Education is not a business. Except when it is.

Jordan Shapiro’s piece in Forbes, You Are Asking the Wrong Questions About Education Technology, is a great reminder to me that education is much more nuanced that we commonly acknowledge. We too often speak too broadly, forgetting or ignoring that K3 students are very different creatures from PSE students and that the immediate educational needs of the developing world are different from the developed world, for example.

We forget, too, that there is a difference between what teachers do and what schools do. Teachers teach persons and schools teach individuals. The gap between those is very difficult to cross and is an example of a well-known problem in the social sciences, namely that we are very good at understanding and predicting the behaviour of a group of individuals and very bad at understanding and predicting the behaviour of a single person. Misunderstanding that problem, as Shaprio points out, leads to the “plague” of high stakes testing or, I will add, to taking the value-added movement too far.

small v large scale behaviour


But we shouldn’t take that to mean education does not have some business-like aspects. In my new series of posts on my time at the ah16z Tech Summit that I am asking what can education learn from the business world. Because I think there is something to learn, especially on the operations side.

The trick, as Shapiro reminds us, is to keep that gap clear in our minds and know when we are talking about persons or individuals.

Posts on the ah16z Tech Summit:

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