Education Transformation Takes Time

Image retrieved from website under CC 4.0 Attribution on 2019–02–23.

Such problems can be roughly divided into three categories (following a taxonomy by Lant Pritchett of Harvard and Michael Woolcock of the World Bank). Some require the exercise of ingenuity and discretion by small teams (eg, inventing a new vaccine); some demand the programmatic mobilisation of legions of people (immunisation drives). Others require both.

Improving education falls into this third, difficult category. It is not a problem that a small team of brilliant people can crack. Nor can a good education be delivered, like a vaccine, by following a strict protocol to the letter. Instead it requires legions of teachers to respond thoughtfully and conscientiously to pupils’ needs. Mr Gates left his bam circle wishing every classroom could emulate its intimacy and respectfulness. But that is hard to bottle.

The Economist. The maniacal and the miraculous. February 16th — 22nd 2019. Retrieved 2019–02–23

This is an important observation about education and educational reform. It involves many people. Both many people to develop new methods and tools, and many people to implement and integrate these ideas to move education institutions to better meet our needs.

One is reminded that Charles William Eliot took forty years to transform tertiary education in the nineteenth century. We have a similar challenge today in that Eliot’s form and structure is no longer fit for purpose in the same way the Harvard of 1869 was not for the First Industrial Revolution.

This challenge is one that requires tireless and often unremarked work by so many of us. Aligning the thinking of so many people across cultural and governmental differences is necessary to mobilize the many.

At the same time we must nurture the work of smaller groups and individuals who will develop the many ideas and tools we will need to realize an education system that widens the filter and brings more people further into their own creative and thoughtful contribution to our societies.

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