I have just completed the first part of my professional learning which involved participating in the Advanced Leadership Program (ALP) at the Judge Business School, Cambridge University. The ALP is an intensive three week aimed at exploring the challenges of leading for Organisational Change in to the future. It provides senior executives space to re-calibrate and fine-tune their leadership agenda and the changing nature of Leading. I benefitted greatly from the discussions and exchanges with Faculty members along with outstanding speakers from the Business School and Cambridge University. The program aims to prepare leaders for future challenges by creating space to allow those participating to reflect on what is critical to personal and organisational success. The second part will be visiting some of the schools that are ‘learning for the future’ here in London and Scandinavia.
The question of why I chose a business school to begin my professional learning is easy to answer. The course took me out of the education comfort zone that we all fall into throughout our careers. It was an opportunity to stretch my thinking and to map ways in which we can lead schools into the challenging and exciting times ahead.
The program is divided into three parts with an overall framework that has three distinct but interrelated parts. Part one dealt with making sense of turbulent times. Part two dealt with building organisational and personal capabilities and finally, leading for the future. There were 25 participants from across the globe. Although I was the only representative from the school sector, my understanding of leadership and global trends was certainly enriched by the interaction with those from other nations and sectors. Seeing the world through the eyes of others is a powerful learning experience in itself and discussions on organisational culture highlighted the differences between Eastern and Western cultures. The input and conversations with my fellow participants allowed me to clarify that we need to work with our leaders on an engagement process to help shape our potential future. What does this mean for schools?
Firstly, the economics of schooling doesn’t make sense. Substantial investment in land acquisition, bricks and mortar buildings that are only used for seventy percent of the year can no longer be sustained.
Secondly, the traditional subject-based curriculum is simply not fit for purpose in a knowledge world. We need to be teaching students how to learn, not what to learn. It requires a new and powerful set of capabilities that will enable all young people to be curious and adaptable learners that extends beyond school.
Thirdly, the success of schools into the future is not to be found in reputation but in quality. This is similar to how a local credential certified by a government agency or education standards authority will be challenged by global access to high quality credentials without having to attend an institution. Multiple providers are already growing this space.
Fourthly, the way we organise the process of teaching shapes how teachers teach. Timetables define groups of students to be taught the what, when and where. Is this an appropriate model for the knowledge age? And what does it really mean to be a teacher in a knowledge world? Do you have to have had teacher training to be a teacher? Why are teachers’ working lives still so regulated and why do we continue to protect old ways of working?
The ALP program has given me further insight into some of the big drivers of change and how other sectors are responding regardless of location. It has solidified the fact that schools have one option now – transform schooling. What and how we do it will be the unfolding challenge.