Deadline for abstracts 8th January 2021

“A series of waves of enthusiasm for systems and systems ideas which has happened over my lifetime, and in the period before; these waves of enthusiasm and activity have always attracted an interesting group of people but they’ve come crashing to the ground without much effect, without being institutionalized, and without sustaining themselves over the longer term.” Ray Ison, Interview at Systems Innovation Conference, 15 September 2019.

The current wave of enthusiasm for systems approaches in education is evidenced by a range of programmes, projects, quasi-experiments, and policy papers and tools. We hear many education stakeholders using the word “system” where they used to say “sector”. Yet the meaning of and implications of this change from sector to systems is not yet well characterised. Nor are there clear paths towards institutionalization and sustainability, should that be desirable.

This edited volume proposes to examine the diversity of systems approaches currently being theorized and applied to education in middle and low income countries. Understanding the variety of meanings associated with the term “education systems” can inform us about how such approaches may contribute to improving learning outcomes, policy and practice effectiveness, and the satisfaction of all education stakeholders. This volume will showcase the range of innovation in the emerging education systems research field, collate new frameworks and tools for understanding education systems, and debate why this matters for policy and practice.

We invite abstracts for chapters on all aspects of systems approaches in education, including (but not limited to):

  • ontological questions, such as what is an education system; what is not a system; and why does this matter;
  • theoretical or methodological questions, such as the use of, inter alia, systems dynamics, agent-based modelling, ethnography, network analysis to examine education systems at many scales;
  • the application of system frameworks to global, national, provincial or school-level education case studies;
  • substantive cases at different scales: international, regional, national and local; policy, planning, teaching and learning; individual cases of systems change and influence; or the roles of research, policy and practice in systems change;
  • the roles of different types of actors on the structuring and effectiveness of education systems;
  • comparative cases, in which multiple approaches and cases are compared;
  • practical descriptions of how systems approaches have been designed and implemented, and the effects of such approaches on education systems, outcomes, teachers, learners, and more.

This edited volume will bring together theoretical, methodological and contemporary empirical work exploring the use of systems approaches to understand and affect education systems and learning outcomes. We seek to provoke discussion on the utility of systems approaches for understanding and changing education policy, practice and outcomes; the limitations of such approaches; and the likely next steps for collaborative research.

Submit an abstract of your proposed paper by 8th January 2021 to If selected, we will notify you before the end of January 2021. The deadline for full drafts will be 23rd April 2021, with a virtual writing workshop for all chapter authors scheduled for the end of that month.