Quality, Supply and Demand in Education

By Ross Hall, Director of Education Strategy at Ashoka

Increasing access to and attendance at school remains a major issue within many countries and populations. However, as access has increased for many, there is growing recognition that the quality of schooling (the quality of the experience of school that produces outcomes) is a massive problem that is proving very difficult to address at scale, and increasingly urgent.

The outcomes we are typically achieving and often aiming for in schools are, for many, increasingly insufficient. For the majority of young people today, the experience of school is failing to equip them properly to succeed in the new world of work: to thrive in an increasingly volatile and complex world and to change the world for the common good.

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Our mission at Ashoka is to trigger the transformation of education systems so that everyone is provided with quality educational experiences that are explicitly designed to equip and incline them to thrive in the modern world, and to change the world for the good of all. We call the kind of person who is equipped and inclined in this way a changemaker.

To catalyse such a significant transformation, we believe that schools, teachers and young people must be active in leading change.

From early childhood and into adulthood, schools are the places in which we make our most systematic attempts to shape the human mind. To nurture young changemakers, we need to re-focus our attention and effort in schools — and this requires the willingness and leadership of those who work and live in them.

But a young person’s experience in school is influenced heavily by people beyond the walls of the school. Moreover, a young person’s experience before and outside of school is also hugely influential on their development. Therefore, it will be important for schools, non-formal education providers and other key actors from across the ecosystem to participate in leading change.

With this in mind, we are selecting, connecting and organising teams of pioneering schools, teachers, young people, parents, teaching unions, teacher training institutions, universities, policy makers, businesses and social entrepreneurs which will lead strategic initiatives to trigger rapidly self-multiplying changes that ultimately tip the practice and experience of education for everyone.

Central to this approach is the idea that in order to change the practice of education, we first of all need to change mindsets across the ecosystem.

Put another way, we need to change demand across the ecosystem. It is insufficient to increase the supply of quality educational provision alone. We need parents, young people and teachers to demand quality education (where quality means effectively equipping and inclining young people to act for our collective wellbeing). We need universities and employers to demand changemakers. We need policy makers, teacher training institutions, teaching unions and others from across the ecosystem to want this quality of education provision.

Changing demand across the ecosystem must, therefore, be an essential objective of the teams we are organising. But changing demand is a complex process that will involve changing mindsets about the purpose of education, the reality of the world today and of the world to come. It will involve changing minds about which learning objectives and experiences we will prioritise. It will also involve changing our minds about roles, responsibilities, incentives and disincentives in the education system.

To help teams trigger systematic changes, we need to understand better the nature of changing demand, we need to find practices that are proven to be effective at changing demand, and we need to share these practices effectively.

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