This RISE Working Paper provides a comparison of education systems research with the field of health systems research. Emerging over the past 15-20 years as a recognised field of academic enquiry, health systems research has grown in response to a lack of knowledge and understanding into how the effective delivery of health services is underpinned by a health system.
By reviewing the development of the health systems research field, the contributions it has made to policy making, and what range of disciplines and methods are required for carrying out research of this nature, this paper demonstrates how a new field of education systems research can be supported through reference to health. Both systems have similar features, share common challenges and goals, and engage with both researchers and policymakers in generating evidence about how these systems can be improved.
The author suggests that education systems research should develop as a “question driven field”; that the field must use different system models to address different questions, and must draw on a broad range of social science disciplines in order to understand the nature of the “software” of systems; that evaluations of education systems should recognise their complexity and be strongly theory-of-change led; and finally, that researchers should reflect on what structures and organisations might be needed to “build the field” in order to secure adequate funding and demonstrate impact.
This paper was funded under the Research on Improving Systems of Education (RISE) Programme.
Hanson, K. (2015). RISE Working Paper 15/003 - What can Education Systems Research Learn from Health Systems Research? Research on Improving Systems of Education (RISE).