Industry: refers to the production of an economic good (either material or a service) within an economy.
Industry: a group of productive enterprises or organizations that produce or supply goods, services, or sources of income. In economics, industries are customarily classified as primary, secondary, and tertiary.
Although the words industry and education are often paired together, I have not seen the words combined within the definition of Industry in the few sources that I have considered. That is not to say that they do not appear together somewhere. However, either in the definition of “Industry”, or in a listing of the major classifications of industry, they do not seem to appear together.
I have seen, and heard, many references to the “education Industry” over lo these many years as an educator. I understand that there are many industries tied into education, textbooks from the Publishing Industry, Hardware from the Computer Industry, busses from the Transportation Industry, educational applications from the Software Industry, and chairs and desks from the Furniture Industry. The use of so many industries within education does not necessarily make it an industry onto itself.
The concept of public Education is said to be based on the industrial model. It was formed and designed to provide industry with a source of educated people to fill the ranks of workers needed by industry for it to succeed. This goes back to observations of an earlier post. “The 3 R’s of Industry” https://tomwhitby.wordpress.com/2010/02/21/the-3-r’s-of-industry/
This is the background to my latest reflection about the need to change the culture to reform education. I again engaged this ongoing reflection after commenting on an educational Blog site. When the investors of the education industry look at what their industry is producing for their investment, what do they see? They, the taxpayers, are the stockholders and investors in this local industry, so they have a right to ask.
The question is easy, How much bang are we getting for our buck? The answer is more difficult, because we need to agree on what the buck is. If we think of education as an industry, we should be able to look at the end product and see the ROI, return on Investment. What is the widget that comes out after a 12 year production? This is easily defined by most industries. We simply look at the profit line. Money talks or somebody walks.The problem is that the Education Industry makes no money. there is no monetary profit. Without money as an indicator of success, what do we use?
This is where Education as an industry falls apart. We do not have agreement on what the product is without money as the measure. Is it how many kids graduate? Is it how many students passed standardized tests which assess knowledge of content? Is it based on how many students go on to college. Is it based on how many go on to be employed in a meaningful way? Is it based on how many become lifelong learners?Is it based on how many learning skills each can exhibit?
To further complicate it we need to evaluate: what skills are important; what facts are necessary; what do we place an emphasis on vocation, or higher education. The focus of these directions depends on whom you ask. Students, parents, teachers and politicians each have different expectations for the outcomes. This further confuses whether the investors are getting a return on their investment. If we cannot agree on a common measure for success we will never be able to satisfactorily answer the question.
Now we need to look at the management of the Education Industry. If education is not an industry, why would we run it like an industry? According to Dan Pink, research tells us that merit pay for teachers will not only be unsuccessful, it will be counter-productive. Further, which of the criteria for success should be used to determine whether the entire staff of a district should be fired as punishment for failure. Do we ask: the Students, the parents, the teachers, the politicians? Does mass firing, in addition to being a punishment for failure, also serve as a great incentive to attract better teachers who will work harder to meet the goals of that district?
In my humble opinion we have to stop thinking of Education as an industry. We need to come to some agreement on what the outcome of a good education is. The outcome or the Profit is never going to be in monetary terms. Maybe each student needs develop an Individual Educational Plan with desired outcomes clearly stated and agreed upon by all parties. We can then assess every student’s progress and success as they proceed in a formative assessment and not when it is too late to change course. This would enable us to assess reflect an adjust individuals’ educations, which is our product. We would shift from report cards to IEP meetings. This, although a time-consuming alternative, could save time for students over a 12 year career in school. With successful results meeting times would be less, unless a program of more rigor is indicated to challenge those who need it.
This is a simple plan that only needs us to get the students, parents, teachers and politicians to agree to the change and agree on the outcomes. I guess that would be the part of the reform equation where we need to change the culture. It may take a few weeks.