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 education first asks: why are learning outcomes poor 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 producing 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: The RISE Systems Framework, Marla Spivack
On understanding system coherence and incoherence: