Schools are not corporations. They are not business models. The constant effort by the private sector to apply marginally successful business practices to education has nearly always ended in failure. There are, however, a few corporate buzzwords and phrases I do think we might keep in mind as we move education further into the 20th century.
How can I help you? / Thank You. These should be cornerstones of not just trite customer service phone scripts, but in all of education. We are not pushing an agenda or shoveling knowledge, we are offering to help students reach their goals. We forget, sometimes, that we work for the learner. Do we always consider the input and effort of the students? Do we thank them for it? I’d like to think we do, but I suspect this is lost in the day from time to time.
Return on investment. I think this is something we need to discuss more in some areas of education, and less in others. We should be talking about how much investment we make in technology, curriculum, time, and effort and how it returns in the increase of our learners’ ability to take ownership of their own learning and is NOT about investing more time in state-approved drills to get a greater return on state-approved tests.
Leverage. Corporations have long used the concept of leverage to help understand how efforts in certain areas can be used to increase advantage in other areas. Like ROI, Educational leverage is about putting the effort in the right places. Leverage the best teachers, in the best situations, with the best strategies. If we do not think leverage in schools, we waste resources.
Scalability. A newer buzzword in business, which generally means taking a theoretical model and scaing it to meet various sized and shaped situations. In other words, it means taking vision and differentiating it. Do our schools have a scalable vision? Do our schools scale a life-long learner vision to fit a troubled group of 12-year-olds? Scalability means the ability to make a large vision fit the efforts in the small setting, such as a school or classroom. Are our schools thinking like this?
Sustainability. Unlike most companies who use this term, education is not and should not be built on a model that only values financial sustainability. What it should sustain, however, is a continuum of relevant educational practices; practices which are both proven successful and encourage innovation and positive change.