The Educational System
The failures of the educational system arise neither, as is commonly supposed, from (1) teachers’ failure to impart information to their pupils or students, nor (2) a failure to develop appropriate skills among pupils or students.
Its failures lie in:
- Its inability to help pupils to identify, develop, and gain recognition for, their idiosyncratic talents. These talents include such things as the ability to put people at ease, the ability to entertain others, the ability to get people to work together, and the ability to generate social chaos...i.e. the 1001 things one sees people doing if one looks around one.
- Its neglect of opportunities to enable people to learn to do things which will be important in their later lives: to lead, to invent, to influence decisions, to put people at ease, to negotiate, to influence social and political systems.
The reasons for these failures are multiple and deep seated. But the most obvious is that there is little understanding of the nature of these qualities or how they are to be nurtured or assessed.
As a result, there are:
- no concepts or tools to help teachers or lecturers to think about student's motives and how to harness them in such a way as to create, for each pupil or student, an individualised developmental programme which would lead them to practice, and thereby develop, high-level competencies.
- no tools to help those concerned to focus on what they need to do to create more development environments, take stock of what is going on, and identify the steps needed to improve those environments.
However, more basic reasons include the fact that, for the effective education to be widely available, it will be necessary to:
- create a wide variety of distinctly different types of educational programme;
- document the personal and social, short and long term, consequences of each option; and
- feed this information to the public so that they can make informed choices between them.
Not only are there no concepts and tools to assess the quality of the differential educational processes which are required or to document the outcomes in a comprehensive way, the very idea of generating a choice between well-documented options conflicts with (i) the belief that public provision should be equal and (ii) beliefs about the roles to be performed by public servants.
Furthermore, information on the options available and their consequences needs to flow outwards from public servants to the public and not upward in a bureaucratic hierarchy to elected representatives to take decisions binding on all. New beliefs about public decision taking (democracy) and government are therefore entailed.
How is the necessary ferment of experimentation, monitoring, and learning to be created? What are the institutional arrangements, job descriptions, and staff appraisal systems that are required?
The available research shows that:
- the requisite institutional arrangements are non-hierarchical;
- performance appraisal must focus, not on the correctness of decisions, but on the adoption of procedures which have been shown to lead to innovation and learning;
- the supervisory arrangements to be employed to ensure that public servants (a) initiate the collection of a wide range of information, (b) sift it for god ideas, and (c) act on it in an innovative way in the long term public interest hinge on exposing the behaviour of public servants (including teachers) to the public gaze via professionally developed performance appraisal systems.
To move forward it will be necessary to develop tools which will make it possible to:
- focus attention on the aspects of organisational climates which promote innovation, take stock of the current situation, and see what to do next;
- recognise public servant's high-level contributions to the process; and
- focus attention on key features of the new arrangements - the forms of bureaucracy and democracy - required for public surveillance of a public-service-based public management process.