Kaizen – incremental steps towards big changes

Jim Maloney

Jim is a primary school teacher and SLT member who's interested in pushing the boundaries with regards to teaching and incorporating new technologies where there is direct benefit to the children's learning.

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Website: iammisterjim.blogspot.co.uk Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Kaizen: The business philosophy implemented by the Japanese in order to improve productivity. They worked on the idea that, if everybody did their job properly, there was no need to stockpile anything. This meant they could lower overheads, reduce backlog and speed up efficiency and productivity.

This method can be applied to schools as well. We are inundated by initiative after initiative in education, each seemingly polarised and disconnected, yet we are expected to somehow marry a system designed for the industrial revolution with a world living in a digital renaissance.

How then, can this change manifest successfully? Do we abandon all things familiar and leap blindly into the future? I hope not. Change, when it occurs, needs to be managed. We, as teachers, are products of a previous education system, mostly before the National Curriculum’s rigour was introduced. We need to think of how we prepare our children to become lifelong learners.

By implementing the Kaizen philosophy, we can attempt to bridge the educational dichotomy and link the importance of structure with the need for creativity.

Change needs to happen continually. In nature, it happens in small evolutionary steps. In business, it happens through supply & demand. Surely, too, there is need for it in education.

Ask yourself this: why do a lot of schools use a system of ringing bells to stop or start. Is it to ensure order? Or is it to prepare the children for a profession which requires clocking in and out? Is it, in actuality, an acclimatisation tool? Was it’s original purpose to provide them with a means of knowing when to be somewhere when watches were a thing for the middle-classes and affluent adults?

Surely we need to move with the times by looking at the building blocks of our system and addressing each one analytically. I’m not suggesting that there is a need for the complete removal of systems. I believe that children need structure in order to learn – a subject which I’ll blog about at a later date – but I do know that this quote by Dwight D. Eisenhower is worth a look applying to our view of school, change and our philosophy towards the two:

“Neither a wise man nor a brave man lies down
on the tracks of history to wait for the train of the
future to run over him.”

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