By examining an education system as a whole, we can see how its components are not working together to produce learning.
The systems approach
Just as we can describe the economy as interactions between producers and consumers, we can describe an education system as a series of interactions between different actors. Education systems are made up of the complex interactions among people (teachers, students, parents, and administrators) and things (curricula, books, schools).
This is why ‘common sense’ solutions may not always work: the same intervention may have very different effects in different systems.
Two crucial questions
A systems perspective on the learning crisis first asks: why are learning outcomes low in this school, district, or country? Once that question gets answered, a systems thinker asks: why do those conditions which we have identified as causing low learning exist?
Once we understand why our education system isn't cultivating children's learning, then we can work to realign the relationships in our system to be coherent for learning, meaning that every component works together as a whole with the goal of improving learning.
For more, see our list of RISE research on systems thinking.
RISE resources on systems thinking
On the RISE systems framework:
- Creating Education Systems Coherent for Learning Outcomes, Lant Pritchett
- Applying Systems Thinking to Education: Using the RISE Systems Framework to Diagnose Education Systems, Jason Silberstein and Marla Spivack
- System Coherence for Learning: Applications of the RISE Education Systems Framework, Michelle Kaffenberger and Marla Spivack
On understanding system coherence and incoherence:
- Systems Implications for Core Instructional Support Lessons from Sobral (Brazil), Puebla (Mexico), and Kenya, Luis Crouch
- System (In)Coherence Seen through a Curriculum Lens: Ugandan Teachers Face Conflicting Demands from Curriculum and Examination Bodies, Julius Atuhurra and Michelle Kaffenberger
- Aligning Levels of Instruction with Goals and the Needs of Students (ALIGNS): Varied Approaches, Common Principles, Yue-Yi Hwa, Michelle Kaffenberger, and Jason Silberstein