Sunday 13 October 2013

The Future of Schooling - A 'Coalition of Entities'

(This is an extract from the full article which is available at

The world and education has changed a lot over the past few decades, in terms of content, demands, perspectives, challenges and possibilities. Yet in large measure the prevailing idea of school education and school as an encompassing solitary entity. It is a concept which has come upon a time where it beckons change.

We are getting more and more unconvinced about the ill-conceived one-size fits all model of education. Recognising the differences and need of children to develop and learn at different paces, with different learning styles and being of different inclinations and abilities, we are now confronting a new level of recognition and acceptance of diversity. This makes us question the need for unquestionable conformance to a standard set of rules and externally imposed expectations, set by and through a structure, the suitability and credibility of which itself is under attack.

We also recognise the demands this diversity puts upon teachers, who perhaps are destined to fail in this kind of a delivery model, where they are singularly responsible to address the repertoire of needs and demands of not only learners, but of administrative structures, parents and an increasingly meddlesome society.

Also given that schools are always criticised for lack of innovation and not keeping up with emergent teaching tools, techniques, methodologies and ideologies, it is not difficult to understand the challenge of upgrading skills and perspectives of teachers en masse, where the expectation is akin to installation of a new software patch or upgrading the version itself, that immediately transforms the incumbents into more capable, effective and efficient bots.

In addition the challenge of engagement with the real world to derive citizenship values, industry grade vocational skills, and practical application of knowledge, skills and attitudes to participate gainfully and meaningfully in society, plus upkeep and currency of infrastructure, are all demands that are increasingly becoming difficult to maintain to such a standard that provides a decent chance of success.

In recent times we also have in many countries heard of the school voucher system, to allow learners choice to avail education from a range of schools including those that were seemingly elite and until now inaccessible. The idea is that every student deserves a decent education irrespective of their socio-economic status which should not be a limiting factor for access to quality and enabling achievement.

I think that this choice while is good and necessary, it can and must be extended further, to circumvent the limitations of capacity and convenience.

Given the various facets of education, related developments, attempted and required reform, my view is that the current school model has to give in. It has to give in to a model that allows for relatively unshackled evolution of education tools, techniques and methodologies and participation of learners in it as per their choice.


The current education system and the school model has to upgrade and metamorphose into the school system of the future, where the school will no longer be a single entity but a ‘Coalition of Entities’. Where formal structured learning would no longer remain confined to this extant entity, but include multiple organisations and avenues of learning that the student could avail at choice.

The need and benefits of it are beyond doubt. Picture this, the learning ecosystem would include of various organisations and entities which would offer learners opportunities to learn and develop in various aspects of their curriculum. These entities could be NGOs, Corporate and Industrial members, various types of educational institutions, community and volunteering organisations, other civil society and quasi-government bodies, etc.

The schools as we know today will be largely administrative and guiding bodies which would enrol, coordinate and record progress of learners. Apart from offering perhaps counselling services, though even some of these services could be carried out by other competent and approved bodies.

Learners will have multiple options for learning in specific and trans-disciplinary learning; ie. while some organisations may offer learning in specific specialised domains such as language, physical education and sports, maths, biology, public speaking, food science and nutrition, etc. others may choose to offer multi-disciplinary learning embedded in an encompassing context. For example an NGO involved in raising awareness about pollution may integrate environmental science, with arts (using drama and street plays to deliver the message), language, geography and even maths. What they will require is to be able to map learning outcomes to the inputs, activities and the curriculum. In another instance this could be a company offering back-end knowledge/transaction processing services along with call centers, they may offer language classes, along with customer service, maths, etc. A company involved in manufacturing electronics could offer courses in physics and mathematics. A hospital could offer classes in biology and other disciplines. A scientific research institute could offer classes in various sciences.

Schools could also encourage students to engage with more than one option to have a more rounded approach for achieving learning outcomes.

Learners would have the opportunity to sample various offering from different institutions, before signing up for those classes. They may also have the option of shifting from one to the next incase they feel that is required.

The various institutions offering courses may for example include in one case a voluntary organisation of math enthusiasts who teach maths through various methods including recreational maths, games and activity based math sessions, etc. Another could be an organisation which uses various advanced mathematics techniques and as a corporate social responsibility agenda or as an employee development programme offers maths classes to nearby schools where employees take turn to not only cover the basic curriculum but use contextually relevant examples to make the experience practical and engaging students in application of maths. An organisation may even be able to give them some basic work that produces a valuable output for the organisation (a’ la apprenticeships). Another organisation could be an online provider which delivers classes through interactive web tools and videos (a’ la MOOCs) or yet another which is an institution of higher education which provides classes for school students as part of training of their own students or as part of a teacher continuing professional development programme.

Those who think this is far-fetched let me draw your attention to a few facts that should convince or make you a bit more receptive. A number of schools already use this model largely for the following areas 1) Physical Education and Sports 2) Community engagement projects 3) in some forms education excursions and study tours. For further educational institutions and TVET (Technical Vocational Education and Training) options this is again becoming a growing reality, where practical training and experience is gained at industry premises through partnerships that the school establishes with industry members.

Schools in many countries also use the hub and spoke model to share infrastructure and specialist resources as well. Students use resources like that of the Khan academy, many other online providers, post-school tuition and other summer training and part-time employment programmes to achieve academic learning and other developmental outcomes.

So in many ways this is already happening. But we need a more structured system to offer an integral and reliable alternative to the current education system.


Some of the benefits of this system will be

  1. These will and should include organisations in the forefront of pedagogical developments and domain expertise. They would specialise in one or more approaches suitable to learners with different needs and preferences. 
  2. Students get a choice and the convenience of sampling the approaches which may be most suited to them and with the facility to change if they find it not delivering the desired result.
  3. Students can enroll for more than one course for the same discipline in case they feel they need more support and effort in a particular discipline.
  4. Students not only have an opportunity for learning but apply their learning in real time and real world scenarios.
  5. Learners get a real view of various contexts in their environment
  6. The limitations of a single teacher addressing multiple needs and demands is no longer applicable.
  7. Availability of teachers can be circumvented
  8. There is substantial increase in capacity as potentially every organisation can take on some part of education delivery
  9. Curriculum will be current and there will be continually evolving standards in line with real world developments
  10. Organisations will be able to view this as an avenue for not only generating more revenue, but as a way to disseminate information about their work, raising their profile by increasing goodwill and providing development avenues for their staff. 
  11. Organisations will also benefit by being able to project themselves as employers of choice not only to local stakeholders but to the students as they finish with their schooling. 
  12. The overall benefits of this would be increased employment potential, as education would have components delivered in real work environments with students picking up contextual and work ready skills, perspectives and knowledge.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Mr. Manish Read your article. You are right and I agree with your thoughts. I am an education consultant working with schools across India. I also have an education magazine which is a monthly edition. I would like to get your permission to print your article. Kindly reply on