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Quality management was initially developed to better manage mechanical processes such as manufacturing while acknowledging the significance of people in the whole scheme of things. The original context was the factory.


Many schools are, in a sense, the last of the great factories.  In Tasmania, the author's home state, schools are the only places where more than a few hundred people start and finish work together.

But schools are not factories. They can generate much more than they consume. They are not zero-sum systems where conservation of energy and conservation of matter are adequate to describe the total system: inputs + outputs + waste = 0



At their best schools are surplus generating systems because their outputs are potentially useful as inputs.



In addition their outputs (knowledge, skills ...) are not consumed by being used as inputs !!!! Quite the contrary - in schools the outputs are usually enhanced by being used as inputs, and thus, the more they produce the less costly they are to operate (often reflected in funding policies)

The potential of schools is often limited by curricula and school management that fail to consider learning that has immediate value within the school itself. A focus on learning that will be 'useful' when the students leave the school results a terrible and deadening waste of money any energy.


Only when the system, the knowledge and skills available, and the culture reached their limits will resources become the limitation. This situation does arise is because of limitations on 

  • the knowledge and skills that the school is permitted to teach

  • the people who are allowed to contribute their knowledge and skills

  • collaboration in the culture

  • the separation of learning and management & operation of the school

 The most common reason for these limitations are official policy and/or the prevailing paradigm of 'what a school is'.