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August 15, 2014

Quality verus Quantity

by pdranoff

Many of the issues encountered in the design process are also found in the education system. From developing the most appropriate means to communicate an idea or intention, to the age-old discussion of quality versus quantity. In my experience as an intern, I’ve discovered a common theme among various fields, and have learnt that many of the toughest decisions, especially in education reform, come down to this very concern.

Today at lunch, for example, a very popular program came up in our conversation: Science without Borders (or Ciências sen fronteiras, as we say in Portuguese). The program has a government grant to send thousands of Brazilian college students overseas for up to one year. While this program has been largely successful, it is also an ambitious one, costing the government a nice chunk of their education funds. While many approve of the opportunities generated for students who would otherwise not have the means to leave the country, especially during their studies, others argue that the cost-benefit of this initiative is not worth the investment. This is a classic example of quantity versus quality question, and how public policy can be geared toward either side of the argument. The intention is that these Brazilian students return to Brazil after an eye-opening experience feeling empowered, and demand even more from their home institutions. On the other hand, the number of students who are accepted to the program is limited, for an obvious reason of cost.

This question of quality versus quantity is the essence of many decisions in industrial design. How do we create pieces that are unique, yet reproducible? And how do we limit the unavoidable flaws that accompany increase of scale in production? When a piece is produced, an industrial designer’s job includes tracking the production process, ensuring that the product maintains the highest quality with the increase in quantity.

In education policy, we ask questions like: Would it be better to invest this money in a reform that would affect a larger amount of students, or can the education system rely on the students who return from these programs to implement the changes they bring back with them? Measuring these results is among the greatest challenges in education policy reform, and in any innovation. 

Below are a few articles I’ve gathered that address the question of metrics, impact assessment and quality versus quantity in education issues.

Measuring Innovation in Education, from the Center for Educational Research and Innovation

A blog on the topic of innovation

How To Measure Innovation (To Get Real Results), from FastCo.

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