Teaching More with Less: Education’s Frugal Future

In the grips of a global pandemic — one thats impact may well last for several years — established educational institutions are facing increasing pressure to save money, sweat their assets, and find new ways to deliver teaching and learning to a population of students spread across the globe; each with their own unique needs and challenging circumstances.

The rhetoric of these institutions, at least here in the UK, has changed from a focus on growth and prestige, to a focus on sustainability, engagement, and cost saving measures. This is mostly due to a significant drop in student numbers. Not only will there be less money coming in, but that money is going to need to stretch a lot further than it ever has before. We’ll need to make the most of the spaces, equipment, and expertise available and leverage existing resources in innovative ways to deliver an educational experience that’s as good as, if not better than, it’s been in the past. Only this time we’ll need to do it for a fraction of the cost, while providing hybrid learning experiences at scales never before attempted. No pressure. 😉

Sound familiar? This focus on doing more with less is the essence of frugal innovation1, or in this case, teaching more with less, and it’s the foundation that frugal education is built upon.

Frugal approaches to education are becoming even more important as the world changes to adapt to new norms. Many educators and learners have already embraced frugal approaches to great success2; some out of necessity, others out of choice, but each application provides insights into new methods and practices for delivering high-quality, sustainable, and positively disruptive education across all nations; regardless of wealth, stature, or power.

It’s the wake up call that was needed, just not under circumstances one would ever wish for. It’s sad that it had to happen this way, but I’m glad to see the focus begin to shift away from an investment in growth and towards an investment in sustainability.

As all nations — regardless of size, wealth, culture, or politics — face the challenge of adapting their practices to deliver quality education in the wake of a world-changing pandemic, I believe we have a huge amount to learn from each other. I also believe that constraint breeds creativity, and it will be those who leverage available resources in new and novel ways that will provide some of the most innovative solutions for providing sustainable and accessible education for all.

This pandemic may well be the great leveller for education. We have a shared goal and I’m excited to see what we can collectively create within these new constraints we all face.


  1. Frugal Innovation: How to do More With Less by Navi Radjou & Jaideep Prabhu
  2. Charles Leadbeater went looking for radical new forms of education — and found them in the slums of Rio and Kibera, where some of the world’s poorest kids are finding transformative new ways to learn.” A truly inspiring video from 2010 highlighting the future challenges of education and the potential for positive change through disruptive innovation and frugal thinking. Here we are, a decade later, and the call to action this video represents is as vital as it’s ever been.