This is the fifth in a series of short articles to break down, analyse and question the implications of the Draft Strategic Plan for Early Learning 2019-29. In this article we’re looking at Goal 5: The early learning system continues to innovate, learn and improve.
Five Key Points from Goal 5:
- Innovation hubs setup to be contracted out;
- Hubs intended to undertake research and create ‘innovation;’
- Further collaboration between services and schools;
- Internal self-assessments for services;
- Lack of detail in any of Goal 5 initiatives;.
This goal is about the sharing of best practice information to enable an increase in quality across the board. It recognises that some services are achieving excellent results and seeks to share the learnings and innovations with the wider sector.
5.1 Establish innovation hubs for early learning services
The Ministry of Education would set up (through private contracts) innovation hubs. These are described as places where services could gain access to innovation experts or research partners to work on specific projects. These could include topics such as responding to population diversity or the use of digital technology.
In this model, services would apply for support for specific projects or to participate in research.
This function should be provided by universities through their existing research and innovation functions. “Innovation hub” is a buzz term and there are more effective means to get the desired outcomes without having to create new entities. Funding would be far better directed into the established education and health faculties within universities to support research and innovation in this area. If a specific question needs to be addressed or a body of work completed, the funding of this specific work is more effective than funding third party contracts to set up new ‘hubs.’
Providing services access to innovation experts and researchers is positive, but it can be done in a fiscally responsible manner that does not involve the creation of new ‘hubs’ by private contract.
5.2 Support early learning services to collaborate with other education services
It is proposed to provide resources to support services to participate in cross-service and cross-sector collaboration for the purpose of sharing good practice.
The intent is positive but the initiative lacks any detail of how this would look or be implemented. As such, it’s very hard to provide any analysis of the initiative until such time as details are available.
5.3 Support robust internal evaluation to ensure ongoing improvement
The Ministry of Education and ERO would work together to develop an internal evaluation tool to be used by services. The intent is that self-evaluation will strengthen the implementation of the curriculum and will ensure ongoing improvement.
The intent makes sense; if a service has a formal tool to measure performance between ERO visits, then they should be aware of areas of improvement without having to way for a formal review. However, I question whether the services that perform poorly on their ERO review would actually measure their own performance anyway. The high quality services would most likely use this tool effectively, but those with poor governance would likely ignore it. In this case, high performing centres keep performing well and poor performing centres maintain the status quo. Therefore, the question is whether this initiative would make a material difference in ensuring ongoing improvement.
Final Thoughts on Goal 5
Goal 5 is about finding ways to ensure that the early learning system continues to innovate, learn and improve. The three initiatives in this goal lack detail.
Innovation cannot be forced nor magically generated through the creation of ‘hubs.’ There are many great private Education and Care services with leading the way with innovation. These services should be supported and studied by our existing research professionals within the universities.
“The pardox of teaching entrepreneurship is that such a formula necessarily cannot exist; because every innovation is new and unique, no authority can prescribe in concrete terms how to be innovative” – Peter Thiel from Zero to One.
Innovation can’t be taught, but those already at the forefront can share their intellectual property to raise the bar across the sector. You’ll find that those that are innovating in the sector are more than happy to share their learnings when asked.
Whether or not you agree with my thoughts, I invite you all to share your comments. Most importantly, make sure to share your thoughts formally during the consultation period. Keep a look out for my future article which will include a summary of the whole Plan.