Sustainability of educational institutions Agenda for reform

2014-04-05

Dr. Mana Prasad Wagley

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In every country, the economic sustainability of both the public and private educational institutions has been a vital issue. Public institutions rely heavily on government funding while the private ones must be self-sufficient and respond to market forces to be successful.

In both the cases, the financing part has not been that easy. In terms of revenues, the private educational institutions receive far less per student than do public institutions. In contrast, the private institutions provide their owners with economic returns which the pubic ones do not. Private institutions are subject to taxes and scrutiny by regulatory agencies whereas the public institutions are tax free, since they receive the tax payers’ money to run the institutions (Bennett, Lucchesi and Vedder, 2010). In this scenario, the sustainability of the private institutions is far more difficult than the public ones. 

Money alone is not responsible for sustainability. In the absence of quality, the schools can not win the trust of parents. Thus, the quality issue should be the first agenda of any school. We can see government intervention sometimes to raise access and to promote quality of public education based on the amount they receive from different donor agencies in addition to what they can spend. But, the question is how sustainable will it be? What happens when the projects are over? 

Other input factors like human resources and physical resources are equally important in order to make an institution sustainable. The process factor, on the other hand, is the most crucial one. British experience in this regard is similar. When Tony Blair said his top three priorities as “Education, education and education”, attempts were made to reform education the same way. They adopted ambitious standards, clear targets, and straightforward accountability measures with increased funding in schools. They also focused much on shared practices and professional development of teachers.

The plan worked, student achievement in mathematics and science increased, the country was near the top in international benchmarking measures. But still they have a question: Is it sustainable?. This was analyzed in a newspaper published in Washington DC in April 27, 2010 indicating “Immediate result of reform might fluctuate over time if the same amount of money and effort are not in place in the subsequent years. The fear is: if extra funding does not continue, the achievement of the average schools might shrink over time”. 

David Hopkins of University of London studied this issue and came up with four drivers to next stage of reform.

Personalized learning is the first agenda where the focus should be on students. Students need differentiated paths of learning offered by inquiry-driven education. The kind of didactic teaching we are offering these days en-masse will not cater to every student’s need.

The second agenda is related with personalized teaching. Unless teachers change their strategy to make students’ learning meaningful, there is no way that an educational institution sustains. Teachers need an enhanced repertoire of instructional strategies which can be developed in them through professional development schemes. Investment in teacher development is a must in order to make the educational institutions sustainable.

In the absence of accountability, the teaching-learning process of an institution can not go in the right direction. Intelligent accountability is, thus, very important in educational institutions. Creating deeper internal accountability measures within schools for teachers as well as students that correlate with national and international standardized tests is required. Student achievement in teacher-made tests might be higher, but can we be assured that our students are at par with their international counterparts in this small globe? The teaching and testing should be led towards internationally designed and psychologically accepted standardized tests. 

The fourth agenda is innovative networking. It is the networking of teachers and instructional leaders. Sharing what one knows with others will create a kind of networking between and among the professionals, which will help disseminate the best knowledge and practices. 

In our context, we have to do a lot regarding these agendas. How many schools of Nepal apply personalized teaching strategies? All the public and private schools apply didactic teaching, face to face and one way instructional process. The teacher comes in class, gives a lecture for 45 minutes and go. 

That means they do not even follow the simple instructional maxim in the classroom. In many cases, the teachers lack such skills thinking that subject knowledge is all in all. This illusion has not led our instructional system to move in the right direction. Similarly, teachers are not made accountable to head-teachers in public schools nor are they made accountable to parents.  If one attempts to follow the agenda of reforms mentioned, it would certainly lead the institution towards sustainability.