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13.5.2020 | Pasi Sahlberg and Saku Tuominen

How to Provide Quality Education for All During Crises: 10 Concrete Steps

It is fair to say that no one was prepared to reorganise education at scale during the COVID-19 crisis. What could countries have done differently? What have we learned? And how can we be better prepared for next time?

It is fair to say that no one was prepared to reorganize education at scale during the COVID-19 crisis. What could countries have done differently? What have we learned? And how can we be better prepared for next time?

On Monday, May 11th, 2020, Pasi Sahlberg, Professor of Education Policy and one of the leading experts on global education, in cooperation with HundrED Founder and Creative Director Saku Tuominen presented their 10 Step Action Plan on how to provide quality education for all during crises in Part 1 of our two-part series. 

Register for Part 2 Monday, May 18th, 2020 1100 UTC here.


The 10 steps discussed in the above webinar were based on a list co-created by the two men, on how to provide quality education for all during crises. You can find the complete list below.   

One: Find Leaders for the Process 

Crisis calls for creative and credible leadership, which is often atypical for education. There needs to be a small team of experts that makes all the key decisions and is able to prioritize, if and when needed. Since the post-crisis future is often not clear, it is important that leadership is able to mobilize the best available experience, knowledge, and insights. 

Two: Create a communication plan

Put an emphasis on clarity of communication. Select the main target groups, the right tools to reach each of these audiences, and keep your message consistent and empowering. 

Three: Start with a common vision

Establish a solid, evidence-based picture of where you are at the moment and then create a compelling and clear shared vision (direction) about where you want to go from here. Start with identifying the root causes of the current situation (problems), be open about the challenges but also try to empower everyone. Be sure to distinguish causal relationships of the key elements related to the current situation.

Four: Engage people

Listen to the concerns and expectations of all parties involved. The community should not have a feeling that the vision/direction comes from the top down. It should not be regarded as a superficial and superimposed activity. Make sure you give a special place to those often marginalized in educational change, i.e. students and teachers. Both visionary leadership and world-class storytelling are needed. Students as story-tellers can be particularly effective.

Five: Look for solutions

Look for solutions that can take you to the desired direction and that you can implement within the tools and time you have available. In an uncertain situation like this, try to minimize overly complicated and time-consuming solutions. Try to identify solutions that are relatively easy to implement, are likely to bring some visible results, and will be accepted by teachers, parents, and students. Be curious, also look for global solutions. 

Six: Test some 

Poorly chosen innovations can lead schools in the wrong direction. Verifying the impact of innovation requires expertise, time and professional wisdom (even in this extreme case); it is essential to learn from experiences of others and collect ideas from them, on the basis of which the decision will be made. 

Seven: Select the ones to scale        

You can’t lead the diffusion of innovation by force. It is therefore important to focus on innovations that have real demand and appeal. This can be perceived by monitoring the results of innovations and listening to users.

Eight: Create an agile co-development plan

Developing and implementing innovations is not easy, it is hard. It requires leadership, expertise, raw instinct and resources. This cannot be done in twilight hours or as a side job. Assign a small group of your best available people to develop a plan and give them roles in high-quality implementation.  

Nine: Secure funding & resources

In order to be able to survive and develop, every innovation requires a sustainable and sufficient financial base. In this case, it means that resources must be shared by all involved in the change process. Sometimes in-kind resources are as valuable for the process than simply throwing in cash.

Ten: Be humble

Building an innovation-friendly education system takes time. Often months or years, even decades of determined work is needed. Therefore, the horizon of expectations and goals must be clearly defined. In a hectic and extreme situation, it is demanding to make this vision clear enough for everyone. Accept these challenges and be ready to make mistakes and learn from them. 

We view this article as the first step in the process of creating a leadership toolkit that can be used in times of crisis. We are now asking for our community to come together and review this document, to challenge the assumptions made herein, and to help us create an action plan for education leaders around the world. Please help us by taking 15 minutes to fill out our follow-up survey.

We also invite you to join us next Monday, May 18th, 2020 for the second part of our webinar series. Register here.