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Education systems today must prepare every child, everywhere, to thrive in a world of ‘unknown unknowns’.
Children and young people today face a world of ‘unknown unknowns’. They will need to learn and adapt as they move between sectors, jobs and settlements. To succeed, they will need to develop a love of learning. And education systems need to support them by developing fertile ‘soil’ – the foundations of lifelong learning. This has been recognised in the development plans of many emerging countries.
But education systems are failing to address this need. Governments are spending hundreds of dollars a year on educating children – but not preparing them for a future citizenship and workforce. The ‘seeds’ of their technical interventions are unable to grow and flourish. This matches the experience of leading employers. For example, the Confederation of Indian Industry found that more than 50% of school leavers were unemployable.
What we do?
Role-modelling and relationships.
We understand role-modelling to be the demonstration and promotion of behaviours and attitudes that you wish to see in others. This is overlooked in most education systems. But it’s been our biggest organisational strength and source of success.
Teachers are critical agents of change. They offer the main in-school opportunity for role-modelling in a child’s life. So if we are to make an impact at child level, we have to support teachers to become intrinsically motivated lifelong learners first.
And it’s not enough to develop lifelong learning at teacher level alone. There’s extensive evidence to show that line managers are the most powerful agent of change in the workplace. So for this change to be sustainable, we also need to develop a love of learning at all levels of the system. This includes school leaders, and the state and district officials who support them.
Government learning partnerships.
We know that there are many actors involved in any education system. But our learning has been that engaging governments is absolutely critical if any intervention is to succeed. They provide the best opportunity to ensure that our work can be sustained over the long term.
We don’t want our approach to be dependent on us. So we’re learning to work in partnership with governments to deliver the model. We run the approach together, and aim to step back our involvement over time to ensure long-term sustainability. They refocus existing resources to the model over five years. And they increase their contribution to the costs to ensure ownership and long-term sustainability.
How it works.
Our approach is based around peer networks, action and feedback, and reflection. These activities underpin everything that we do for teachers, school leaders and officials. And they form the heart of our termly learning improvement cycles. Each cycle focuses on a different theme (e.g. the science of learning). First, district officials are introduced to the content for the next term in a three-day training meeting. Then they lead training sessions for school leaders to build their confidence and capability to lead teacher network meetings. Teachers will learn new practices, to enable higher quality interactions with their children.
At each level, we introduce monthly coaching and support to enable high-quality feedback and increase autonomy, mastery and purpose. And regular alignment meetings at district and state levels provide an opportunity for all stakeholders to analyse data, share learning and develop plans together to strengthen delivery.
Teacher network meetings.
Every month, teachers meet in peer networks – meetings of 20 to 30 teachers within a school or across a group of local schools. The meetings are led by school leaders, who expose teachers to key classroom practices and the evidence behind them. The networks strengthen peer connections, fostering mutual support and sustainable improvement.
Between meetings, teachers act on their learning by introducing new practices in their classrooms. They are observed by a school leader or peer, and provided feedback for further improvement. The next month, teachers reconvene to reflect on their experiences and adapt and refine their action plan accordingly. After each third network meeting, teachers move on to a new area of practice. And the cycle continues.
Supporting school leaders and officials.
In this model, every level of the system needs to develop strong role-models and trusting relationships. And school leaders and district officials play essential roles in delivering the approach.
District officials participate in termly training institutes with their peers to understand new practices for each term. They then lead training institutes for school leaders, to empower them to lead teacher network meetings effectively. Over the course of the term, both groups play an active role in supporting teachers. They develop a culture of developmental observations and feedback, creating emotional safety and using data to provide rich insights. And their intrinsic motivation grows.
At present, STiR mostly supports district officials directly. Our District Leaders (one person per district) provides training and coaching for 10-20 officials to ensure that they are confident in delivering the model. But we’re keen to further leverage our impact and ensure even greater government ownership. So we’re exploring how to support officials at state or national level to take up our role to increase our sustainability.
Government ownership and adoption are essential for long-term sustainability. Our team works to ensure that the approach is increasingly prioritised within our partner systems. And we collaborate to customise and design content for each geography. Working in this way makes our model incredibly cost-effective. Our only expense is our team. We currently spend $0.50 per child annually in India. But we expect to see this fall to less than $0.20 over the next two years, as we start to explore central learning partnerships with governments.