This post is one of a series linked to The Logic Model – getting a social return on investement?
I’m sure there will be many people who will recoil at the very notion of trying to measure the social return on the investment in education.
The reason for such a strong reaction is difficult to capture here but at its heart lies a deeply held belief that education is not a product nor a service but an inalienable right for every human being. Such lofty ideals lie beyond any crude reductionist attempt to limit it to the relationship between the investment and the return on that investment. Surely one cannot possibly capture the relationships, the tiny interactions between teacher and learner, between learner and learner. Nor can we possibly measure the outcomes of the hidden curriculum. If such important elements of the educational experience cannot be measured then the danger must exist that we only attend to the things that we can measure and the quality of the educational experience would be all the more limited by that narrowing.
In many ways I can agree with such sentiments and I think it’s important to keep in mind the last sentence of the preceding paragraph if the Logic Model is to be applied to education. Nevertheless, nations throughout the world, governments, local/district systems and schools make huge financial investments in education – all with a view to making a beneficial impact upon the social fabric of society.
In Scotland total gross revenue expenditure on education was £4.6 billion in 2006-07 (the last year for which totals were available).
Is it unreasonable to ask whether or not society is getting a reasonable social return on such a huge investment?
It’s the dichotomy which emerges in the system when considering these two opposing points of view i.e.
Most people would agree that society should expect a return from its investment in education.
When that tacit agreement is translated into an explicit attempt to measure that return it seems to cross the threshold of acceptability.
As I progress through the series of posts in this topic I can begin to tease out some of these issues and – hopefully – some solutions.