Ask An Expert: School Systems and Business Models

Question: For over 20 years I have worked in the business sector, and I have always wondered what would happen if school districts operated more like businesses? Care to chime in, Dr. Lynch? Pamela A.

Answer: Pamela, I agree, education could be changed for the better if schools were to think of themselves as businesses and the students as the customers. In a business model, students might receive more one-on-one attention, making them feel more satisfied with the education they are receiving. If a child acquires the love of learning at a young age, he or she is more likely to reach higher levels of educational attainment.

In all good businesses, employees create and produce products based on the general needs and wants of the customer/consumer. If students are the customers, then the school curriculum should be created to meet their needs. The task of the employee is to manage and motivate the people they are supervising. Teachers will implement change in their classrooms by individualizing instruction to meet the general needs of their students.

Thinking of the students as customers reinforces the idea that the student is in full control of whether or not they pay attention or engage themselves in academic activities. Certainly, state laws require the majority of American students to attend school until they are 18 years of age. Sooner or later, truant students will be tracked down by the school attendance officer, who will inform parents that their child’s lack of attendance is against the law.

However, once the student is in school, there is absolutely no way for teachers to force the child to pay attention and fully engage in schoolwork. Part of the teacher’s profession is to find ways to motivate children by providing them with appealing learning activities. Also, schools have to accept the fact that in order to engage students and keep their attention, you must earn their respect and trust. Student learning is comparable to profits in a business. Student learning is what happens when the business of schooling is managed correctly.

In keeping with the business model, successful schools must realize that quality education is paramount. Administrators and the boards need to understand that educated students are not just products and schools are not just businesses; they are places to foster a love of learning and to create productive futures for American children and the country itself. That’s my take on the subject.


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