There is a simple and very valuable strategy many successful private sector enterprises developed and continue to innovate upon to maintain their excellence and viability.
Here it is. These enterprises make sure that their products and fiscal and management practices keep up with the changing needs and wants of their customers and workforce. To do so, they apply the latest networking communications technologies available, and in the process of doing so, they listen and learn about the changing human paradigms impacting their customers and workforce. As a result, their systems become more flexible and adaptable and their products and services more resonant to human needs.
Can the education sector transform and transcend its present chaos by engaging in a similar process?
A successful private enterprise such as IBM reinvents itself while remaining in business. How? It dedicates time and resources, in an on-going process, to gather the information about the state of their market, including its existing practices, products and trends. They study this information, develop new practices and products and adapt or integrate parts of old ones, test everything, and then implement and mass produce. While at it, they identify and address internal interpersonal, human relations, diversity, and management issues. This approach overall makes a company sensitive and resonant to the market, their customers and their workforce needs and, therefore, successful throughout changing times.
All of this is transferable to the education sector. A similar process helps the sector to identify again its purpose while generating tailored resonant classroom content and practices and, with time, new sector standards. Groups of stakeholders become learning and innovating communities whose initial responsibility is to continue to generate the knowledge that is to sustain the sector’s resonance and effectiveness.
What is stopping the education sector from implementing this approach at the school, district and national level? Albert Einstein said: "no problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it." It is clear that the piecemeal approach the sector continues to be invested in doesn't
work. The latest one about accountability has manifested a high level of stress evidenced in the rise in test tampering by teachers and administrators. This is a clear indicator that reinforcing accountability by itself is not only counterproductive, but it is further fueling the adversarial environment that has characterized the discussion of education issues for decades. In that discussion parents, students, teachers and administrators all have been blamed for the ills that pervade the education system.
The education sector and its stakeholders must gather the courage to embrace the consciousness of the civilization of the Twenty-First Century and to integrate its state of human development. The answers to the sector's challenges lie in the heart and mind of humanity. To the degree that the sector is able to tap into such resources and resonate with the information they facilitate, it will succeed.
Why can't the sector begin a simultaneous process of collecting information by holding formal education stakeholders’ gatherings at the school, district, state and national levels that, with the teachers, school administrators, students and parents at the core, come together to have a dialogue about the education needs they have experienced? And why can't these communities of learning and innovation serve as a training ground for the sector's teachers and administrators?
There is nothing else than can be more grounding for all participants than to hear their own stories of the drama that takes place on a daily basis in the classroom, schools, private and public businesses and in their community that relate to the lack of a quality education process. And there is nothing more inspiring than for them to collaborate to find solutions.
This approach is quite distant from what the usual next consultant or taskforce offers. In these communities the outputs of their formal dialogues define the products and the accountability of the sector.
From this the teachers, as a part of an integral hands-on training program, can be charged with producing and testing education materials and strategies that address the most critical needs and trends they hear about. Why couldn't they test them in existing summer and after school programs that desperately need to change from childcare to quality academic curriculum and activities? And why couldn’t university education majors be the teachers’ assistants in these activities?
This approach elevates education and educators to the forefront, where they belong, by offering them a golden opportunity to shine, doing the work they love while receiving the support and input of an overall community that knows and understands their challenges and honors their profession.
Why couldn’t the education materials and strategies that proved effective then be shared with the whole system with the support of the hands-on, trained school administrators? Why can’t institutions of higher education use this real-life laboratory environment to develop valuable research? Why couldn't those research findings be shared with other education stakeholders, such as policy makers, who, as a result of participating in this process, become sensitized and more understanding of the constantly changing education needs and opportunities?
Why couldn’t private sector entities assume a shared role to supply the education process with the use of their communications technology know-how and systems to manage the sector? Why couldn’t educational entities transform themselves around this process and become again viable as, for example, information clearinghouses?
I speak from experience. This approach, even in the most minor scale, brings undeniable immediate benefits. It sends to the classroom re-energized and inspired teachers who have the support of their administrators and surrounding community. It keeps them employed during the summer time. Talk about job creation! Students participate in summer and after-school quality learning time rather than in destructive juvenile activities. Talk about government savings! College students are fired up to become quality educators. Talk about supplying quality teachers! An overall new sense of community and individual and collective responsibility permeates it all!
Taking this initial common sense approach gives the basis for the development of a sustainable educational process that manifests levels of human awareness that illuminate the path into the future. No other sector in a society can be charged with such responsibility.
The principle is simple and the development of the multi-sector, multidimensional infrastructure it implies is supported by the same technologies the IBMs of the world use to maintain their excellence and viability. Successful private enterprises do it and so can the education sector. Courage is the lacking main ingredient!