Why does it seem that schools run 10 - 15 years behind the business community in implementing change Having left the business world to come into education I have noticed that education runs about...

Why does it seem that schools run 10 - 15 years behind the business community in implementing change

Having left the business world to come into education I have noticed that education runs about 10 - 15 years behind the business world in changing management styles. An example if I may. When I was in my teacher training we were talking about the Demming statistical analysis methods used in Japan for manufactured parts. They were trying to make that model fit students who are not parts like a machine made part. They were selling it as the latest greatest idea in education. Prior to education I was in the High Tech Industry and Demming fit our 1,000 part runs well but part that were one-off or unique could not be done that way. That was over 10 years before I came to education. Now with this latest group think method being touted as changing schools where teachers meet weekly to review student progress and try to compare ideas it is again way behind business. The idea was tried in business and parts were taken in and parts were rejected. May be we need to follow people like google or an Australian Software company that allow thier people to think more independently for part of the time. Less forcing teachers to become clones and more creativity. Why do we run behind business and why do we hire educational consultants that are ex-administrators who have been out of the classroom for over 10 years or more?

Expert Answers
Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think there are many reasons schools do not implement changes as businesses do, but the overarching reason is that schools are not businesses, and it is my opinion that the trend of recent years to act as though they were is a mistake. No matter how you look at it, the business analogy fails.  Are the students the product?  Well, we cannot take the ones that don't pass quality control standards out of the assembly line.  Is education the service we are providing to students?  We are not likely to always be able to please the customer with the service we provide, which should include homework assignments, a demand for performance, and some low or failing grades once in a while. The customer is not always right.

While there has been a movement toward site-based autonomy, in an effort to be able to implement change more quickly and easily, the "bottom line" for schools is at the mercy of federal regulations, state departments of education, school boards, and taxpayers.  The bottom line for a business is profit, and shareholders seldom subject businesses to the kind of scrutiny school districts are subjected to.

There is a natural conservatism in education, and I agree with auntlori that this is not necessarily bad.  The next new thing is not always the best.  In a business, embracing a new idea or technology is likely to have fairly immediate and demonstrable results, but in education, this is not necessarily the case.  The "laboratory" of education requires longitudinal study and review.  For example, a particular methodology in reading instruction might only be shown to be a better methodology years later.  Education is about creating a strong foundation in the brain and building upon it.  That is a process that is not easily or quickly assessed in many instances.

Now as far as record-keeping and such are concerned, quite often new means of doing so are costly, and while these might represent cost savings over time, schools districts are constrained in their expenditures by the limits of taxpayer pockets.  Not only is it difficult to raise taxes for a school district, but also, in recent years, most tax bases have eroded significantly, and help from the federal government and state governments has been flat or decreasing as well.

All things considered, I think it is a dreadful mistake to apply any kind of business model or mindset to public schooling.  The resources are not comparable, and the goals are considerably different.




stolperia eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I have huge problems with all the illustrations that try to equate education with the business world. When a factory turns out a product off the assembly line, it is fairly straightforward to identify pieces that are incorrectly machined or otherwise defective and to either repair or junk those particular items. It doesn't work that way when we're dealing with children - we can't simply throw them away, and it is seldom a simple process to evaluate how and if they are learning and/or applying what they've learned.

In the realm of public education, we are also constrained simply because we are being run by "the public." Most of the public isn't familiar with the possibilities or the challenges of education. Most don't understand how changes in our culture and society are impacting the scope of problems children bring to school with them. Many can't conceive of schools and education as needing to be different from what they experienced when they were students however many years ago!!

It's enormously frustrating to watch how slowly changes come to education, but don't oversimplify the complications. There are valid reasons for moving cautiously.

pacorz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I strongly agree with previous posters that schools are not businesses, and what works for one will not necessarily work for the other.

Schools run on a different time frame. It takes years to be able to see and evaluate the effects of any new approach. It also takes years to arrange funding; in most areas of the country schools are the single largest regular outlay of taxpayer dollars, and there are only a few places where tax money is not heavily scrutinized. That means that you need to have a lot of momentum to get a consensus to expend any additional money for an educational program. Add to that the difficulty of demonstrating whether an innovation "works" or not, and things become rather static. However, that in and of itself is not a bad thing, as study after study shows that kids benefit from stability. So we err on the side of caution... after all, a two year initiative that fails is not a big issue in many businesses, but for us it would represent half of a student's high school career, and that would be a high price to pay.

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I'm no expert, but it seems to me the biggest deterrent to innovation and change is lack of incentive to do so. The business world is forced to innovate and streamline and modernize both to keep up with the "other guys" and make a profit. Schools, on the other hand, have very little incentive to be better in ways that matter. That has changed in recent years to some extent, but nothing to the degree that businesses must respond to competition. One other major deterrent to change in nearly every school is the core of teachers who has been teaching the same material in the same way for decades. While new teachers come in and are inspired to utilize the most current technologies and practices, these "veterans" are never going to change very much about what they do and how they do it.

On a contradictory note, there is something to be said for doing the "tried and true" things that work rather than hopping to the next great methodology or technology just because it's new.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One obvious difference between business and schools is that businesses have very clear goals to shoot for while schools do not.

In the business world, you have to make a profit and that is all.  That is pretty much the only goal of the enterprise.  It's easy to know whether the things you try are working because the dependent variable is so obvious and easy to measure.  In schools, the goal is much less clear.  Yes, we want to educate kids and prepare them to be productive members of society and the economy.  But what does that mean?  Does it just mean that we want them to have good test scores?   Do we need to make them "well-rounded?"  What about allowing them to enjoy themselves?

The goals of education are much less easily defined and less easily measured.  Therefore, it is harder to get feedback about what truly works.  That, to me, is one reason for the problem you are speaking of.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Because, like it or not, the schools do not exist as models for the business community.  We are not simply producing worker bees, rather we are helping human beings to develop in all areas of their life and over 13 years.  This is a much more complex process than one might think.  From a business perspective, schools might look backwards or inefficient, when many of the techniques we use are actually time-tested for success.  You can't always place a cost-benefit analysis figure on what and how a human being learns. 

Schools have had to cater more directly to the business community in recent years because of perpetual cuts to their budgets and the need for grant money to fill the gaps, and this has created the illusion that the public system exists solely as a training ground for the business community.

M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Red tape. That is all. Teacher unions slow the process of change incredibly by complaining about anything and everything they don't want to understand. Principals become stagnant within their comfort zones just so they do not ruffle the feathers of the School Board. The School Board, often made of members who have no idea about the research-based findings in education, psychology, nor human development, is also an organization often founded on bickering and lack of common sense.

That is mainly the reason. Wherever there is public money involved, there is more monitoring and control of spending and changing things. When the funding is private there is more freedom to implement much needed changes.

amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Schools are NOT businesses.  There are also many more variables involved.  In business, it's either success or failure.  In schools, there are children who are hungry, beaten, scared, angry, neglected, abused, and anxious because of lay-offs, home foreclosures, having to work full-time to help mom and dad pay the bills.  If these kids don't have their homework, it seems almost cruel to demand it of them or send them to detention.  They are in the "business" of survival...

Business is "Dog eat dog."  School is humanity--sometimes what works for business just won't work for schools.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Schools are not businesses, and they are also the most change-resistant organizations.  In schools, the status quo wins.  There are always people who don't want to change, and they are usually the entrenched veterans.  That does not mean all veterans resist technology or new ideas.  There is also the money issue.  Schools only get technology when they have the money.  Sometimes the technology and money don't meet at the same time, and schools end up with technology that never takes off and miss the good stuff.

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I like the "red tape" comment from above. Schools were never meant to be run as businesses, but in the past few years that trend has certainly changed. Sadly, many purchases that schools must make--such as the outrageous cost of new textbooks--eat away at what monies are available. Waste is another problem. I have witnessed the purchase of classroom sets of texts that were stored away and never used, later to be discarded--thousands of dollars wasted in such a case.

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