The end of efficiency

The industrial model of schooling is characterised by its efficiency of processing children through the system en masse.  That is why the model has been easy to replicate over the decades and why its processes and structures still dominate today.  We have come to rely (almost blindly) on its efficiency at the expense of effectiveness and innovation. The question we need to ask is whether we still want schools to be efficient in today’s world?

Simon Sinek has spoken a lot about the concept of innovation and efficiency within organisations and says if you’re pursuing one, you cannot pursue the other.  They cannot co-exist because efficiency relies on improving what has always been done. Innovation responds to the present.

We can agree that efficiency as a construct for driving improvement has well and truly reached its use by date. Really successful organisations focus on value not efficiency. The value proposition by definition is that organisations have to be responsive in their context and environment. They have to embrace change and innovation and demonstrate value for these processes. Value and effectiveness are equally important for schooling as they are for the business sector. We need to acknowledge that we can’t ignore efficiency but the modern term is value.

If we want schooling to be innovative and add value, then we can no longer pursue efficiency. A new model of schooling must be dynamic, critical, explorative and iterative in the way design thinking is. This is about creating new learning environments that encourage students to embrace trial and error with an experimental mindset. It requires teachers to continually craft a curriculum that is personally meaningful and intellectually rigorous to every learner, every day.

This is why innovative schools like High Tech High are so successful. Teaching is not reduced to a prescribed curriculum, daily objective or test.  Rather the model is responsive, adaptive and designed around what students want to learn and need to learn to become innovative knowledge workers.

This quote below from Elon Musk was posted a few weeks back. It reinforces the point that efficiency leaves no room for mistakes; no room for innovation in schools. It is high time we made space for both.














One thought on “The end of efficiency

  1. I agree wholeheartedly with the proposition, and love the work that High Tech High have done. I think a critical challenge in this shift is helping parents understand the need for this shift, and to help them develop trust in this new model of learning (and in all involved) that it will help build the skills and capabilities in students for the emerging new world of industry and society.

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