Managerialism v Professionalism
I was going to entitled this post after Malcolm McLarens’ keynote at Games-Based Learning in 2009 “Never-Mind The Bollocks Here’s The Txt Pistols” as his talk captures the tension between Innovation and Control that occurs when any new technology enters education. McLaren, like McLuhan, was arguing for the conversational crafting of new creative potentials, something social media makes readily available. The delicious crowd-sourced ideas of #BectaX were arguing for a socialised, participative, learning exchange, roughly speaking, “every learner their own TxT Pistol”. New media, new technologies in fact, create new affordances for disruptive innovation, as they offer new tools and processes for problem-solving. Social media offer the opportunity for the “creativity, innovation and collaboration” of Group Genius to became processes welcomed within educational institutions. We play, we learn, we imagine new futures; the point of course is how do we realise them?
In this morning’s Guardian Education the lead article revisits the Cambridge Primary Review which took three years to carry out and which was comprehensively rejected by the Government. In keeping with my observation from the Policy Forest work that we need “policy formulation that is responsive to the learning process and not directed at managers” it discusses the negative reception that this thorough piece of evidence driven work received from the government. Similarly to my own conclusions of engaging with learning professionals in policy development the author Robin Alexander wants to “Re-balance the relationship between government, local authorities and schools, ending micro-management by DCSF and policy-policing by the national agencies.”
Why are we offered the Business Model?
So why do we keep being offered a business model version of educational policy, rather than a learning process model such as “Learning is Delicious,” especially in those circumstances when educational professionals offer a fresh, clear vision of learning. Critically the business model approach allows a number of things to be done to education that make sense from a central government perspective. Firstly it can be commoditised, productised, homogenised and advertised; EDUCATION! Then “leaders” can be found, trained, promoted, handcuffed, lionised, blamed and replaced. Once we have a fixed product with known Critical Success Factors which can be captured and recorded, then we can unblinkingly publish “outcomes” in “neutral” League Tables. This allows Ministers and Civil Servants, who set the original targets, to use those League Tables as a Decision Support System which usefully identifies below par performers. And parents are used as mystery shoppers so they can apply pressure, as consumers of this educational product, so that education can be “improved.” How common is this Business Model approach to Education across Europe, given the current enthusiasm for the Swedish model? Well, as Professor David Wood points out, we are the only nation-state in Europe which uses the same singular measure to evaluate, learners, teachers, schools and the institution. So this approach uniquely allows Ministers and Civil Servants to micro-manage the entire educational Business Model putting pressure on all the actors involved, whilst being able to allocate any blame to them. And reject reports which suggest any change to this. The Business Model approach also allows educational institutions to be prepared for privatisation. The commercial opportunity of “selling the family silver” remains intact in the education business, indeed on April 28 2010, the day after I wrote this post, the Conservative Party proudly boasted that “we will let private firms run state schools.”
Post Election Discussion “What is education for?”
Interestingly Robin Alexander has written his article now in May 2010 in the hope that we might have a thorough-going discussion on educational policy post-election, in his case around the question “What is primary education for?” He further argues that schools cannot wait passively for policy to be done to them but that “those in the educational frontline make the agenda their own; and it requires sustained effort and indeed, for some, re-education.”
His key target, like the #BectaX call for a socialised learning process, is that we need to “help schools to work in partnership with each other rather than in competition, sharing ideas, expertise and resources and together tackling local needs,” critically adding a redistributive social inclusion agenda to that call for collaboration. Like my call for a Web 2.0 CPD programme for teachers post-election, Robin Alexander wants CPD to help teachers rediscover how to take decisions about the educational context they work in believing they have been professionally damaged by the business model approach. Most of all he wants the informed ideas of educational professionals, as well as evidence-based approaches to the future and purpose of education, to be sufficiently thoughtful taken seriously in policy development.
Some Differences between Business Models and Learning Process
|Business Model||Learning Process|
|Single Criteria of Success||Diverse Criteria of Success|
|Centralised Curriculum||Community-Responsive Curriculum|
|Leader-driven Education Offer||Co-creation of Learning|
|High-Stakes Individual Assessment||Collaborative Shared Learning Outcomes|
|Social Media Lockdown||Networked Learning is Delicious|
|Shareholder Value measures System||Public Value|
The future is not something we enter. The future is something we create.
It is a truism that the future is unknown, volcanoes, Greece and events always get in the way of the best laid plans, but there is a further critical dimension to the tension between the business model and the learning process approaches to education. We not only need to prioritise learning processes over the business model approach, but also to switch our focus to a problem-solving based approach to learning which will equip learners to face the unknown futures we all have to deal with in 2o10 and beyond. They can create the future they want to live in. A business model approach wants a clear and detailed curriculum which can be memorised, that everyone can sign up to in the same way, and which can be singularly measured to facilitate centralised planning. It is a backwards-facing model which says we already know all that we need to learn so, “lets put discipline back into education,” as the Cameron poster on my main road urges. But as we try to move into a Knowledge Economy, especially as part of a just and socially inclusive, participative society, then we need modes of learning that enable us to create that new socio-economic context. We also need a few more young Txt Pistols bringing creative, heutagogic approaches to learning which will enable them to both visualise and build such possible new futures.
In a tweet; Never Mind the Business Model; Here’s the Learning Model;