As it ays in the 'Shift Happens' video, throughout the developed world school systems are facing the same challenge - to prepare students for ‘jobs that don’t yet exist, using technologies that have not been invented, in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet’. Yet no school system in the world, so far as we know, has adequately addressed this challenge, even though all of them know they must do so. McKinsey’s recent report on school improvement reviewed three decades of international educational reform efforts and concluded: ‘Lots of energy, little light’. Most OECD countries, it noted, ‘tripled their spending on education in real terms between 1970 and 1994. Unfortunately, student outcomes in a large number of systems either stagnated or regressed.’
Clearly the challenge is going to take a special kind of innovation. We can’t serve unknown future needs simply by squeezing the last drop of performance or efficiency out of the systems we already have - even though the political clamour, especially with budgets under strain in the wake of the financial crisis, is to do precisely that. Incremental innovation is necessary but not sufficient. We also need ‘transformative innovation’ - innovations, starting at small scale, that have the capacity over time to transform the system itself to deliver outcomes the existing system cannot even imagine.