system design

Can Investment Funds Break Down Brazil’s Education Barriers?

by Guilherme Cintra, Learning 2030 Contributor Image © andresmh At least once a week, I read in Brazilian newspapers about my country’s poor PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) ranking. Brazil currently sits at 53rd of the 65 participating counties. To me, it’s proof of the necessity for bigger investments in education.  The struggle in Brazil is not only with the poor quality of education but with inequality in accessing education as well. In most cases, the family you were born into determines what type of education you are going to get. And that will probably define how bright your future is going to be.  Brazil has made some advances in education in the past few decades, mainly in the terms of access to primary education. But, we still have a long way to go.  What works and what doesn't The knee-jerk reaction is that more education spending will allow us to advance. That is part of the solution, but it is not enough. We have to be more efficient in the way we spend our resources.The national debate must shift from quantity to the quality of the educational investments we make. The challenge of the next few decades is understanding what works efficiently and what doesn’t. Finding solutions for our schools will have a huge impact in developing efficient educational models that do what they are supposed to: teach. To be efficient as educators in the coming years, we need to understand which skills are needed by students to face the challenges of the rapid changes occurring worldwide and how to make sure they acquire those skills. Image © andresmh Technology in education: a means not an end The solutions for 2030 are not only the ones that will help students in developing the autonomy necessary for achieving success when navigating in the huge amount of information available anywhere these days.  They’re also the ones that will help teachers to become more efficient in guiding students and closing the knowledge gaps that grow at an even faster pace with the incredible rate at which information is produced.  For educational models that rely on technology to work, the proposed tools have to be developed with users in mind.      Technology has to be developed in a way that adapts to students learning cycles but also allows for this process to be cheaper and more scalable so that more people have access to quality education. Brazil knows only too well about the educational gaps. We are hoping to develop new ways to close them efficiently in this ever-changing reality we’ll face in the coming decades. Guilherme Carneiro da Cunha Cintra works for Brazil’s Gera Venture Capital, a Venture Capital/Growth Equity firm focused on improving education in an emerging market

No Internet? Just Use Cell Phones

The Learning 203S0 Summit focuses on the future of high school education, a future that will be influenced by the wider landscape of education issues; from informal to formal education, primary to post-secondary. In this Learning 2030 Blog entry explore how mobile technology is making a difference in Ugandan school systems. Image © mejymejy by Geoffrey Ssembajjwe, Learning 2030 Blog Contributor Access to information can transform lives and livelihoods. This is particularly true in places where access to information is hindered by economic, geographic, or social barriers.  Today, the rapidly growing reach of cell phones and other modern communications technologies holds tremendous potential to overcome some of these obstacles. A school system that runs on cell phones Creatively and innovatively including teachers, parents, pupils, local leaders and local education authorities in school governance can go a long way in creating schools where children actually learn.  It is widely acknowledged that good quality schools can only be created through inclusion of all stakeholders in school governance. But, how you can effectively include all the stakeholders in the governance of schools without burdening the system? An effective (and cheap) solution that allows for participatory school governance as well as improved school administrative systems and educational programming in developing nations is mobile technology.   Image © kiwanja Showing up with SMS One area where this could prove especially vital is in monitoring school attendance for both students and teachers. At any given time, 27% of Ugandan youth are not in school, and a lack of follow-up on students who are missing classes by teachers and school administrators does little to encourage attendance.  High rates of teacher absenteeisum (20-30% in some districts) costs the Ugandan government the equivalent of $30 million (USD) annually for services that are not delivered. Attendence can be easily managed using mobile phone-based technology by all stakeholders and leads to greater accountability in the system. And that's it’s just one segment in the school administrative system which can effectively incorporate such technology. The list of uses for mobile phone technology is practically endless and can prove important in changing school systems for the better with minimal resources, especially in areas that don’t have reliable access to phone lines and the Internet through traditional means.  Simply creating a pathway for information between the schools system and parents will give parents and the wider community the ability to become more involved in what is happening locally in education. Using this novel system for communication and organization can transform schools in the developing world by 2030. Geoffrey Ssembajjwe works for Plan International in Uganda setting up school administrative systems and educational programming that use only mobile phones.

A Dream I Had of Learning in 2030

The Learning 2030 Summit focuses on the future of high school education, a future that will be influenced by the wider landscape of education issues; from informal to formal education, primary to post-secondary. In this Learning 2030 Blog entry explore how a young leader in Nigeria sees the future of high school education and what he thinks we need to do today to get there by 2030. by Fagbohun Omatayo, Learning 2030 Blog Contributor Image © UNNPride Dream, dream, dream... I dream of a high school where the ability to think critically would be encouraged rather than memorization. Where children can design effective solutions to address the problems that matter to them. I dream of a high school where learning would be fun, increasing the receptivity of students. I dream of a high school where children would be taught more than reading, writing, and arithmetic. A high school where creativity and innovation are emphasized. I dream of a high school where students would be “knowledge makers.” Where the classroom is a think-tank and the teachers expert resources. I dream of a high school in the next 20 years where skills in new media and entrepreneurial prowess would be nurtured and developed. I dream of a high school where the Internet would be fully utilized by the teachers as a source of learning tools. Image © carlagomo   Getting technology to students of the developing world In my view, there is no way that we can successfully separate innovation, the Internet, and technology from education in the next 20 years. The Internet is changing the way we work, play, live, even how we eat. It’s already changed the way many students learn in the developed world. Students in the developing world need access to these new tools to help tackle the complex problems they will face after school.   The world isn't static. If we are to have a dynamic future, teaching approaches and methods must change. Fagbohun Omatayo works to promote the UN's Millennium Development goals in Africa and is a Development Ambassador for Nigeria. He currently serves as a Google Student Ambassador after participating in Google Student Ambassador Summit in Nairobi, Kenya. 

Are Grades a Dying Breed of Student Assessment?

by Andy Chandler Grevatt, Learning 2030 Contributor Image © Jeff Pioquinto, SJ   “Weighing the cow doesn’t make it fatter.”  –various origins It’s typical for the high school students of today to experience regular testing. Sometimes as often as a one hour test in every six hours of teaching.  Additionally, there may even be a ‘revision lesson’ in preparation for the test. This equates to about 20% of learning time used for revision and testing.  Now add this into the mix: in England, the country where I work, from the moment that pupils start high school, they are being prepared to pass the terminal exams five years later.  The government compares schools based on how many C grades or above the pupils achieve on these exams. The response from the school is to focus on “intervention;” getting pupils from a D grade to a C grade at the expense of those on the border of other grades.  Employers now see a C grade as a “pass,” but with little knowledge or understanding of what a student with a C grade knows, understands or can do.  In fact, many teachers don’t really know what any particular grade means beyond the fact that the pupil can answer more exam questions correctly.  Image © audiolucistore   What’s really in a grade? As a teacher, I have been part of that treadmill. In reality I know that, despite the constraints of policy, teachers have much nobler ambitions for their pupils’ education. However, when push comes to shove, as a teacher, you are judged by the grades that your students achieve in terminal examinations.  You are under pressure from your students and their parents, and pushed by your bosses to ensure those students achieve the best grade possible. Beyond the almighty “A”  Becoming a researcher has allowed me to take a step back from all this to consider alternative models for assessment. I have seen excellent use of models of progression in science education to assess students. But, I have also seen poor practice where pupils are just drilled for exams; taught what is on the upcoming test and nothing more.  “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” – Albert Einstein So what do I think would be a better system of assessment: Based on reading and research, my current thinking is that: A school’s assessment framework should focus on a range of quality and skills that represent the values and aims of the whole school. Then it can be applied to individual subjects. Assessment should be part of everyday classroom practice. Both teacher and pupil need understand what successful outcomes look like. All assessments should be student-focussed. Effective feedback is essential to pupils’ progression and both teachers and pupils need to develop a common language to give and respond. Any assessment activity must focus on improving what a pupil knows, understands or can do. Teachers have to be assessment-literate. They need to understand the purposes of assessment and to have a model that suits their subject. Grades should not feature as part of the education in the school, instead reports should be based on what pupils know, understand and can do, along with clear targets for progression. Assessments should focus on authentic activities that can be assessed against clear outcomes.  Students should keep portfolios that demonstrate their developing knowledge, understanding and skills for each subject. These should form the basis of assessment and feedback. If examinations for qualifications must still exist, the students should have only a short preparation time. If the school curriculum and assessment framework have been well designed, students will already have the deep knowledge, understanding and skills required. Having said all this, assessment models will still have constraints. The cultural expectations of parents, teachers and pupils, the examination and qualification systems of the country, the values of the school, are just some examples. Could the schools of 2030 really be test and examination free? Andy Chandler-Grevatt is a Teaching Fellow in Education at the University of Sussex. He has written or co-written more than 25 books and curriculum guides to help science teachers in the UK assess their students' deeper understanding of their subjects.

Question Everything, Think Outside The 011000100110111101111000

Image © saschapohflepp by Mike Maccarone, Learning 2030 Contributor As teachers (of science, in my case) we encourage our students to wonder (and wander) through school, through life, with a curiosity about how it all works. From the seen to the unseen, the intuitive to the head-scratching.   We aim to equip students with tools they can use to answer their own questions: make observations, collect data, develop a hypothesis, design new ways to test ideas, compare results with others.   We also challenge students to question common sense, to find innovative ways to solve problems, and to think 'outside the box'. But, are we practicing what we preach?    Skill vs. content In the age of digital information and social networking, where facts and equations are literally a click away, the need for memorizing content is far less important than it once was.   A traditional science classroom, where content lies at the center of teaching, learning, and assessment, is no longer enough.   Skills must be at the heart of the classroom and content the delivery system for those skills.   If we turn the curriculum inside out, students are more likely to think scientifically – with consideration, intent, and evidence – rather than merely remember facts.   Scientific literacy can then be more about global citizenship, giving our future leaders, voters, and activists alike the insight and intuition to think scientifically.  An outdated system Kingdom/Phylum/Class/Order/Family/Genus/Species   Red/Orange/Yellow/Green/Blue/Indigo/Violet   I can still recite them, though if you challenged me to explain the difference between Class and Order I might flee (or at least pretend to receive a phone call and check my smart-phone for the answer). Why do we still teach this way? Why are we holding on to these classification systems, these boxes?  For one thing, it's easier to test. I can ask a student to write facts in order, mark her paper, grade it, and tell if she is good or bad or just alright at 'science'. A lazy example, perhaps, but assessment has become a major player in educational reform. Without data, how can we know if we're doing anything right? Data can be a dangerous thing if we collect it improperly. Is it fair to use multiple choice questions and math problems to determine whether our students are thinking analytically? In order to truly reshape how we teach, we need to focus on how we assess. Measuring skills and growth does not have to be a numerical process. Educational data does not have to be quantitative to the extent that public schools might like and teachers' unions might loathe.   There is certainly value in assessment, especially in providing feedback to students. If we can shift our focus from easily gathered, shallow data, we can redirect our efforts towards giving students meaningful feedback that helps them improve their understanding of science and their approach to learning, regardless of where they may fall on the academic spectrum.   In order to shift the focus of schools from content to skills, we need to consider what we are asking our teachers to do and what support they need.   We also need to agree to measure student success in a more meaningful way.  Thinking outside the 011000100110111101111000* But what if we take it one step further?   What if we begin to think of science the way a scientist, and not a test-writer, would - accessing and encouraging all of the different connections to the concept we are studying when it fits best in the classroom, and not when it shows up in Chapter 12. If skills rather than content are brought into focus, if assessment is about feedback and growth rather than facts and percentages, and if sparking curiosity in students is the real nature of a science classroom, how can educators begin to think differently about what and how to teach?   For one, we should acknowledge that the lines between physics, chemistry and biology are blurry – if they exist anymore at all – and that without building in Earth and space studies, engineering and sustainability practice, and technology and its impact into our schools, we will be doing an injustice to the next generation.   For teachers this is can be an uncomfortable idea: I am trained in physics and though I have some background in other areas of science, I couldn't begin to teach a biology class effectively without help. Collaboration is certainly key in developing new, enriching, and exciting cross-curricular ways to innovate the classroom.   Image © CERDEC Students don't think in boxes unless we tell them to If these students can study the physics of a battery in connection to a circuit, explain the chemical process behind alkaline batteries, and use this as an analogy to understand the role of the central nervous system, develop an appreciation for batteries as a means of storing energy using sustainable resources, and design a system that implements a battery as a power source – well, why wait?   Why take four or five years and four or five teachers to connect the dots?   Students are ready to make connections, to be creative, to apply their knowledge to new ideas. Their lines haven't already been drawn.   We can do much, much better than boxes if we work together as teachers, within and between our schools, if we utilize technology as a global network of collaboration and resources. If we question our methods and practice what we preach.       Learning 2030 Forum Peer Advisor Mike Maccarone is the Science Curriculum Specialist (Upper School) for Avenues: The World School in New York City *“box” in binary language

Post High School Roadblock? The UK’s Great University Gamble

Equinox Summit: Learning 2030 focuses on the future of high school education, a future that will be influenced by the wider landscape of education issues; from informal to formal education, primary to post-secondary. In this Learning 2030 Blog entry, explore the post-graduation roadblocks encountered by high school students in the UK as their opportunities in higher education change, rapidly.  by Andrew McGettigan, Learning 2030 Blog Contributor In 2010, the general election in the United Kingdom brought together the Conservative party and the Liberal Democrats in a coalition government.  At that point, I had already become concerned about changes in the way money was moving around the English higher education system. The reforms proposed by this new government soon changed those circuits radically. Could you pay three times more tuition? One such reform would see the maximum tuition fee for an EU student increased from £3400 per year to £9000 per year for undergraduate study at English universities, starting in 2012.  Education is a ‘devolved’ issue in the UK, meaning that it is controlled by regional administrations. Thus, the maximum tuition policy differs in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland (where there are still no tuition fees for Scottish students). This headline-making transformation garnered the attention and drove the protests that culminated with the Parliamentary vote taken in December 2010, but the more significant move was that the higher fees were designed to replace massive cuts to the direct grants universities and colleges received from the government. (Image © Matt_Baldry)                                                                     The new model So, for those starting university since 2012 who choose to study arts, humanities, social sciences, law, business, etc. (i.e. ‘classroom subjects’), student fees are the only income the host institution receives. The chief effect of this move was to create a ‘level playing field’ for new ‘market entrants’: commercial providers who cannot receive public grants.  This market reform was explained by David Willetts, the Minister for Universities and Science, in February 2011: “Currently, one of the main barriers to alternative providers is the teaching grant we pay to publicly-funded HEIs [higher education institutions]. This enables HEIs to charge fees at a level that private providers could not match, and so gives publicly-funded HEIs a significant advantage. Our funding reforms will remove this barrier, because all HEIs will – in future – receive most of their income from students via fees. This reform, of itself, opens up the system.” Students as consumers Now, new competitive pressures are combining with the promotion of students as consumers to create a new culture of higher education: one that is meant to reform teaching.  Quality is now meant to be determined by the vector: consumer-university manager-regulator/ombudsman… This demand-led dynamic replaces the ‘vested producer interests’ of academics. Can they survive? I’m now attempting to monitor what happens to established universities when faced with this new terrain and how they are emulating the private providers.  I’m also attempting to outline what privatization might mean when we are discussing institutions such as universities, which are already independent charities, rather than state-owned entities.  This includes transformations in borrowing, off-balance sheet activity and investment strategies. In particular, recent moves on the capital markets as English universities take the first steps into public bond issuance for several years.  (Image © martie1swart)   What this might mean for other countries… From an international perspective, what may be of most interest are the income contingent repayment loans used to finance undergraduate study in the UK.  These have been touted as the solution to the graduate debt crisis in the US – ‘smart loans’ – since monthly repayments are determined by earnings not by the amount borrowed.  One of the things I continue to look at and hope to examine in greater depth is why these loans are not the technocratic dream solution that many envision. Andrew McGettigan (andrewmcgettigan.org) has taught at Middlesex University and the University of Westminster. He is the author of 'The Great University Gamble: Money, Markets and the Future of Higher Education' (Pluto, April 2013) and writes frequently on higher education for The Guardian.