Transforming education systems: Why, what, and how

The Center for Universal Education (CUE) at Brookings and the Ministry of Education of Sierra Leone have teamed up to pose a shared vision of education system transformation. Collectively they offer insights on transformation from the perspective of a global think tank and a national government, highlighting on-the-ground lessons from designing and implementing system-wide educational rebuilding.  

The new brief is for any education leader or stakeholder who is interested in charting a transformation journey in their country or education jurisdiction such as a state or district. It is also for civil society organizations, funders, researchers, and anyone interested in the topic of national development through education. In it, authors answer the following three questions and argue for a participatory approach to transformation: 

  • Why is education system transformation urgent now? The world is at an inflection point. Climate change, the changing nature of work, increasing conflict and authoritarianism together with the urgency of COVID recovery has made the transformation agenda more critical than ever. 
  • What is education system transformation? Education system transformation must entail a fresh review of the goals of your system – are they meeting the moment that we are in, are they tackling inequality and building resilience for a changing world, are they fully context aware, are they owned broadly across society – and then fundamentally positioning all components of the education system to coherently contribute to this shared purpose. 
  • How can education system transformation advance in your country or jurisdiction? Three steps are crucial: Purpose (developing a broadly shared vision and purpose), Pedagogy (redesigning the pedagogical core), and Position (positioning and aligning all components of the system to support the pedagogical core and purpose). Deep engagement of educators, families, communities, students, ministry staff, and partners is essential across each of these “3 P” steps.   

The aim is not to provide “the answer”— the authors are also on a journey and continually learning about what it takes to transform systems—but to help others interested in pursuing system transformation benefit from collective reflections to date. The goal is to complement and put in perspective—not replace—detailed guidance from other actors on education sector on system strengthening, reform, and redesign. In essence, we want to broaden the conversation and debate

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