Scenario: A Vibrant Learning Grid (KnowledgeWorks)
I have chosen to review the scenario through the lens of an Advisor to the Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC) strategic planning senior management team. ADEC are currently in the middle of a staggered roll out of the New School Model (NSM) in all public schools from KG through to Grade 12. Teachers in the public schools are a mix of native Arab teachers (from the UAE as well as Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan etc) and Western-trained expatriate teachers (largely from the US but also other Western countries). In addition, ADEC have recently begun to take a more active approach to monitoring private schools in the Emirate.
In the scenario A Vibrant Learning Grid learners have a great deal of autonomy over their learning and are able to select learning experiences suited to their needs from within a vibrant learning ecosystem. Learning is available on an as/when needed basis and students work with personal education advisors to develop their own individual pathway. Physical school buildings still exist but they have become more a hub for the community, and a place for networking and collaboration. Open access and collaboration amongst learning providers is an essential aspect of this scenario. One potential issue arises in ensuring learning experiences are equally accessible to all, especially with parents taking more control of managing their child’s education. Another is that learners who have not had the opportunity to develop key skills such as networking and coordination may find navigating the learning terrain difficult and so miss out on opportunities.
Key drivers of change:
– Personalization of education
– Development of a learning ecosystem within which many providers operate as part of a coherent whole
Decision brainstorming (framed as questions)
- What strategies can we put in place now to ensure that the education ecosystem available to our learners is compatible with our Islamic values and culture?
- How can we develop links with other Gulf countries in order to work towards the establishment of a strong geographical learning community within the region? Should we also consider establishing ties with other Muslim countries outside the Gulf? What about international ties?
- How should we go about setting up a digital resource library so that resources are open access and can be easily accessed by our own learners and those within our geographical learning community?
- Does the NSM adequately provide for the development of skills such as visual literacy, collaboration, networking and flexibility? If not, what changes do we need to make to ensure learners are challenged and guided to develop in these, and other, skill areas?
- Should we continue hiring Western-trained native English speaking teachers or should we focus on developing our own localized teacher education programs?
- What will be our physical ‘school’ space? What will it look like and what will we offer? What about our virtual space?
- What is our virtual space? What formal and/or informal learning can we offer already?
- How can we develop the private school sector so that they become a part of our overall learning community and not separate entities, from the public sector and from each other?
- Related to the above question, what steps can we take to develop a stronger sense of community within education? How can we make better use of resources outside of the regular school setting?
- Should we continue to be moving towards bilingual English education? Or should we look at returning to having English as a foreign language option and open the door for students to learn other languages, as chosen by them?
- Is our NSM serving us for the future? Should we review it again in light of a move towards personalized learning pathways?
- How can we modify our current assessment design to reflect the fact that learners will be choosing their own pathways and there will be less standardized curriculum content?
Two most important strategic decisions:
- Develop links within local and regional community to establish a strong geographical learning ecosystem in which a majority of members share the same values and beliefs while at the same time incorporating an outer ring of international connections. This ecosystem should develop in a way that sees it offering learning opportunities that are extensive in depth and breadth and embrace both the homegrown as well as global. It should also embrace the principles of open access. As part of this, ADEC should develop a plan for establishing it’s own virtual identity.
- Review the New School Model before it is rolled out in Cycle 3 schools to consider the following issues and make changes as necessary:
- Curriculum – is it flexible enough to allow students to personalize their own learning pathway?
- Skills – does it foster the development of key skills, such as visual literacy, collaboration, networking and flexibility?
- Assessment – does the proposed assessment system support (a) and (b) above?
Why these two decisions? Due to the fact that these two decisions address the key drivers of change behind the Vibrant Learning Grid scenario. Without addressing these two key areas now, it will be difficult for ADEC to be a successful educational organization should this scenario come true. The other decisions that need to be made in part are dependant on the above decisions first having been worked through. For example, without a thorough review of the NSM there would be no point in changing the policy on hiring western trained teachers. Likewise, setting up a digital libray and moving towards open access resources would most effectively be done as part of an overarching plan to establish a virtual identity.
Decision 1: The idea of building close community ties within the UAE (and potentially also the Gulf region) is transferable across all the other scenarios. Close collaboration amongst local entities is important in all cases, but in different ways and for different reasons. For example, in the Providers Control Scarce Resources scenario, community-based groups will have to work in partnership will school to ensure some kind of learning opportunities exist and are shared equitable amongst learners. By contrast, in the Providers Run A Rich National System scenario, there is a local consortium made up of public and private sector members working together to ensure that top-notch education is on offer that catapults learners to the top of the world tables in all subjects.
Decision 2: Partly transferable to the Learners Fend For Themselves scenario, wherein learners are prosumers but learning resources are scarce. Why? Because the same key skills will be important, perhaps even more so if resources are that much harder to come by. As well as this, personalization of learning is still a key part of this scenario. It is also partly transferable to the Providers Run A Rich National System scenario in that the same key skills will also be essential in ensuring ‘top of the table’ success. However, the lack of a highly structured national curriculum does not work with this scenario.