Strategic Evidence - Based Decision Making in the FES Sector - the Human Factor!


I have been working on a project to develop a strategic evidence-based decision toolkit for the Further Education and Skills (FES) Sector. My motivation is based on improving the decision-making process by eliminating errors created by decisions based on human behaviour, subjectivity, out of date sector work practices and a whole range of other factors, (which I will not list here). My ultimate mission is to support the sector to modernise and improve the learner experience, by finding better ways of working.


While researching for my project, I stumbled across a concept called the 'Respect Theory', which I really identify with, it struck a chord and has made me reassess my thoughts and actions. Upon further research, I found out this theory is based upon the work of Imannual Kant’s (1724 – 1804) Moral Theory, which in a nutshell states:

  • Always treat persons (including yourself) and ends in themselves, never merely as a means to your own ends.


  • Act only on that maxim that you can consistently will to be a universal law. (Actions should be motivated for the intention for acting in a certain way under a certain set of circumstances for the benefit of all).

I base all that I do on this premise, in terms of my working relationships with colleagues and my sole motivation is outstanding learning and striving to achieve the best possible experience for learners. I use this motivation to constantly work hard to achieve positive outcomes, wherever I happen to be working (be it with a FE College, 6th Form College, Independent Training Provider or in Local Government rural schools in East Africa).


Back to the Respect Theory (based upon Kant's work), this has been reframed and the principles have been applied within in a modern context. Given our current reality (COVID-19, Mass unemployment, BLM, etc) it has caused me to pause my work and reflect at a deeper level at my intrinsic motivation, impact and my determination to get it right (but now, in the right way).


Given our current uncertainties in society, I was lucky enough to stumble across a modern example (Story), which seems so pertinent to our new reality and I felt a compulsion to share:


"In a small town the mayor heard a lecture by an economist saying that constant increase in efficiency and economic growth are necessary to ensure well-being of the citizens. The economist also told that public sector was especially problematic because increasing efficiency was so much more difficult there than in private sector.


Well, the mayor was an energetic and respected man, and he thought that if anyone, he could improve public sector in his town. So, he closed down the theatre and installed a 3D data projector there, so that instead of having ten people acting, one person could sell tickets and show the greatest movies in the world.


He bought iPads with fancy learning software to all pupils so that they could spend less time at school and learn by themselves instead. The mayor saved a lot of money, but on the other hand, many people lost their jobs and practically all money saved went to the unemployment benefits. The mayor went to the economist who said that there was no problem: the people who are now unemployed can start doing things that they really want to do, so it is an overall benefit.


So what happened?


The actors founded an amateur theatre and showed plays in between movies in their old theatre. The schoolteacher set up a club for children. There they read and discussed books together, and she told them fancy stories about historical events and people. The pupils preferred to come to the teacher's club rather than read history from iPads, because she was a great storyteller and able to make the history live.


Lesson: If people already do what they want to do, there is little room for economic improvements. This lesson applies on societal level as well: in an optimal society, people have enough social interaction and meaningful things to do. Although in economic terms, you could fulfil the tasks with less time, it is not only the product but also the doing that is valuable to people. And when people have meaningful activity, you can only improve by doing something more meaningful, not by completing the task in less time. Economic metrics do not capture these issues very well".


(Authors: Jouni T. Tuomisto, Alexandra Kuhn, Juha Villmanrom (2010): Respect theory. Accessed via http://en.opasnet.org/w/Respect_theory#Rationale, on 14/3/2021)


This powerful example, has caused me to pause, reflect and evaluate what I am working on and why!


Society is very fragile now and the human factor and human cost on ALL individuals must be a fundamental part of the decision making process, lockdown has taught us all this very valuable lesson.


I think we can all acknowledge that growth, development, improved productivity, better cost-effective ways of working, new skills, new jobs and the use of technology & artificial intelligence, are our immediate priorities on a local, national and global scale.


However, let us not forget the unintentional impact on Humans of our decision making and work towards getting it right, for all our sakes.


Anthony Pike … has over 22 years Further Education and Skills sector experience….. if you are interested in working together to drive change and strategic growth in the sector, by the sector and for the sector, please do not hesitate to contact me .

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