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Will changes in education be top-down or bottom-up?

Shelf of Gradient Top-Down vs Bottom-Up

Comparing the responsible actors mentioned in the literature, there is a trend towards top-down approaches putting the main responsibility and capacity of change on policymakers and formal political institutions, like ministries or parliaments. This is in line with the recommendations which are often located on a national or global level. However, some authors point to the importance which private service providers can have both in the development of curricula and the implementation of digital devices. In addition, others talk about the role which schools and teachers themselves can play when comparing efforts and measures at a regional level: as teachers and schools can take certain decisions by themselves, they could identify lessons learnt and best practices in collaboration with other schools in a cluster or region without the need of a top-down regulation.


Excerpts from the literature

“Of the different stakeholders involved in any type of education reform, policymakers bear the lion’s share of responsibility for setting the ship on the right course.”

  • This quote is extracted from a report titled “Worldwide Educating for the Future Index 2018” written by The Economist Intelligence Unit and published in 2018. This paper is based on the findings of the first Worldwide Educating for the Future Index, created by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) and commissioned by the Yidan Prize Foundation, along with in-depth interviews with 17 global experts.


“The focus of policy needs to be on the outcomes of a school system, rather than on arguments about how education is provided. This means shifting from looking inwards at the bureaucratic structure towards looking outwards to the next teacher, the next school, and the next education system.”

  • This quote is extracted from a report titled “Educating Learners for Their Future, Not Our Past” written by Schleicher and published in 2018. Under heading ‘The Changing Face of a Successful School System’ the author believes that powerful learning environments are constantly creating synergies and finding new ways to enhance professional, social and cultural capital with others.


“In some industrialised countries, the levels to which we are currently educating and training half or more of our high school graduates will condemn them to a lifetime of poverty. I believe the first obligation of education policymakers in the advanced economies in the near term—meaning right now—is to greatly ratchet up the standards for compulsory education to avoid this outcome.”

  • This quote is extracted from a book titled “Future Frontiers: Education for an AI world” written by Tucker and published in 2017. The author concludes the quote above by insisting that policymakers not just bring up the lower half to meet the standards now being met currently by those in the middle of the distribution but changing the kind of education and training that all young people are offered.


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