Geoff Hudson-Searle

5 years ago · 4 min. reading time · ~10 ·

Geoff blog
Challenges in best practices and governance within education

Challenges in best practices and governance within education


EIN 1972

expexience development

I had a very interesting and heated debate recently with a friend discussing education, edu-tech, best practices, governance, and the student/teacher relationship in education.

My good friend stated that “Best practices” is the worst practice. The idea that we should examine successful organisations and then imitate what they do if we also want to be successful is something that first took hold in the business world, but has now unfortunately spread to the field of education. If imitation were the path to excellence, art museums would be filled with paint-by-number works.

The fundamental flaw of a “best practices”-approach, as any student in a half-decent research-design course would know, is that it suffers from what is called “selection on the dependent variable.” If you only look at successful organisations, then you have no variation in the dependent variable: they all have good outcomes. When you look at the things that successful organizations are doing, you have no idea whether each one of those things caused the good outcomes, had no effect on success, or was actually an impediment that held organisations back from being even more successful. An appropriate research design would have variation in the dependent variable; some have good outcomes and some have bad ones. To identify factors that contribute to good outcomes, you would, at a minimum, want to see those factors more likely to be present where there was success and less so where there was not.

We discussed the subject for hours – with the thoughts in mind, I thought I would provide my observations from education in the UK to the problems and then to globalisation and best practices.

Students up and down the country are anxiously discovering their education results. For the majority, their future depends on the grades they achieve – their place at university, or possibly their first full-time job.

The fact is, every student needs a teacher or coach, every person in life needs a mentor:

Until recently, many teachers only got one word of feedback a year: “satisfactory.” And with no feedback, no coaching, there’s just no way to improve. Bill Gates suggests that even great teachers can get better with smart feedback – and lays out a program from his foundation to bring it to every classroom.
Some would have you believe students’ success depends solely on their individual grit, determination, and raw talent. Of course, these are important, but they don’t make up the whole picture. A student’s success also depends on things completely outside of their control: whether they have had to work to support their studies, whether they have had a quiet space to study alone, or how well-funded their college was.

Successive governments have neglected and underfunded these young people, and many of those receiving their results have witnessed this neglect first-hand. A friend of mine, at college in Hillsborough in Sheffield, was only taught for the first half of each lesson. For the second half, a teaching assistant would supervise silent study.

Education is a seamless web. Difficulties caused by a poor start in life cannot always be fully compensated for later on, and every stage of a person’s education will affect the next. Our education system today is more rigid than it used to be. It fails countless people for whom a good college course or university degree is just not possible in their late teens. The students who must care for relatives, or who must work to support their hard-up family while their friends and peers study hard, lose out severely under the current system. Funding for adult skills has been cut by 35 per cent over the past seven years, and the number of mature and part-time students has plummeted dramatically over the past ten.

Before students even receive their results, in fact, before they even start school, some already know they’re at a disadvantage. New research shows there is a widening gap between elite state schools in the south-east and schools in the rest of the country, while figures also show the gap between state and private schools sending students to university has widened since tuition fees were tripled.

Then consider those students who, after receiving their results, will be heading off to university. With the Government’s recent removal of maintenance grants, and their plan to raise fees above £9,000, student debt is soaring: those starting in September will graduate with around £50,000 of debt, maybe more.

Sky-high tuition fees and the rising cost of living have been blamed for “overwhelming” stress levels felt by the majority of students, with one in seven admitting they have been chased by debt collectors as a result of missing rent payments.

A survey commissioned by financial technology company Intelligent Environments found three-quarters of students who receive maintenance loans feel stressed about the amount of debt they accumulate while studying, with over a third (39 per cent) saying they cannot afford their weekly food shop.

Disadvantaged teenagers four times less likely to apply for university

Over a quarter of students admitted to missing rent payments, with three in five polled (58 per cent) running out of money completely before their next payment is due.

Students who experience financial difficulties and worry about debt have a higher chance of suffering from depression and alcohol dependency, new research has found.

Conducted by the University of Southampton and Solent NHS Trust, the study showed symptoms of anxiety and alcoholism worsened over time for those who struggled to pay the bills, while those who were more stressed about graduate debt had higher levels of stress and depression.

Mass demonstration against Tory cuts to education was confirmed in London

The study asked more than 400 undergraduate freshers from across the UK to assess a range of financial factors, including family affluence, recent financial difficulties, and attitudes towards their finances at four time points across their first year, allowing researchers to examine which came first: financial difficulties or poor mental health.

The study also found students who had considered not going to university or had considered abandoning their studies for financial reasons had a greater deterioration in mental health over time.

As a result of globalisation, many people are becoming interested in ranking systems which show how their own countries compare with others on a variety of measures. The World Economic Forum publishes an annual ranking of countries on economic competitiveness; the United Nations a ranking on human development; the OECD publishes comparisons on the quality of healthcare systems. Even a ranking for happiness can be found.

My belief is that change is needed to develop education and to introduce better understanding to practices:

A truly international approach to ranking countries on education should take cultural differences into account before benchmarking and characteristics of good school systems and good teachers.

We can and should learn from each other. But we should also understand that to make a Best practice, work requires translation to a different culture / value system.

The same applies to the discussion on the autonomy of schools. In high power distance countries (by far the majority of countries in the world) Autonomy will only be possible in a
clearly defined and limited mandate that is given by the central power holders. It shold be defined top down.

As Nelson Mandela once said:

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”


Geoff Hudson-Searle

4 years ago #11

Harvey Lloyd As I mentioned earlier 'Education' is core to the economy, we will be handing the silver chalice to 'international' and properly educated students, without the proper care and diligence across compliance and best/better practices within our educational system. It’s not adequately preparing our students to succeed in college or the modern workforce. It’s not delivering the skilled workers that businesses need to drive stronger economic growth. It’s not helping advance our ability to compete and lead in the global economy. In short, it’s setting our country up to fail. Although there are exceptions, public schools are generally producing fewer students with the skills they need for long-term success. Proficiency in fundamental disciplines is slipping. Interesting survey I read recently showed among the 34 leading industrialised countries, the USA ranks 14th in reading literacy, 17th in science and a dismal 25th in maths. It should surprise no one that USA has fallen from No. 1 in the world in the percentage of young adults with college degrees to No. 10. The jobs of the 21st century are also becoming more specialised and technical. In fact, there are 3 million jobs going unfilled in the USA because there aren’t enough qualified candidates. Ninety percent of the jobs in the fastest-growing occupations require postsecondary education and training. And by 2020, there will be 120 million high-skilled and high wage jobs. If the United States don’t have the workers to fill them, they will risk its economic leadership in the world. I feel the USA is not on its own in this survey!

Geoff Hudson-Searle

4 years ago #10

Harvey Lloyd we need teachers with an entrpreneuial mindset not minons......Teachers need to keep learning and growing – it is not a profession for the cynical or indifferent. The best can be identified by their enthusiasm and interest in pedagogy. They are not characterised by their own high academic performance, but by a thirst for passing on the benefits of education. They may be unorthodox, idiosyncratic, employing a variety of approaches to get children to want to learn and to question what they are being taught. They are typified by their passion, their non-negotiable standards, breadth of interests, high expectations, understanding of how children learn, empathy, an insistence on greater self-discipline and by their relationship with their pupils. Interestingly, children know who the best teachers are, even if they try and avoid them in favour of the more popular variety who may make their lives easy. They often criticise them to their parents for being too demanding and only realise later the opportunity they have squandered. These are the teachers who entered the profession in order to make a difference. And they do.

Geoff Hudson-Searle

4 years ago #9

So great to hear from you Harvey Lloyd you have provided so many great thoughts, and I agree; this is a hot topic of much debated and under funded area, of what essentially is a major grass roots part of our economy. I hear you on the area of disabillity. The questions we ask ourselves are always the same. How do we improve the quality of teaching and learning? (and its corollary, our examination results?) How do we make our children more motivated and competitive? And how do we get children to value and ‘own’ their education? And yet, after all the talk of new methodologies and curricula; after new and different methods of teaching and models of assessment; after all the time and money spent on technology; after the personalisation of education and differentiated teaching; after learning styles and habits of mind; after mindfulness and Every Child Matters; after the debates about continuous and formative assessment; and after all the constant tinkering, bureaucratic and legislative, with their greater focus on data and compliance, we seem to be no closer to establishing what are the most important factors that make children succeed.

Geoff Hudson-Searle

4 years ago #8

Thank you Savvy Raj for such a wonderful and beautiful critique on a much discussed and critiqued subject. I am in complete agreement with your words, in particular as you describe the holistic approach to positive transformation and change.

Geoff Hudson-Searle

4 years ago #7

Thank you for yoiur wonderful views and prospective, I really believe that without the right processes and practices behind education, your purpose can be blured or potentionally migated.

Lisa Vanderburg

5 years ago #6

No apology needed Harvey. You have a much greater understanding of the situation than I ever could - that's exactly what we need to hear for this paramount topic! It's that very uniqueness that leads to such a healthy diversity.

Harvey Lloyd

5 years ago #5

At one level i agree. The system does seem to be contributing to poor success. But this is an outside view looking in. Each child is unique and has different gifts. We see this in our children. Two children, same parents, house neighborhood and i can almost swear one is from a different gene pool. Given this difference at such a small level it would seem to me demonstrous for us to ask each child to walk the mile we have created. Our system should offer a framework of developing the unique gifts of each child. Once we know the gift we can support the right matrix of education to help that child flourish. Our system currently compares each child against percentiles of others. This has become the god of data and social strata. Not everyone was cut out to be president nor do they want to be. They may want to be kite flyer, dancer or healer. Until we start investing in children with their gifts we will continue to get the standard returns from manufacturing minions to fit. Rebellion. Sorry its a tough topic for me as i see the poorest examples of educational dogma in execution, the kids who have rebelled beyond social acceptance.

Lisa Vanderburg

5 years ago #4

Such a vital topic that, as Harvey Lloyd says, will continue long after we're gone! Fundamentally, education is something that we should view imperative as air, food and water, regardless of where we are - it's as important as nurturing and love. Slapping them with overly enormous student loans is overwhelmingly oppressive to some; that negates all the work and resources (and the bleedin' point) in education. Of course, we have to pay teachers, professors, specialists, labs, sites, etc. How? No clue, I'll admit. 'Grading' by country smacks a little of affirmative action, which it would become in the wrong hands, yet we do need and SHOULD proactively celebrate our cultural differences to maintain our own uniqueness. You raise fine points and this is an important buzz, Geoff Hudson-Searle refers to a holistic approach which I agree with!

Harvey Lloyd

5 years ago #3

A follow up of how far the competition has gone. Working in a school i satin on some new hire reviews and interviews. I heard some of the high end school graduates separate applicants by their graduation school. I didn't allow that to go on long. But i was amazed at how the school you graduated from would get you the interview or have you culled out of the pile. The systematic process of creating the strata of success has penetrated our view of humans. We had a substitute teacher in our early days who was a grandma. She graduated from a love of children and view that each child needed the direction only. I tried desperately to get her to go to college and we would fund the effort and give her the time. She just defected and said i am making a difference from where i am. The regulatory bodies let us know we were using her to much in the role of teacher as she had no credentials. We have students now who come back and speak of what a difference this lady made in their direction. Competition is good in some stages of success, but once it pits students, teachers and administration against each other, it loses its message. Have we come to a place that without the right credentials we cant be successful? I believe we have a lot of people who have worked in the private sector that would like to give back to our young people in a way that shows them, individually, how to be successful. But they lack the "credentials" or ticket to enter the exclusive realm of education. The life lessons that these folks could bring are tremendous and they don't want to buy a ticket to the education arena. We need to build entrepreneurs of life not minions.

Harvey Lloyd

5 years ago #2

This is a major debate issue. Working with students with disabilities we get to see the acute focus on competition within education. I would like to add a perspective to the debate. When we use indicators such as various scores, comparisons to other nations or national averages, it establishes a top down approach that teachers are held accountable. On the surface this sounds reasonable. But in reality shows the arrogant status of those who have had the resources to establish the strata of success. Teachers meet students from all walks of life, where students don't fit molds created by the system. The challenging point for me is that we now have the sophistication to understand the social narrative of families, priorities and the impact this has on a student. This narrative in large numbers doesn't fit the system of education. The system rewards those with time and money. I am not against this or for it. If you got it go for it. Students need to establish the system of what they want to be when they grow up. With a caveat. They have to be able to support their lifestyle. If they want to be a great wheedler of wooden objects then we should help them along the journey. Brain surgeon, lets go. But to address the education system on a direction that everyone should have the opportunity to be an astronaut is ludicrous. What i find interesting is this concept of branding, in the face of education. What education doesn't allow is unique, genuine branding. You must comply with a systematic approach and jump through all of these hoops to get a piece of paper where you spend a fortune. This is not for everyone. This debate will be raging long after you and i are gone. But until we see that the human factor is greater than the competitive, we will continue to force a large percentage of round students through the square hole.

Mohammed Abdul Jawad

5 years ago #1

The purpose of educational institutions must be to inculcate right education and constant discipline. When these two are there, then, verily, an institution can expel ignorance (darkness), and it can envelope the pupils with sublime radiance. In fact, when good institutions provide right education, then it results in goodness by altering lives, with pivotal purpose. Obviously, a good institution can infuse our mortal existence, with inspiring lessons, to create a paragon of spiritual beauty.

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