Fragments II: micro stories about the learning business

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  • David Willows

A Snapshot of the Admissions Industry and Why We Need a Filter

A wise man once said,


How we choose what we do, and how we approach it… will determine whether the sum of our days adds up to a formless blur, or to something resembling a work of art. (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi)


It is with this in mind that I read from cover to cover the latest International School Admission Industry Report, published today by The Enrollment Management Association in partnership with ISC Research.


How do we uncover the art of international school admissions?

The report is arguably one of the most comprehensive snapshots of international school admission to date. It provides up-to-date information on everything from demographic trends and attrition rates to professional development budgets and reporting lines.


The danger, of course, is that we read such reports and, to quote Csikszentmihalyi again, everything only adds up to "a formless blur" - a jumble of raw data points and numbers that only appear to prove the point that the world is big and international school admissions really is a mixed bag with no common threads.


Hence the need for a filter.


So let's talk about photography for a moment.


I would encourage us all to admit that most of the photos we take with our phones these days are, in reality, lacking the quality and focus we present on social media. And that we've become accustomed to italicizing the present and creating memories for our future by adding filters; filters that magically turn our snapshots into something resembling a work of art.


So I am wondering what kind of "filters" we might want to apply to this latest report to italicize, accentuate, and frame the contemporary art of international school admissions. Not to twist and manipulate the truth, but to bring things into sharper relief.


Here are three such filters that might just get you started, especially if you haven't yet had a chance to download and read the report.


The Learning Lens: This is a filter that is less concerned with benchmarking of salaries, financials, enrollment targets or attrition, but instead brings into sharp relief what parents and students believe school is for, how they learn which school is right for them, how we guide them, and how we are continuously learning from one another.


The Experience Lens: This filter is also known as UX (user experience). Reading the report with this lens will help us frame the extent to which we are providing families with a clear and coherent process along the path towards a new school. It will highlight inconsistencies in and differences in the experience that we offer to families both in our own school and between schools around the world.


The Networked Lens: The third lens that you might like to consider when reading this report is for professional use only. It is very specifically examining the who of the admissions industry and how our previous qualifications, coming as we are from so many different educational and non-educational careers, are continuing to inform and enrich the overall professionalisation of the admissions industry.


In the end, each lens has some merit and also the tendency to ignore many of the details. At the same time, it may just help those of us who are part of this emerging industry to work out, ultimately, what's true art and what's not.


Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash

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