Leading schools network: Open innovation to improve educational results
The Leading Schools Network (Red de Escuelas Líderes, REL) is celebrating 11 years of life and is healthier than ever. It consists in 110 schools and lyceums that within very diverse contexts are changing their educational practices, all the way from Alto Hospicio in the far north to Punta Delgada, in the Strait of Magellan’s eastern end.
These schools’s work shows how it is possible to create spaces where teachers and directors can share their experiences, collaborate, and learn together.
The OCDE has praised this initiative as one of 27 global examples of good practices in educational innovation. This recognition is not a coincidence but the result of the work of more than 4,700 teachers and directors, supported by Fundación Educacional Arauco, Fundación Minera Escondida, El Mercurio, Fundación Chile and, as of this year, Fundación Educacional Oportunidad.
In the first place, it is a network of educational centers that share their experiences on face-to-face meetings and internships among schools. This has allowed them to build a solid social capital -a scarce asset in our country and- essential to embark in educational transformation collaborative projects with a potential impact on over 67 thousand students.
In second place, they are schools and lyceums with a proven track record of effort and improvement in the quality of their students’ learning. They have key capabilities as directive teams with courage, bravery and persistence to improve the educational outcomes.
Thirdly, these educational communities are conceived as parts of an ecosystem. They understand how the environment can condition their performances and search for resources and key partners for the educational improvement process. To this end, they integrate parents and guardians in their processes and get in touch with other organizations and local leaders.
But there is still much to do, given the REL is currently dealing with the challenge of extending and strengthening its impact in the country, and becoming an Open Innovation Platform. This means systematizing the accomplished lessons, rescuing the best educational practices, and turning them into high-quality knowledge that is available to all the schools nationwide.
A requirement to move in this direction is to systematize the available evidence rigorously, as was done in countries such as the United Kingdom and Australia. They have already identified the most effective educational practices for every different context, type of educational population, and costs; approach that is being implemented in Chile and Latin America by SUMMA. These efforts, in analysis and systematization are essential to overcoming the endless number of “pilot programs” in our educational system that beyond their specific results, have no relevant systemic effects.
The experience accumulated by the REL represents an extraordinary opportunity to initiate this systematization work, overcoming the fragmentation of efforts and of course, incorporating more actors from the educational world as research centers and other entities that carry out educational innovation. The important public investment in School Leadership Centers and the visionary decision of the Ministry of Education to create an innovation center within its own organization are excellent news that can bolster these efforts.
This column was published in El Mercurio