Not Finland again ! Why not?

The Treehorn Express

Let’s not forget Treehorn :

The Treehorn Express is emailed to a niche audience of about 150 people.  Some of them are politicians, but I suspect that ‘Treehorn’ does not get past their secretaries. It also goes to a few organisations and, once again, probably does not get past the front desk, and heads for a disinterested filing cabinet or wpb. Some say that they are ‘too busy’ to take a five-minute break.

Let’s face it ; there are many pretend-schoolies, docile-groups and slow-pollies  out there who just don’t give a hoot in hell about conditions in schools. It is noticeable that few issues that relate to fair dinkum schooling ever make the agenda of annual general meetings or become topics for conferences and seminars for groups, associations or councils.  Treehorn’s condition and that of his fellow pupils hold little attention.

A lady from ACEL [my once-most-admired group. I’m a Past-President!] asked for it to be removed from the list. Did I hit a nerve? I certainly do not understand why such ‘education’  groups, parents’ groups and school-people don’t care very much about kids at school. They are well controlled, of course; but is it gross apathy that disposes them to succumb so easily?  It’s weird.

Those groups that talk about school issues and are learning to‘care for kids’ must break free one of these days and tell the world why they have.   It’s just so difficult to discover  why such little notice is taken, to this point in time, of the dramatic 2009 alteration to Australia’s schooling, with  its obvious effects on children in the classroom and damage to Australia’s present and future. Indeed, it has never been discussed in an uncontrolled open forum.

“None of the adults are much help.” said Treehorn while he, too, was shrinking..

Thanks to those faithfuls who send The Treehorn Express on to more children’s friends and groups.  True-blue Aussies, for sure.  One day.  Constant dripping….



The blog article below should be read slowly and carefully.  If its messages are ignored, it will be a sad day for our kids. Please note that there has never been a suggestion that we need to copy Finland, but, until now, we seem to be trying hard [like the Yanks] not to take any notice of what happens there; or of anywhere else besides New York. Clearly,  Australia needs a re-alignment of its teaching/learning ideologies and their relationship to professional ethics. Maybe, our people in school-based administrative positions and state ministerial advisers are not allowed to consider or discuss the issues entailed. Too well controlled ?

This is the story of Pasi Sahlberg a Finnish director, author of Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland?  Like Australians, Americans prefer not to listen too attentively. Remember Henna Virkkunen Finland’s Minister for Education, who visited Australia for a Secondary Principals’ Conference? His description of what his country does to produce quality schooling was comprehensively ignored. Not a squeak in any of the leading newspapers, radio or television programs. Why? How? His message died. His story provided a wonderful opportunity for open discussion. Our kids missed out on ripe thought. We now have a second thought.

This article tells why Scandanavia’s educational super-power, bereft of natural resources, worked on its intellectual resources to donkey-lick the western world in literacy and numeracy achievements. The country doesn’t allow blanket  testing  and making crude decisions upon the results, nor does it believe in competing with other countries. Finland has shown that all recognised curriculum subjects head for the clouds when school systems and schools value equity and co-operation; which turn into the pursuit of excellence.

They ignore the ridiculous and demoralizing pursuit of better test scores. Let the ignorant pursue these haunting rigid bits of schooling.  Australia, USA, New Zealand and the UK all try in their own way to mandate for all children to be of the same intellectual size and shape through high-stakes testing. Standardize them! Rooted in 18th century bang-crash-wallop David Copperfield ideology, they seem to know no better and don’t want to improve schooling….as much as 21st century Finns do.  Something’s cockeyed, right?

Although there is meat in each paragraph, here is a brief summary of what we great Western World know-it-alls “…Keep Ignoring About Finland’s School Success”… by Sergey Ivanov/Flickr.

* There are no school fees from Pre-Kindergarten to Doctorate.

* There are no private schools.

* There are no standardised tests.

* There is no word for ‘Accountability’. They reckon that it is something that is left when responsibility has been subtracted.

* Teachers and Administrators are given high prestige, decent pay and lots of responsibility. [If a teacher is not very good, it’s the Principal’s task to deal with it.]

* Real winners do not compete.

* Cooperation has replaced competition.

* The goal of the school system is equity. Academic excellence happens.

Child-botherers will look for excuses why not to think this way….or not to think at all.  Some will say that Finland is small and homogeneous. It is. But…read on.

When Finland tried out this equity-based vis-a-vis fear-based system that Australia, USA etc. use “…academic excellence wasn’t a particular priority on the Finnish to-do list. When Finland’s students scored so high on the first PISA survey in 2001, many Finns thought the results must be a mistake. But subsequent PISA tests confirmed that Finland – unlike, say, very similar countries such as Norway – was producing academic excellence through its particular policy focus on equity.”

A number of American states of similar homogeneity and size ended way down the PISA list… did Norway a Scandinavian country of similar size and homogeneity. It followed the high-stakes fear based American model [as Australia has done]. Guess what.

Pro-NAPLANers, will try to ignore this! Carers-for-kids-at-school, tell your local member! Send him or her a copy of this comment or of the article with your compliments. Please. Let’s do something.


Phil Cullen

41 Cominan Avenue

Banora Point  2486

07 5524 6443


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