When I was in Lima, Peru, we had a nerdy morning over coffee discussing education best practices, strategies, and reforms that each of the Latin American ministers were doing in their countries. They had grand ideas and they were all very brilliant. Talking to them, you know that the countries are in very sure hands. Then I asked a question, of how do they simplify everything complex in schools and education systems, to variables that the greater mass, including parents and private sectors can decipher and comprehend. I was not surprised that all throughout the globe, we came back to the learning measurement tool we understood the most: standardized examinations.
Yesterday’s talk with several teachers in a private school in Jakarta, Indonesia also served as a powerful reflection. They were complaining about the big ideas that they read and implemented in classrooms, that were not as appreciated as parents. Parents still complained that homework was not constructive, that external fees were too big, teachers were not as strict, et cetera. Our well-thought-through gestures need to be communicated as simply and as well to other people, especially those with stakes on the issue.
Education is very intangible. How else do you share of the beauty of seeing one kid showing empathy by being by the side of another kid who is having difficulties with the lessons? Teachers would just tell parents, with beaming eyes. Parents would nod, without actually immersing in the incident’s beauty, that their son/daughter had picked up one of humanity’s mental lessons. That is a classroom story. Things get extra complicated when we talk about education policy, or change in curriculum. But the question remains the same: how do we communicate and send messages across simply?
Once on a cab ride, also in Lima, we went from one hotel to another to get friends and the displayed stars caught my attention. The multiple layers of hospitality and its element of subjectivity, with regards to habits, culture, cleanliness level etc have been boiled down into a simple five-star metric. It’s easy to understand, it’s not questioned further yet it suffices customers’ curiosity.
I am not sure how this idea can be translated to the education sphere. We can rank the schools from 1 through 10 perhaps. Categories such as teaching style, creativity in dealing with rigid curriculum (perhaps only in the Indonesian setting), parents’ involvement could all be part of a 1–10 metric. It should be simple enough for the greater public to evaluate how an educational institution is doing, or is serving their needs.
We can also create infographics and campaign for a certain new policy that is currently being executed, which is what we did during the initial KJP phase. KJP, or KartuJakartaPintar, is the cash transfer system the new administrative put in place in their first few months. There was a 24-page guideline on how to apply, who qualifies etc, and we tried translating the chunks of information into one big poster that applicants could better churn. (Note: most who applied for cash transfer, are short in cash, and never quite benefit from a 12-year education system).
Another idea is to create rubrics for students’ experience reports. Something that caters to academic as well as social achievements. And then we can add more rubrics for values that both teachers and parents think are important — to some, perhaps religiosity, or sportsmanship, etc. The goal is so the complexity can be translated into stories you, I and parents can understand.
There is a pressing need to communicate what we are doing in classrooms and in administration offices to the greater stakeholders of the education system. Therefore, everyone is on the same boat, and everyone knows where the boat is going (and we get the right people on the boat). The key is simplicity.