“Transforming education” is part of a lexicon of education systems around the world. But what kind of “transformation” are we looking at?
One route is to strengthen the role of the professional in designing, shaping and leading education systems at the level of school, school districts and systems. The idea is to equip teachers and school leadership with the skills and resources they need to create meaningful and mindful education appropriate to the students and the community. This route is one which champions learning and pedagogy as the driving force for the work of schools. The measures of success are: the engagement of learners; learning outcomes across a range of subjects and skills; and the satisfaction of those who teach with their work and conditions of practice.
A second route is to introduce market forces and outcomes based management practice to improve outcomes of school systems as measured on standardized tests. Scores on tests shape investments and activity. Teachers and school administrators are held accountable for measurable outcomes which they don’t set or assess directly. Sanctions are applied to those schools and teachers who underperform. Like business, outcomes are always measurable and engagement is of less importance than test scores.
The third route is a compromise between the two: student engagement and outcomes are important; assessment is used for improvement; and investments are made in improving performance, especially in science, engineering, maths and technology.
Each of these routes to transformation has risks and downsides. Each of these routes has consequences for our understanding of key roles – Teachers, Principals, Superintendents, Trustees, Ministers – and for their relationship.
The underlying issue with all of these routes is trust – who trusts who to do what? The related issue is what are the evidence signs of trust in action?
These are difficult questions. Our Centre for Public Policy will explore these issues as they relate to school systems. We will explore evidence driven arguments about the routes to change and transformation.