An Education Revolution

There could hardly be anything more important for the future of the country than the strength of its education system. 

Steve Denning

I read a great Article on education the other day written by leadership thinker Steve Denning. My passion for the future of education is expressed in frequent Posts on the topic – so the article struck a chord. As a leadership guru, Mr. Denning focused on the management of education and provided some fascinating statistics. For example, in 2006, only 43% of school personnel in the US were teachers, while in other countries, that percentage was 70 to 80%. Seems that this imbalance is driven by a compliance focus that has employees trying to monitor and comply with federal and state requirements. Mr. Denning believes that lost in this period of industrial-era bureaucracy is the purpose of organizations involved in education. He describes a current corporate revolution in management and leadership that he believes needs to take root in education. There are two very critical points made in the article that speak to a need to Think Differently.

20th century education was based on the assumption that the teachers have the answers and that their job is to impart those answers to the students, as the “sage on the stage.”

By contrast, 21st century education is, or should be, based on the assumption that the answers are already available in the digital world. The purpose of education should be to inspire the students to ask the right questions and discover those answers for themselves and start applying the answers in their own lives;

Steve Denning

Those two statements above capture the essence of a major shift required in the way we think about education. While the pandemic accelerated the digitization of education, digitizing an education paradigm that is ill-equipped for a new era will not drive a shift in thinking. Much like digitizing flawed corporate processes have failed to improve global productivity, the recent shift to virtual education simply shifts the 20th century model to a digital domain. Instead, learning must become a collaborative and inspirational cocreation between educator and learner. Rather than imparting knowledge, the teacher is a facilitator of a learning process that is all about solving problems. Need to learn math and science? Do it in a way that instills a sense of accomplishment, not just learning for the sake of learning.

This requires a shift in mindset in which teachers stop thinking of themselves as the repository of knowledge that must be transferred to fill the children’s empty brains. Instead they need to be thinking of themselves as stimulators of the native curiosity and capability of children to explore and learn.

Steve Denning

Mr. Denning believes we are dealing with a management problem, not just an education problem. As he states: “It’s time to move on. Education itself needs to be fundamentally reinvented, along with a different way of running schools and education systems.” Several societal challenges are linked to the direction this reinvention takes. The perspective provided by this article represents timely advice.

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