International Teachers

Andy Hargreaves: England Adopts the “Business Capital Model,” with Disastrous Results

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Andy Hargreaves is a professor at Boston College whose work has won wide recognition, including the 2015 Grawemeyer Award.


In this article, he contrasts the schools of Scotland–which value teacher professionalism and collaboration–with the schools of England, where conservative ideologues have imposed the “business capital model.”


He writes:


Scotland values a strong state educational system run by 32 local authorities that is staffed by well-trained and highly valued professionals who stay and grow in a secure and rewarding job. Teachers serve others, for most or all of their working life, in a cooperative profession that supports them to do this to the best of their abilities.


England no longer values these things. About half of its schools are now outside local authority control. England offers a business capital model that invests in education to yield short-term profits and keep down costs through shorter training, weakened security and tenure, and keeping salaries low by letting people go before they cost too much.


By comparison, Scotland models what is called professional capital: bringing in skilled as well as smart people; training them rigorously in university settings connected to practical environments; giving them time and support to collaborate on curriculum and other matters; and paying them to develop their leadership and their careers so that they can make effective decisions together and deliver better outcomes for young people.


Hargreaves writes that the business model is in retreat:  The evidence of high-performing nations such as Canada, Singapore and Finland hasn’t been on its side, and countries like Sweden that followed the free-school business model, and saw their results collapse, are reversing course.


The business model works on three assumptions, none of which improves education or teaching:


First: Teachers are already paid too much. When given the chance, cut their salaries.


Second: Professional development is a waste of time. Better to rely on incentives and sanctions that professional growth.


Third: (Echoing our own Michelle Rhee) Collaboration is greatly overrated. Better to have teachers compete.


Hargreaves asks:


So what is it to be for England: the vanguard or the guard’s van of teacher change? With or without free schools, academies and chains, where does England want its teaching profession to go next – to be one that can make high-quality judgments in an increasingly complex environment, or to be a standardised occupation that is flexible and cheap?


Sounds familiar to American readers, who have seen the same failed and noxious policies imposed here by corporate “reformers,” who don’t give a hoot about teacher morale.

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