How Kaizen philosophy is revolutionizing schools

The story is now well known how E. Edwards Deming developed the principles of "total quality management" in America, only to have the Japanese endorse it wholeheartedly to improve their industrial efficiency.
Basically, built in quality as part of a total process. And the Japanese have given the concept their own name of "Kaizen". As Masaaki Imai puts it in Kaizen: The Key to Japan's Competitive Success: "Kaizen strategy is the single most important concept in Japanese management the key to Japanese competitive success"

Now some aspects of Kaizen are being used to revolutionizing schooling, as well as business.

In their top-selling book The Learning Revolution, co-authors Jeannette Vos and Gordon Dryden outline the key principles of both. In particular, they outline how Mt. Edgecumbe High School, in Sitka, Alaska, has pioneered TQM or Kaizen methods to dramatically improve schooling. Among the major results:

  • Students have set up four pilot companies, and in running them they learn foreign languages, quality control, statistical analysis, mathematics, science, exporting, marketing, accounting and much, much more.
  • Teachers and students are regarded as co-managers. They set their own targets and goals, individually and collectively.
  • The first week or each school year is used for building self-esteem and quality training.
  • Teachers have completely changed their teaching styles, with most now being "95 per cent facilitators" rather than lecturers.
  • All students learn either Japanese, Chinese or Russian, as part of their vision to be key participants in the Pacific Rim.
  • All students set very high improvement goals.
The results are spectacular. Almost 50 percent of all graduates have entered college and are still there or have graduated: much higher than America's national average. In its 544 pages, The Learning Revolution has devoted more space to Mt. Edgecumbe than any other school.


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