How do We Move Towards Transformation of Education?

TTRO CEO Kirsty Chadwick discusses the complexity involved in transforming education and the perceived risks to stakeholders.


There isn’t any disagreement that education needs transformation; it needs a significant shift in all aspects of how we deliver teaching across the lifelong learning journey. What makes this transformation so complex and difficult to achieve is the number of different stakeholders.
The first of these stakeholders is the government, which from a public sector education perspective has the mandate to deliver learning and create learning experiences that enables young people going through the education system to come out on the other side as employable, economically active citizens.
Stakeholders also include employers, who need to be engaged and deliver on-the-job learning to workers. There are stakeholders from an ICT perspective; these players are responsible for deploying and maintaining the infrastructure necessary for the transformation of education. There’s a requirement for public-private partnerships in which all parties operate within a clearly-defined ecosystem to meet the transformational outcomes we’re seeking.
The transformation of education is a hugely complex wicked problem that is not unique to South Africa but is faced by many nations around the world. So how do we make the shift? And who needs to make the shift?
There is a need for a holistic and integrated approach to the problem. Stakeholders need to band together and, as with any significant transformation, design a master plan. All stakeholders need to be aligned to what that plan will achieve and how long it will take, because it won’t happen overnight. A 10-year plan should be put together with a very clear end vision, which will then be reverse engineered with the logical steps that would need to happen to create a measurable path to success.


While there may already be plans to that effect, the plans are disparate – the plan that industry is working towards may not be aligned to the plan government is working towards. Even different government departments are pulling in opposite directions. NGOs that are committed to working in the education sector are not being guided by a singular plan. Who aligns their efforts?
There has to be a way to coordinate this complex ecosystem of stakeholders to deliver on a defined plan. Only through this coordination and alignment would we be able to create the accountability, the responsibility, and the measurability of what we’re all striving for. Otherwise, a great amount of effort is being put in and a great amount of money is being spent without any of the results we’re looking for because we haven’t created that integrated, holistic approach. If everyone is pulling in different directions, no matter how noble their intentions, we won’t see transformation on the required scale.
Risk is an important point when it comes to transformation of education: if the perceived risk of transformation is too high, the propensity to act upon it is generally very low. However, if risk can be managed or understood, it’s easier to gain widespread acceptance that transformation can and must take place.


Risk, or perceived risk, impacts all stakeholders. For example, there’s a reason many private sector training providers and digital learning providers are opposed to working with government: the fear of not being paid, lack of alignment to a specific plan, and a lack of understanding of the technology that’s available to enable different ways of teaching and learning are all risks faced by the private sector
Risk sits everywhere and can lead to paralysis – nothing gets done. Or we simply continue with the status quo of disparate plans through which there will never achieve transformative outcomes.
The responsibility of developing the master plan and thus defining and mitigating risk lies with stakeholders across the spectrum, from private sector to academia to government. We must find the right professionals to represent the different stakeholder groups to collaboratively agree on the master plan. The critical first step is finding those likeminded people who have the right skills and the appetite to see a transformative shift take place.
Whether this task team should be led by private sector or government stakeholders is a discussion that needs to take place before anything can be done. Who is the best fit for the leadership role? Who is best placed to reduce the risk of transformation?


Written by Kirsty Chadwick

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