As you may know, I spent the end of the 2017 school year visiting schools in the UK and Scandinavia. Their challenges are the same as the ones faced here: concern over the quality of schooling, overall relevance of schools in a rapidly changing world and the absence of a coherent educational policy.
Nonetheless when you’re on the ground in schools, they are questioning the status quo. For example, one educator in Finland told me that PISA had done more harm than good because policy makers equate it to quality schooling. In the Netherlands, two schools I visited are examples of what can be done when you are not afraid to do things differently. Mondomijn is a school that translates to ‘My World’ in Dutch and has put learners (0-13 years) at the centre of their work. Teachers see themselves as collaborators first and foremost and the learning framework is loosely structured around Reggio Emilia principles. The space itself is very adaptable and students are given full voice in the organisation of the school via a representative board. The school recognises that it is the exception rather than the norm so finding teachers with the right fit has been a challenge.
LOS Deurne is based on the democratic schools model. Although it is a registered school, it doesn’t receive Government funding largely because they are not interested in maintaining the status quo of traditional schooling. The school is parent run, operates out of a former restaurant and teachers negotiate learning based on student interest. Parents and community experts are then invited to support the individual learning programs. The school is niche and they recognise that while scaleability may be difficult to achieve, they want to be an example to the rest of the world of what is actually possible. I believe they will continue to grow because of an increasing desire by parents to see new models of schooling.
The take-home message is that transformation is the global agenda, which means the professional inertia that has existed for so long must be overcome by a willingness to take on new challenges, directions and ideas. There is not a business or industry operating in today’s world that isn’t having to ask some hard questions and undertake radical change. The reasons why companies like IBM have thrived is because they see innovation inextricably linked to big challenges. Big challenges have the potential for big change and new possibilities that not only benefit the consumer and company but also society as a whole as explained by Greg Satell in his HBR article. Satell reflects that, ‘No matter what form innovation takes – short, agile sprints or long-term, grand-challenge investments – innovation is fundamentally about solving problems.’
And if anyone has a grand challenge to solve, it’s us.