Global education everywhere

27 Nov

Every child has a right to learn.  This makes education a global issue. I am glad we are cooperating in educational research and making the latest information available for everyone via internet. In my mind this makes education more global as we become more aware about different practices around the world.

Every teacher should be empowered to teach and to know they have choices. Comparing educational practices internationally may help us all to adapt better practices. I like to share the Finnish know-how of education, and  while I am excited to see yet another study highlighting Finland as the best country in education, I am also hoping  that the takeaways are much greater than just a simple ranking list.

Having data is not important, but knowing what to do with it!

New Pearson education study ” The Learning Curve”  provides 5 important talking points:

  1. No magic bullets – there are no quick fixes in education, long term joint planning is needed for sustainable education quality.
  2. Respect teachers – trust in your teachers and value them, because they are your professionals that schools cannot function without!
  3. Culture can be changed – find the positive elements in your educational culture and highlight them, then start building on that foundation.
  4. Parents are not the key – but they certainly should be your allies! We have a joint mission: student success.
  5. Educate for the future – empower students to learn. Focus education on how to  learn and how to think, because that improves transfer to all other areas of education.

I think these points are no news for people who are working on improving the quality of education around the world. It is very nice, though, to get additional affirmation for thoughts we have been posting  and discussing about.

The one very important message is about changing your culture. We often talk about students, how they are not clones and should not be treated like ones. Standards are not the solution. Educational systems have their distinctive characteristics, too, and thus global education must have a unique look in different countries, districts and schools.

The paradigm change for educational quality must start at all levels of education – we cannot afford to wait for someone else to change first. Sometimes it is hard to find opportunities to choose. But, I refuse to believe there would be a classroom/school/educational system/country with absolutely no choices for students/teachers/administrators/policymakers to make learning more meaningful – the least we can do is to choose a “can do”  attitude.

How could your class/school/district be global and unique at the same time? What are your positive elements?

6 Responses to “Global education everywhere”

  1. kenthinksaloud November 28, 2012 at 10:10 am #

    This is a fascinating post and I am largely in agreement. However, the stress on changing culture is a very ‘Western’ one and we have to be careful about such post-colonial ideas. Here in Bangladesh, where I teach, there is much in the culture that needs to change for the benefit of the poor and downtrodden, but to do so quickly and through the children would be a disaster for the country. There is far more that is good about the culture than there is bad and teachers are not the ones who should dictate which parts are which.

    I know your post is not saying this, but it is a danger that comes with too much stress on that view and I have, unfortunately, seen teachers who fall all too readily into this trap.

    On another note, I have a few friends who live in Finland and tell me that the reputation of the system is over-rated and papers are hiding the fact that it is rapidly beginning to go the same way as other European countries. They tell me that the key aspect to their success has been the great respect paid to teachers by the community but, alas, this is being eroded year by year.

    • Nina November 28, 2012 at 10:43 pm #

      Ken, thank you for your thoughtful reply. Please note that by changing the culture I absolutely did not mean anyone from outside of the culture to start meddling with it. I wanted to emphasize the fact that all educational cultures have positive things in them. Starting to expand and highlight those positive aspects that already exist in the culture ensures unique growth, because here applies the same rule as in learning: by following someone else’s thinking you will never create the same competence as when thinking for yourself.
      I have teacher friends in Finland too 🙂 and had my daughter going to school there until May 2012. To be very honest with you, Finns never considered the educational system be as good as it has been perceived by others (at least not before they have taught abroad and gained perspective to other systems). And, if you ask about the free, hot, nutritionally correct and surprisingly tasty lunch, served for everybody at school every day, well, people actually do complain about that – my younger kids did, too, until we moved. Now they miss it.
      There is something to be understood about Finnish nature of being: we are usually quite quiet, we don’t brag (that is why advertising my book is SO hard for me), nor do we want to compete with others (well, except maybe Swedes) and we tend to be honest and straightforward.

      • kenthinksaloud November 29, 2012 at 2:25 am #

        Oh I had not realised you are Finnish yourself! In which case I bow to your superior experience. My observations actually come from friends who are in mixed marriages – so one is Finnish and the other is British. They both say it is not everything the rest of the world says it is. But they do both say it is GOOD! It just isn’t going to stay that way for long, is their fear. They also point out that while the system is good – no doubting that – the success lies as much in society in Finland as it does in the system of education. It is this society that is changing, they tell me…

        I take your points on board about the culture and changing it and wholeheartedly agree. You are writing fascinating and informative posts and want to encourage you in all you are doing. Best wishes! 🙂

  2. Nina November 29, 2012 at 7:52 am #

    “Finland’s major daily newspaper doubts that Finland has been favoured in the recent Peorson education ranking. We can’t be the best, right?” was a tweet by Pasi Sahlberg few hours ago. 🙂

  3. patbuoncristiani December 1, 2012 at 7:31 am #

    Two thoughts come to mind Nina. The first is that we need to understand the culture of a country in order to fruitfully comment on its practices. Fins are not like Americans and Americans are certainly not like Australians. I am both an American and an Australian (and was born in England so I am also a Brit!) and have had to do a lot of adjusting back and forth. Until a person travels and lives in a different country it is hard to get a grasp of these differences because they are often subtle. The Fins do not ‘talk up’ their education system, the Americans ‘talk up’ everything American. It is interesting that the PISA report points out how poorly American students do in mathematics and yet they have among the highest levels of self confidence in their own perceived ability.

    My second thought involves the observer phenomenon. As soon as we observe something, we change it. Scientists face this dilemma constantly. I think it is unfortunate for Finland that so much of the world’s attention is on its education system and I wonder how much it will change as a result of so much observation.

    My final comment is on the need for an international perspective and a readiness to learn from others. I think the USA suffers from what I call the ‘curse of riches’. There is so much expertise in America that we have often failed to look beyond our own borders because we feel everything we need is within them. Six years ago I attended the International Conference On Thinking held in Sweden. There were literally hundreds of Australians and New Zealanders attending as delegates, eager to learn. There was a much smaller group of Americans and almost all of those were there as presenters. My conclusion from this was that we think we have more to teach the world than we have to learn from the world. I think this is changing. It is reassuring to know that the CCSS were designed after careful examination of the curricula and standards of other, more successful nations including Finland, Singapore, the UK, and Australia.

    The culture of Finland in the 1960’s when education reform began was very different from what it is now. It has taken more than 40 years to develop the culture and practices that have created this successful education system. We will not do it with any short term measures. There are, as the Pearson report states, no magic bullets.

    • Nina December 3, 2012 at 11:27 am #

      Thank you for your very insightful response! Culture is so important! And one part of the responsibilities of formal education is to transfer that culture to the next generation. This is why finding and highlighting the best elements in each culture is so important – and making sure the focus is on those elements of culture we want to preserve. I think this was widely discussed in many studies of Hidden Curriculum, but the transparency of values and premises is still equally important.
      In addition to your comment about observer phenomenon, which I agree being an issue regardless the level of intervention, I would love to discuss the fact how everyone perceives the apparently same situation in an unique and subjective way, depending on the cultural filters we have. In my mind this presents the requirement for open-ended solutions to allow students/schools/systems to be equal and unique at the same time. Oh, there is so much to discuss and read and write, and never enough time!

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