May 18, 2018

Structural Barriers to Innovation and Change

Why is the education industry so immune to significant change?  Our experience and research indicates that the private education industry, specifically, struggles to change in major ways in an effort to keep up with rapidly evolving markets, consumers, and tools.  Why is that and how do we address it?  


Welcome to an age-old question that educational strategists have been attempting to address for decades.  It turns out that we have a lot of structural barriers – or limitations – that we have either self-imposed or have been imposed upon us.  These barriers are numerous and result in choking the innovation and change that we see present in so many industries.  Here’s a list of just some of these long-standing barriers:

  1. Class size – Educators have historically believed that only small classes results in strong learning, driving costs up.

  2. Calendar – The industry followed an agricultural calendar giving summers off, limiting the seasons in which we can deliver education.

  3. Accreditation – The industry follows accreditation centric rules to good management, creating some unusual practices and policies.

  4. Tenure – Few industries award jobs for life but colleges still do.

  5. Business Model – In private education, we have adopted a low volume/high price/selective admission model yet wonder why we have enrollment and accessibility woes.

  6. Assessment – Arbitrary methods of assessing both student learning and teacher effectiveness still plague our industry.

  7. Goverance – Our schools and colleges are governed by a model of accountability and responsibility engineered for non-profits over a century ago and has not been revisited or recalibrated.

So, why don’t we change very quickly?  This is just a small list of the major structural barriers to innovation and change in private education.  There are many others so numerous to list. 

Significant change will not occur in our industry until these barriers are broken down completely allowing new capacity to flow into our models. Most schools and colleges today create plans and manage change on the edges or incrementally. However, there are some innovators in the landscape that are committed to breaking down the barriers and impediments to growth, innovation, and change.   

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