An emerging mystery in education reform

Over the last two decades, the number of professionals / resource persons / 

researchers / academics has dramatically grown in two areas related to 

educational improvement / reform — planning and evaluation — but not so much 

in the part that comes in between: IMPLEMENTATION! We have more and more 

data on learning outcomes, provisioning or the lack of it, \’non-performance\’ of 

personnel, expenditure incurred and the like, but comparatively very little on, say, 

emotional incentives that help teachers change, or practices that enable diversity 

to become a resource rather than constraint, or ways in which debilitating 

hierarchies and lack of equity can be addressed in large scale, or how systems 

learn to be more responsive…

In particular, the ability to evaluate children\’s learning as well as programme 

\’outcomes\’ has seen the greatest degree of rigour and academic/professional 

depth. Suddenly, there is a large number of agencies undertaking research, assessment and evaluation, and \’data\’ related activities such as monitoring / tracking. And we have people who have studied in places such as Harvard / Cambridge etc. evaluating the work of those who went to somewhat less distinguished schools/universities, studied courses that didn\’t really prepare them to design or execute brilliant programmes…. And who, of course, are not really able to get teachers to be more committed or display innovation or even basic professional capabilities. Interestingly though, the various studies / data bases + analyses by the highly qualified minds come up with results that their less qualified counterparts can quite accurately predict beforehand!

So why are the highly qualified academics/professionals so involved with 
evaluation and planning rather than actually getting things done? I believe 
because it is EASIER – easier to point out what is going wrong than actually 
make it better, easier to give \’recommendations\’ than nitty-gritty details that might 
lead to improvement (and which you can learn only if you really dirty your hands 
and undergo the deep frustration that teaches you what works or doesn\’t).

Perhaps all this is doing a disservice – certainly more and more people in the 
system are coming to believe that whatever they do is not going to work, and will 
probably not stand up to the \’scrutiny\’ of these \’intelligent and knowledgeable\’ 
people. There is also a tendency to focus on what will \’please the researchers\’ – 
hence some states devalue all-round education to emphasize only reading and 
writing and numeracy; or are forever \’piloting\’ aspects that should be well-known 
after so many decades and therefore diverting energy from larger systemic 
reform that is required post-RTE. Looks like the law of unintended consequences 
is beginning to operate…