A ‘Built to Last’ Education: A lesson from business?

Having recently finished Jim Collins’ book ‘Good to Great’, on why some companies make the leap and some don’t, I discovered many of his concepts can potentially cross over into an educational setting.

In this post I would  like to highlight one story from the book about Merck, a company that sees its core purpose as a ‘global healthcare leader working to help the world be well’.  I think the current Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, and (hopefully not too many) schools could learn from this story.

Collins states that ‘enduring great companies (schools) don’t exist merely to deliver returns to shareholders (exam results).  Indeed, in a truly great company (school), profits (exam results) become like blood and water to a healthy body: They are absolutely essential for life, but they are not the very point of life’

Collins highlights this theory with a soundbite from  a TIME interview with George Merck II, the CEO of Merck, in August 1952:

‘We try to remember that medicine (education) is for the patients (students)…. It is not for the profits (exam results).  The profits (exam results) follow, and if we have remembered that, they (exam results) have never failed to appear.  The better we have remembered it, the larger (better exam results) they have been’.

In the current educational climate it is important to be realistic; exam results do have a huge bearing on the perceived success of a school.  Good examination results, whether the concept is right or wrong, clear the path for students to get to the next stage of their development, whether that’s a job, an apprenticeship or a place at a college or university.  The vital point here, I feel, is the process by which we achieve good examination results can change dramatically.  It should primarily be led through positive relationships between the student, teacher and parent within a flexible curriculum that promotes authentic engagement by allowing students to discover and pursue their passions, where possible, on a daily basis.  I say, ‘where possible’ because subjects like English and Maths are not everybody’s cup of tea, but students do need a level of competency in both for future success in life.

However, we do not need to teach the test.

The challenging job is figuring out how to do this in YOUR individual school environment.

Although Maths was never my strong point or passion at school or since, I would like to offer the following equation to summarise my feelings on what we should be trying to create for each student in our schools.  We may never fully get there, but we must relentlessly and consistently pursue it:

ENGAGING + (through) EXCTING (learning opportunities) + ENCOURAGEMENT = (students) EXCELLING 

If we do make the above equation our biggest focus in schools on a daily basis, the great exam results, that we’re all under pressure to achieve, should look after themselves AND, more importantly, every student will be leaving school enthused and excited about what their future holds.


One Response to A ‘Built to Last’ Education: A lesson from business?

  1. April says:

    This is a very interesting link to business and a very good one at that as It makes complete sense but how can you encourage schools and teachers to primarily support this equation? unfortunately I think that some people rely on the results as a value of their success rather than the introvert skills that the students have learnt for the future. After all it is those results that direct a parent to where their child should attend and how ‘good’ a teacher is. You have to make the message clear to Teachers that it is Engaging, Excitment and Encouragment that develops children to success and not feeding them the information for the blunt result of an outcome. How have you taught this in your school?

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