Chas Edelstein, Senior Adviser at Credit Suisse, explains how innovative and more diverse sources of funding can help re-define the meaning of quality education
What will it take to disrupt education?
When you think about the disruption of any industry, it usually means better quality and lower cost. ‘Quality’ is such an important word here. It’s a word that few understand how to define in education. I think that organizations that help us to understand, define and identify quality in education will be highly valued in the future.
The way you think about setting standards of quality, and what it means to be approved and viewed as having quality, very much impact how education can be financed. Long-term, sustainable disruption in education will mean that the system sustains itself. That means the user of education, which is the employer, is willing to make an investment in educating their employees that's less than the benefit that they get in return. That's sustainable.
What needs to happen to make this a reality?
There is a natural limit to how much money can be donated. Having the education funded by the groups that benefit from it is unlimited. The more educated a workforce we have, the more productivity we have at the company, and the more money we have to support more talent. That's a virtuous cycle and a potential game changer.
How then do we assess the quality of education?
People think too much about putting money into a school and not enough about systemic change. Investment in a credible, independent assessor of education quality could really disrupt the system.
There need to be entities that designate quality, so you're sure that the schools are delivering good outcomes for students. That quality is likely to have more components of outcomes than it does currently. At present, there's a lot of components of input: what percentage of your professors have PhDs, etc., as opposed to outcomes: the success of the students, the learning that the students can gain from the process, the jobs that people gain.
Why is leadership so important in education?
Putting resources into building great leadership within our educational system has a multiplier effect. Take New Leaders, for example. It's a non-profit organization that takes people from both inside and outside the education sector, who want to devote themselves to leading schools. Leadership really, really matters: it sets up the systems, it hires the right teachers. Organizations that do a great job of developing human capital and human leadership in education are able to leverage resources effectively.
How have funding models of education changed?
Over the last few decades, there’s been a recognition that there are multiple potentially effective models of education. And there's a broad range of funding sources. When you think about these different buckets of capital, there are a number of models that look to blend public and private sources.
Can you give me an example?
Partnerships between businesses and non-profit entities, such as Purdue Global University, developed by Purdue and Kaplan in the US, reveal how collaboration can lead to greater impact. Kaplan has historically been a for-profit education company, but it has set up its online network in an effective way for students. It has developed numerous operations, including marketing. And Purdue is a terrific brand that symbolizes quality education, a good reputation, good professors – so that's the content. By coming together, they're melding their skills.
And you're seeing some efforts in Africa where the educational model is structured such that there can be loans for students where some of the loan losses can be covered by philanthropic contributions.
What gives you confidence about the future of education?
If you're looking for a hopeful experience, go to an education conference. You see young companies that have identified a need and filled it, like entrepreneurs do. Financial investors are interested in these companies. When the environment is right, when the barriers are lowered, that entrepreneurial creativity will flourish. And there is no doubt that there is thec capital to support it.