Transforming the educational vortex through Collective Social Intelligence

I have been talking to some colleagues about transforming education and of course the topic of Collective Social Intelligence came up. According to Harvard professor Jal Mehta, the teaching profession is not organised to build teachers’ knowledge, skills, or expertise. His 2015 report “From Quicksand to Solid Ground” details the challenges created by the complete lack of an R&D system for the teaching practice; how support for teachers is ineffective to the extreme and that there is no political will to create a consistent and skilled teacher workforce.

When I first glanced at “From Quicksand to Solid Ground” I thought maybe it was overstating the case, but having read it completely and actually reflected on it, I can’t help but agree.

According to Mehta’s report this “Molotov cocktail” of inadequacies results in a situation “where student learning depends more on individual teacher skills than on the quality of the teaching profession as a whole and unfortunately for the majority of students their access to skilled teaching remains highly stratified by race and class.”

In my book, Collective Social Intelligence, I discuss other institutions but use education as the perfect context for transforming our political, economic, social and technological institutions to bring about educational equality for everyone. In this blog I want to align Mehta and my opinions to create an even bigger picture of impending doom.

First, our organisations and institutions should be about people; often they are not so we don’t trust them. Almost all of us work for some kind of managed institution, large or small. We depend on the way work is coordinated and governed for our livelihoods. Our ability to contribute to society depends on the management of organisations and on our own skill, dedication and effort, never more so than for a quality education system.

“From Quicksand to Solid Ground” details how to create a quality education system by implementing the missing R&D systems required, fixing the broken social learning system and better managing the chaotic political ecosystem. It is a huge challenge and one that every country will be struggling to define, refine or redefine.

Mehta’s paper does a GREAT job of defining the problem and solutions. I’d like to add my own two cents worth because at a certain level these problems in education are a complete societal failure; a complete failure of leadership and our institutions and a failure to act in accordance with the needs of the people being governed. To make a manageable ecosystem I would reinvigorate our institution as follows:

First of all our political institutions should become better aligned to facilitate continuous improvement to the macroeconomic environment, where measuring goods, market efficiency and monitoring technological readiness happens as a matter of a well defined system and process.

Second, at national levels, our economic institutions should ensure a well-functioning financial sector for economic activities, a labor market that is efficient, flexible and incentivised enough to shift from one activity to another at low cost and without much social disruption.

Third, our social institutions should be the biggest, an all encompassing interconnected network that ensures the efficient and effective delivery of all citizen services such as education. In doing so, public and private sector collaboration creates an environment of R&D for all sectors, and business sophistication is commensurate with the population and market scale.

Finally our technological institutions ensure that higher education and science are aimed at R&D and innovation and that the infrastructure is appropriate to innovation in the real world as well as the expanded realm provided by the Internet.

In this context engaging with citizens becomes known as a knowledge-management activity and all institutional contexts are realigned to provide levels of trust, identity, commitment, learning and creativity. In other words, there are national collaborative work practices that help guide the reformation and configuration of all types of organizations and institutions.

This will determine a hierarchy of information and the ability to structure a communication and coordination system that is a viable alternative to current government. Simultaneously, these reformed institutions form a future state vision that can be staged in a logical manner, creating positive impact through improved uses of information technology as part of a CSI-driven government-reform agenda. I want to emphasise “staged in a logical manner”because without an explicit plan these are just words…

Today’s institutions will have to change to be more tolerant of this kind of open-governance model in order to make interrelatedness more explicit and functional. This will include renewing what institutions are good for and deciding how to reboot them to make them work for citizens, and to enable them to aide in achieving global CSI. My hope for education and other essential services is that this will take the chaotic out of the institutions in the ecosystem, put R&D for teachers into the mix and realign a social learning system to the needs, hopes and dreams of citizens.

Resulting in, a cocktail you can enjoy; not one that is about to blow up in your face.