Tag Archives: access

Comparing Best Practice Global Education Case Studies: All Just Apples and Oranges?

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“Don’t tell me how brilliant they are at education in Finland or Singapore! We don’t live there! It’s not the same! What works well there is based on their context, not ours! It works well because it’s there. Don’t compare us to them or try to make us do things their way!”

So react many when told about amazing results the education systems of those countries bring in general (Finland – dedicated students with great teacher working conditions) or in reference to particular subject areas (Singapore – maths, reading and science – see PISA 2015 results).

I do believe that you can’t necessarily implement what works well in one cultural setting into another and expect it to automatically work well in the different locale as well. There is more to it than that. If that is true, is there any benefit to looking at ‘best practice’ case studies at all? Are other people’s and countries’ lessons learned entirely unique to their own setting, or might there be transferable relevance?

I guess it might be similar to seeking help from an agony aunt or a counsellor. You might think that if you are going through a particular problem, issue or challenging situation that there could be benefit from seeking advice from someone else who has been through something similar or at least has studied how to help those in such situations as yours.

In the same way, perhaps doing a bit of research to see how problems and challenges have been approached by others could be useful. At least by understanding their cases perhaps something could be gleaned to apply in your own setting. Of course, I’m not advocating the seeking out and establishing of one-size-fits-all prescriptive methodologies. Rather, synthesising insights from elsewhere with a view to contextualising intelligent application in your own setting.

With that in mind, if we think education needs reforming, where do we look? Where should policy makers look? Can anything be learned by analysing and seeking to understand the dynamics and challenges of educational reforms in different places around the world in a comparative way? Might there be some common patterns that emerge that make such studies worthwhile? By engaging in comparative educational reform studies might we understand the influences that shape process in general in our time in the 21st century, right now? If we understand those influences would it help us get better leverage on policy making and outcomes from leadership where we are locally? How would leadership roles change? What impact would it make on policy? What would we do differently?

It seems perhaps that as a base assumption and starting point we need to accept that the interest governments have in education tend to relate directly to the future sustainability of the economy. In addition, there is usually some interplay between central government and local governments (or municipalities as they are widely referred to in many countries) as to how educational policy is implemented and education is administratively delivered. So it could be worthwhile to ask in what ways are different national government models related to different local government approaches to providing education services? As we know, in England, local authority control over schools is currently practically out of the window. If we compared the English case of academisation and the rise of free schools with the ways local government in other countries still plays a large role in improving access, equity and learning at various levels of education, would we find that more effective models of policy framing and development have led to better outcomes in the longer term elsewhere?  What do they do differently and how? How are tasks divided and what coordination mechanisms exist between central government and local government in these different countries? What works well, how and why?

It seems reasonable to assume that unpicking these finer details may lead to beneficial insights. As to whether they were then of practical value in different local settings would need to be analysed on a case by case basis – at the end of the day you’ve got to admit there are lots of apples and oranges in all this. 

Then of course there’s the cost. In England’s case, it seems funding is being slashed right, left and centre. Is there any money left to do anything anymore? 

Perhaps educational social entrepreneurship is the answer after all…

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Are You an Educational Social Entrepreneur?

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Who has the opportunity for education? Who doesn’t? What opportunities does that include? Who is left out? To whose and what detriment?

We could use those questions as a starting point for an interesting discussion at a variety of social levels: the family, locally, regionally, nationally and internationally.

A key assumption would be that individual educational achievement and success impacts on the good of society as a whole, and therefore it is a matter of social responsibility that we help all individuals, at every level, to access education and achieve in it.

Beyond the values and motivations of the individual, their family and immediate community, it seems to be down to policy makers, consultants and social entrepreneurs to improve educational opportunity in general. I’m not including teachers or schools/colleges/universities/training centres themselves, as in this context they seem to be merely cogs in the machine (important cogs, but cogs nonetheless). 

Social entrepreneurs are an interesting one: in the UK it is exciting to see how many ‘free schools’ have been set up and sponsored to deliver education that parents and the community deem of importance and relevance – are those who set up free schools in the category of social entrepreneurs? I would argue yes. They are innovating educationally, based on seen and conceptually recognised opportunities. At the heart of their endeavours they believe that their enterprises will achieve some social good. Some of these social entrepreneurs are or have been teachers by the way, but not all. Some haven’t even got a background in education. Do they need one? I guess it would help, but…

Close your eyes and think for a moment: in your family, locally, regionally, nationally or globally, who are those without access to a ‘decent education’? What is a decent education? We’d have to assume it was at least being in full time education until the late teens, and being able to leave with excellent chances of continuing into a chosen profession/trade or further/higher education. But beyond that, why not level up the playing field even more? Of those that you just imagined in your family, locally, regionally, nationally or globally, what is stopping them from not just getting a decent education, but an amazing education that would open up everybody’s chances of reaching out to the most amazing opportunities globally for everyone? Why not? What is stopping that from happening? Not just to the poor and marginalised who have trouble staying in school until 16.

Why doesn’t everyone have the chance to go to Oxford and Cambridge in the UK? Or Stanford, Berkeley, Harvard, Yale or MIT in the USA? Or Insead in France or The London Business School in England?

If you had the magic wand that would give everyone in your family, and everyone locally, regionally, nationally and globally the opportunity to engage in all the opportunities that exist in those educational institutions and beyond (because, after all, those who go to those places have amazing prospects afterwards), what would you do? What needs to change to allow that to happen? What would need to happen to people’s mindsets, values, motivations and financial situations to allow that to happen?

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Do you see a stepping stone that would allow that change to happen? What is that stepping stone? Can you formulate that stepping stone into a mission and a set of objectives and tasks? Can you visualise the end outcomes? What support would you need to put this plan into action?

If you have answers to all these questions, then maybe you are a social entrepreneur. So, what ideas do you have?

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