Enterprise schooling: towards interdependence

One thing that seems to annoy educators is the intrusion of “business” terminology into the work of schooling.  When terms like key performance indicators and data driven are introduced, we fear that business is going to take over the work of schooling, which has its own unique language and narrative.

For too long we’ve seen the “business of schooling” as unique to each school or system; a stand- alone process. We have operated as some sort of small cottage industry and worked to provide schooling within its own context. As we know, this isn’t sustainable in a world that has become connected and flatter.

Michael Fullan and myself on his recent visit to meet with our school and system leaders.

If we’re going to find ways to continuously improve schools, we have to move from a cottage understanding of schooling to an enterprise understanding of schooling. Michael Fullan has been working with us recently and made this point when he talked about the need for interdependence not independence.

I’ve been thinking about this point in relation to the history and growth of technologies in our schools. One of the reasons we’ve been able to link schools together and take advantage of the world wide web is that we understand the need for standards. These standards reflect a universal agreement on what it takes to run the system and run it efficiently.

Standards in technology can also be applied to the business of schooling.  As I’ve said before, we need an agreed set of standards around the fundamentals of learning and teaching to ensure all schools move forward.  I call this enterprise schooling– the move from isolation to connectedness, from local to global, from pockets to widespread engagement, from some schools to all schools sharing success.

Michael refers to it as common sense approach and shared five points or standards when it comes to widespread improvement of learning and teaching.

  1. Literacy and numeracy is the bread and butter of primary schools
  2. Capacity building must be continuous
  3. There has to be a consistency of practice in how literacy and numeracy is taught
  4. Momentum builds when we learn from each other (within schools and increasingly across schools and clusters)
  5. Leadership teams must be obsessed with ‘making it happen’

While these points may be simple enough, the execution isn’t always. ‘Making it happen’ is complex work – it relies on school leaders building a cohesive group and teachers being ‘irresistibly engaged’.  Engagement happens when there is ‘buy in’ – when every member of the team accepts the standards and takes responsibility for improving the learning and teaching.

According to Michael, we tend to do a lot of work on collaboration and teamwork but without traction – without results.  Teamwork comes with an obligation to continuously drill down to get better learning to engage students, which engages teachers at the same time.

In thinking about schooling as ‘enterprise’, we should think about school implementation plans as mini ‘declarations of interdependence’. Written by the people and for the people and when successful, the work is shared among the people.

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