Unit 11:Developing Quality Education of a Whole System

Welcome to Unit 11

This is the most complex and the most difficult Unit so far. If you aren’t interested in knowing HOW a whole education system can be changed then feel free to skip this unit. But if you are a staff member of an NGO/INGO, or an officer in a Ministry or Department of Education then this Unit is a MUST. But unfortunately this type of understanding has been sadly lacking in Nepal.
The content of the Unit is based on many tools and concepts from organisational psychology, organisation development, and systems thinking. We will be quoting and referring to work from Peter Senge, David Nadler, and Michael Fullan if you want to Google them and do some research of your own, but we cannot make you an expert in this field in such a short space of time!

Review Activity

The nature of this Unit makes it really essential that you conduct a quick review of some of the important points from the last Unit, especially if there has been some time since you completed it:

  1. Review the previous model of School Development-Change Management, especially your understanding of how all of the 4 main components are interdependent.
  2. Review the whole framework of Quality Education developed for Nepal, especially how all components contribute to quality.
  3. Consider and understand how these two models interact and combine when trying to change a whole education system.

(They are shown again here to save you looking for them)

School Development Change Management


The main principles you should be seeing are as follows:

  1. The change model (for school development), actually describes the concept and dynamic of changing ANY WHOLE system through its components of Strategy, Structure, People, Culture. It can be used to define the current system and also the desired system after improvement.
  2. The framework for Quality Education (in Nepal) describes the CONTENT of the system, and this is why each country must be careful to identify and place its OWN framework’s content INSIDE the change model’s 4 components.
  3. Changing from the current system to the desired system is a journey, and one that will pass through many TRANSITION STATES. As an example, as soon as one element is changed in the current system the journey has begun towards the desired system, and will need to be managed differently. Specifically for example, if a teacher’s role is changed this may need changes to training inputs and performance management inputs. This would then be a transition state, neither current nor desired!

Conceptually the notion of Transition States looks like this:

Transitions image

The most important piece of learning here is that you cannot expect to change a system in ONE transition, even our School Development Programme had several transition stages. 

Reforming Nepal’s Education System
Let’s now apply some of these concepts to a specific education system, and obviously the example we will use is Nepal. Remember, this is all based on our 10 years direct experience in Nepal, but should demonstrate to you how to apply things in your own country.

The Problem:
There are few who would argue that Nepal’s education system is in a mess! But there are very few who know what to do about it or who get beyond the rhetoric of statements like “we need to improve the quality of education” (without defining what it even means!) or “we must install interactive white-boards in all our schools” (made by a senior Ministry official after a visit to a European conference). Then there are the major international donors who make huge sums of money available to the government but with no apparent cohesion of effort with other large donors to ensure that holistic development of the overall system occurs. Even worse is the plethora of NGOs and INGOs all doing their own thing in small pockets of villages, towns and cities. And before you ask, yes, we are one of them, but we have ALWAYS sought collaboration with the Ministry, international government agencies such as DFID, and other NGO’s to attempt to get coordination of effort towards a common goal. Everyone seems so hell bent on doing their own thing without a common vision; surely the time has come for this to stop because there are just too many initiatives looking for a problem!

A list of some of the common problems from just the Primary education sector makes for depressing reading:

  1. A teaching workforce which is undertrained and unmotivated
  2. A culture of politicisation and unionisation
  3. Teaching pedagogies which focus more on the teacher than the child
  4. A completely outmoded curriculum with no elements of moral or social education
  5. Assessment strategies based purely on “remembering” at the expense of “understanding and applying”
  6. Physical school environments which are often unsafe, unhygienic and unfriendly for young children
  7. A complete lack of resources for use in the classroom
  8. A closed system of teacher appointments as opposed to one which is open and competitive
  9. Heads and Principals with no training in basic management, governance, staff development or educational leadership
  10. No opportunities for young, motivated, newly trained teachers

The list could be two or three times longer than this, and will continue to grow unless someone takes a stand and pulls the whole SYSTEM together.

The Solution:

The purpose of this section is to offer a unified, holistic, systemic solution to the problems with Nepal’s education system. The key to it is in the words system and systemic, because this is exactly what we are NOT doing in Nepal with the piecemeal approach of initiatives, donations and organisations that are generally uncoordinated and multi-focused.

The Ministry has just appointed some “experts in education” to examine the problem, but with the greatest of respect to these gentleman the government should have first appointed an “expert in organisational change”. An organisational psychologist doesn’t need to know anything about the details of education but they DO need to know about how systems work/don’t work, the typical generic components of an organisational system, and then they can consult with educationalists to identify the specific components which are missing from the system or worse still …….. working against the system.

One of the simplest frameworks used by organisational psychologists that might be applied to and education system has already been shown:

System Development Change Management

These four components are not only related but completely connected for ANY system, they are regulated too just like a central heating system with its thermostat! Change one element inside one component and you can bet that it will cause a reaction or change somewhere else. The trick (or skill) is to plan the whole change to the whole system and to anticipate and plan for systemic adaption as you proceed.

We realise at this stage it can all sound a bit theoretical, especially with no examples given as to how such an approach would work, or typical examples of educational elements inside the four components. But this is where the educational and organisational experts come together to design a WORKING system which is funded, planned and delivered in a systemic manner.

So, here are a few examples of some elements for each of the four main components which need implementing simultaneously:


  1. Adopt or create a universal model or framework of Quality Education and make it the mission of the system change
  2. Set clear goals against each element of the Quality Education framework
  3. Adopt a coordinated approach aimed at complete transformation with NO piecemeal donors or projects sanctioned


  1. Create a meritocracy with performance management for Principals and Teachers to reward excellence
  2. Depoliticise the teaching profession
  3. Create a culture of continuous development and improvement


  1. Identify the types and numbers of teachers to deliver the new system
  2. Assess and appraise all existing teachers for competence and either retain, retrain, or retire
  3. Recruit/appoint fresh, young, well trained teachers into the gaps
  4. Retrain teachers as necessary via short intensive courses
  5. Implement professional continuous improvement programmes regionally and in-school
  6. Run educational leadership programmes for all Principals and Head Teachers


  1. Create a national structure for policy and strategic development of the Primary Sector
  2. Set up national grades and pay scales to reflect the importance of change and improvement within a performance management system
  3. Introduce a policy of open and competitive appointment of teachers
  4. Assess every primary school against standards of safety, hygiene, space etc.
  5. Completely revamp the primary education curriculum

This is only a sample, an education expert would no doubt fill pages and pages under each heading, but the organisational expert would work to unify the system with elements that compliment each other.

To Summarise:

We can all continue the way we are working in Nepal to develop the education system. We will see small scale improvements and undoubtedly some new schools built regularly, but will the education system actually change and improve? “No, it will not change until WE change”.

Organisational Psychology!
For those of you who really do want to delve a lot deeper into some of the processes involved in changing whole systems we will now give you some major practical and academic inputs. 

We will give you three related articles on the subject of System Change. They are not new, in fact we first came across the author, David Nadler almost 25 years ago, yet his work had a powerful influence on some of us and our careers as organisational psychologists.

The three articles cover important concepts and approaches for change management and organisation development dealing with “viewing an organisation as a complete system”, “managing the transition dynamics between old organisation and new organisation(s)”,  and “a guide to leadership in change initiatives”.

1. Managing The Dynamics of System Change

change-dynamicsWe are starting with the middle one of the three mentioned which focuses on managing the transition because it gets into action rather than thinking about the organisation as a congruent system; this will come in the next section. This first article briefly shows Nadler’s framework of Congruence, and we will post up a detailed description of it in the next section.

You might be asking “what has this got to do with Nepal’s education system?”. Well, the clue is in the last word of the question; “system”. The powers-that-be in Nepal just don’t seem to realise that education is a complete system and that tinkering and playing around with any number of pieces just isn’t going to bring about transformation. You may as well leave the windows of your house all open when you switch on the heating “system”, the house just WON’T heat up! So, training lots of teachers won’t do any good unless they are all intrinsically motivated to improve and achieve, and they’re not. Therefore, the extrinsic application of a performance management process is needed too. There are many more components like this, if only they would recognise them!
Here is the full article to download Managing Change Dynamics

2. The Congruence Model of System Change

congruenceThis is the second in the series of articles about system change.

The critical first step in designing and leading successful large-scale change is to fully understand the dynamics and performance of the organisation itself. It’s simply impossible to prescribe the appropriate remedy without first diagnosing the nature and intensity of an organization’s problems.
Yet, all too often, senior leaders, particularly those who have just recently assumed their positions or joined a new organization, react precipitously to a presenting set of symptoms.
Although there are countless organizational models, the purpose here is to describe one particular approach, the congruence model of organizational behavior.

This article from David Nadler again, describes “the congruence model” and suggests how it can provide a starting point for large-scale change. It has proven to be useful in so many widely varying situations because it meets the test of any successful model: It simplifies what is inherently complicated, reduces the complexity of organizational dynamics to manageable proportions, and helps leaders not only to understand, but also to actually predict, the most important patterns of organizational behaviour and performance.

Click here: Congruence Model

And, ……….. it will work perfectly well to describe and develop Nepal’s education system!

3. Transition Leadership for System Change

transition-leadershipThis is the third and final article in this series about organisational change. Once again it comes from David Nadler and describes how leaders of change must understand the three main problems of change; namely Anxiety, Power, Control. Nadler asserts that to address these problems leaders must also understand the implications of Motivation, Politics and Transition related to each of the three problems and he gives a set of 12 clear action steps to be followed.

The central concept in this article is still Nadler’s Congruence Model of organisations (see previous article) and he rightly points out that as well as the “old organisation” and the “new organisation” there is a “transition organisation”, something that lies in between the old and the new and that THIS is the real focus for leaders.

Here is the article for download Transition Leadership


We hope you survived, and enjoyed, this Unit! Very difficult, so if you made it to the end, congratulations.
Maybe as a reward you can now sit back and enjoy another video from Professor Michael Fullan as he describes in more detail the main drivers for education system change:

For Unit 12 please now click The Role of Education Psychology in Quality Education

Now please complete this review and send to us to help determine what happens next. It is in your OWN interests to type a copy of your answers first and save a copy!