Powering Ahead: Alternative School Models

Just as Tesla automobiles are becoming a more common sight around the world, one wonders when alternative school models (ASMs for short) will gain similar traction? On a global scale, the visibility of ASMs is low right now. They are young, compared with incumbent schools that employ the usual business model of ‘how we do school.’ Tesla, too, is a young company. With their forthcoming Model 3 Saloon later this year, they will have a product with a price point that can be afforded by a wide range of people. In the school world, the moment that ASMs strike the right balance between ingenuity and price point, they will be the equivalent of the Model 3 Saloon. One or two ASMs come close already.

Established fee-paying international and independent schools are not paying much heed to the ASMs…yet. Many incumbent schools may have heard of these ASMs, but they are not considering scenarios that would have them (the incumbents) losing enrolment to the ASMs. This is short-sighted.

The ASMs that will be successful will be those that rely on network thinking as a core design principle. Like Tesla, who has built charging stations in order to provide the requisite power for their all-electric cars, ASMs that create and utilise platforms (from student information systems to learning software to other softwares not yet named) that enable all their schools (and parents and students…all ‘users’) to tap into them on a daily basis will gain ground quickly, scaling in ways that incumbent schools have not anticipated. ASMs will employ not only ‘wow factors’ in terms of innovative curricula and assessments, they will co-create value and meaning with their stakeholders. Incumbent schools will find this difficult to do. Network thinking is not a core design principle in stand-alone incumbent schools.

Continuing with the automobile metaphor, the downside of the ASMs may be that they lack the fit and finish, as well as ride quality and handling, of top-notch incumbent schools that have the greater experience in the education market place. However, as ASMs mature, expect them to attract talent from the incumbent schools and out-innovate them.

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