The following article was written for and published in the Lethbridge Herald on April 30, 2014.
A couple of weeks ago, I attended a conference in Saskatoon hosted by Educational Research and Development Corporation (ERDI). This organization brings together about 50 superintendents from across Canada twice a year. Our plenary keynote was given by Queen’s University professor, Barry Cross. In order to provide a context for his presentation, the opening question displayed on the big screen was, “Can an organization stay the same and still survive?” Cross provided some excellent examples of multi-national businesses that have become extinct due to their unwillingness to change and adapt. Although it is hard to imagine public education ever becoming extinct, it is a possibility. As a result, we must ensure that change and adaptation are always a part of system conversations.
The message that education needs to be innovative and willing to change has been a consistent thread in the weekly editorials of my area superintendent colleagues, which bodes well for all students in southwest Alberta. Maintaining the status quo will only result in falling behind. Even though we are known in Alberta for offering a world class education system, resting on our laurels will eventually lead to other countries outpacing us. The world is becoming increasingly “flat” with limited barriers to global employment. Our students now compete for jobs against international candidates. Adding in the exponential advances in technology that impacts our educational system, there is a critical need for continuous improvement that is beyond survival mode.
We must seek to prepare students for a future world where the only constant is change itself. Twenty years ago we could not have fathomed the amount of change that has occurred in our world. It is equally difficult now to predict the revolutionary change to come. Albert Einstein once said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” That statement provides the impetus to forge forward and develop students who are learners, skilled in critical thinking and able to ask the right questions.
Survival is the minimum outcome for any organization. School systems, especially, need to set the bar much higher. Changing how we “do” education and embracing continuous improvement with forward thinking creates a nimble system that responds well to the needs of our students and society in general. Clearly, our post-secondary institutions and our business and industry communities would benefit from graduates of this type of system. But, more importantly, our students deserve, and should fully expect, a system that engages, challenges and ultimately delivers; a system that refuses to stay the same.