"What are you willing to be vilified for that in your heart you know is a core value, but other people wont like. If we do that, the system of discrimination will start to crumble overnight."