woensdag 9 februari 2011

Higher education: on dialogue and real choices

The pressure on higher education is becoming unbearable and requires fundamental change. Higher education is stretched past its limits of what the current budgets and coming budget cuts allow. That is how I read the message of the Dutch secretary of state for education. I am aware that it is a consicously positive way of reading this message. And that there is another way of interpreting it: politics, "The Hague" comes up with everything without listening to the ones involved. Two world colliding: the managers, politics, money and result drivenness versus the world of emotions of teachers who passionately want to teach, of the students, involved in a system they cannot control and of which they are insecure whether it will help them form their future. Whether the leadership they feel is necessary for the future is awakened in them in this system. But can they see a viable alternative future? The clash between the worlds is evident. But necessary. Because neither the solely managerial perspective offers a fruitful path nor does the alternative offered by teachers and students.

And that is the downside of this process, no matter how positive the interpretation of the message. There is no proper dialogue. No dialogue between the personal, emotional, the passion and the experience from practice on the one hand and the managerial, alsmost technological policies that are now voiced. This dialogue is necessary. Because to proceed how we have been doing of the past decades will not help us to create the future we envisage. This dialogical way of thinking and working, of looking at organisations I think is making progress in a number of areas, notably health care. Or at least in thinking about health care with Kunneman as one of the leading thinkers on the subject (sorry, article in Dutch).

Dialogue in this matter requires true leadership. Leadership that recognizes the value of both perspectives but that is also capable of thinking past the existing frameworks. That is capable of dealing with the emotions involved. Emotions that are valuable and hold a truth that is equal to the managerial perspective. Leadership that enables to mould the future of education, that moves education into the future with a clear idea in stead of merely managing on surviving the future. Leadership that is based on listing and dialogical thinking.

My contribution: this week and next week I have a number of conversations planned with new parties and old friends where this will be on the agenda and where we will seek to find out what we can contribute together to organising and enabling this dialogue. In addition I have submitted a proposal along the lines of action learning for Informatie aan Zee regarding this topic, but then of course focussing on the choices that information and documentation organisations see themselves faced with. Not everything is possible anymore (if it ever was:-), but vis-a-vis a multitude of ambitions, possibilities, demands and budget cuts how do you deal with the inevitable dilemma's? And what are ways of dealing with these dilemma's knowing that whichever way you go there will be fundamental and substantial loss, change and gain?

Please contact me if you want to think and work on these questions!

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