Download article (.pdf) | By Judith Chapman | Published in Networks of Innovation, OECD/CERI, 2003
In the debate on lifelong learning and on the nature of schooling in the twenty-first century, there is an emerging discussion on the need for new concepts of schooling and strategies for provision, and a more flexible approach to innovation and change. The concept of “network” promises to be an integral part of all of these.
The term, “network,” differs in nature from other terms that historically have been used in association with schools and other educational institutions, in their organisational arrangements and the ways of understanding innovation and change. “Network” stresses the idea of “community” as the common element and the connection between institutions. In a network, schools are associated with each other in forms of the connections that have been established in pursuit of common interests and goals. Each link in the network is equal in its responsibility to contribute the shared interests.
In this article, Chapman explains that schools can use networks to create an optimised learning environment. To support this she refers to recent advances in theory, science and language, social and political philosophy, and developments in cognitive psychology and learning theory.
The author also argues that the concept of “networks” provides a powerful basis for thinking about schools as organisations, communities as sites of learning, and co-operative policy development. The article examines these issues under the following headings:
The notion of linking schools to the wider community is not only of local, regional or even national relevance but also relates to the international. Schools must now address how best to foster among their students a national, regional and international awareness to prepare them for life in the 21st century.
One challenge this poses for schools is how to give all students access to the global society, with regard to employment opportunities, cultural literacy and sensitivity, and inter-cultural understanding. Another
challenge is to ensure that national cultures and a sense of community identity can be sustained at the same time as citizens function in increasingly international settings, under the pressure of global trends. It is significant that just as the dangers become evident of the loss of local identity because of globalisation, there has been growing attention paid to the idea of “community” as a central feature of political, social and individual life. In education, an important issue is the realisation of lifelong learning for all through communities and learning networks.