As the Ministry of Basic Education is undergoing a massive transformation through a government-approved plan known as 'Education and Training Sector Strategy Plan (ETSSP), I feel compelled to point out a few change management aspects that I believe can be very critical in determining whether or not the envisaged product is successful.
Of the many initiatives constituting the ETSSP, this discussion will focus on the Outcome Based Education (OBE). It is my belief that Project Management should run parallel to Change Management relating to that project. The OBE will require a certain uplifting in knowledge and skill from the project implementers. It will also require a change in mindset from other stakeholders like school managers, educational officers and parents/guardian. The project will also mean a change in procurement processes and procedures to meet the resources required for quality implementation.
Common sense dictates that a project cannot implement itself. Stakeholders ought to be brought on board. They have to adopt and embrace the project. This sets in motion ownership of the project by all. Knowing this reality, we can therefore safely conclude that project management should run parallel to change management. Traditionally change management agents had a myopic approach to how managing change should happen. The emphasis was on communication so much that other aspects became very negligible. A more professional approach depicts that there is need for some engagement with relevant stakeholders, right from the planning stage. Allow me to briefly narrate the four main cornerstones that will aid change to be managed well. In my view these include; Communication: It is important that we clearly define our stakeholders who play critical role in this project. In the case of OBE, I would want to believe that they include teachers, school managers, education officers, parents/guardian and students. We need to determine the best medium of communication when reaching the various stakeholders and depending on the stakeholder, a more senior officer must disseminate the information.
Training and Coaching: Training needs analysis would give us a more informed idea of what skills and knowledge the project implementers would need to carry-out the task. Implementation of OBE requires a certain level of understanding in ICT and working collaboratively to firm up ideas that would bring out the desired outcome. Teachers will have to properly interpret learning outcomes, determine performance criterion, develop learning tasks/activities and embed cross cutting issues in 21st century. The school managers need to adapt to new ways of teaching and learning for realignment of monitoring and supervision purposes. Notwithstanding the fact that a large portion of assessment will be school based on a continuous process, there is need for further upskilling in the area of assessment to ensure that quality standards are adhered to.
Coaching means providing supporting structures that keep a project in balance and relevant. In the case of OBE, there will be need for coaching to ensure sustainability of the project. The project implementers will have to continuously upskill to meet the ever dynamic demands of the project in the ever changing environment. My suggestion here is that a core team of expertise be assembled for a continuous in-service training. The core team must be allowed to continuously analyse the teaching and learning environment and do some research in order to provide fruitful and relevant coaching to the project implementers. Resistance
Assessment Prior To Engaging On A Project
Prior to developing a change management strategy, it is imperative to undertake analysis that will assess the magnitude of the change envisaged, the culture upon which the change will take place and the attitude or readiness of the leadership/sponsors of the change. These assessments in the context of OBE will require a data-based research and analysis that would clearly determine the magnitude of the change before embarking on the change. The process will help understand the feasibility of implementing OBE and the budget thereof, not forgetting an accurate estimation of the duration period for the project.
Assessment of the culture upon which the change is to take place is one area we should not overlook. What is the ‘believe system’ of our learning environment today? Is the system ready to embrace OBE? If not, what will it take for the ‘believe system’ to align itself to serve the intended change? It is not a secret that outcome based education entails continuous research especially on the side of facilitators for them to develop realistic and relevant learning activities. To enhance creativity and innovation, ICT becomes the heart and soul in this whole process. The question is how compliant are we as the implementers regarding the skills required? Lastly, this project will face lots of challenges if its sponsors are not ready and competent enough to supervise it. This huge transformation will require an uplifted mindset beginning with the Ministry’s Senior Management Team, Regional Education (SMT) and School’s Senior Management Teams. A leader who repudiates change in 21st century will always thwart positive growth.
In my view, these are the main factors of change management that we need in order to successfully implement OBE. The aims of the product (OBE) are fascinating and it is what the doctors ordered in 21st century for our education. Running parallel to developing and implementing such a beautifully orchestrated product as OBE is change management strategy that will foresee embracement and proper implementation. This will ensure that a smooth transition is realised.
*Ignatious Njobvu is a Performance Improvement Coordinator at Maun Senior Secondary School & OBE Task Team Four Core Member.