Shared opinions soaked in knowledge & experience.
WHY ? Why does Australia do so poorly in PISA tests, compared with countries, like Finland, who don’t have any national blanket tests?
ASK YOUR LOCAL MEMBER. ASK PETER. ASK CHRIS.
“Today we have fallen in love with objectively quantifying reality and see it as a solution to our problems. Today, students are judged and judge themselves upon such pitiful scales, the scales of measurement.” [Russell Hvolbek : The End of Education.]
What does Finland Do ?
For parents who wish to know.
Finland is a country with an education system that scores highly on PISA tests, but has no high stakes testing programs [e.g. NAPLAN,NCLB,NS] of its own. It does not believe in the kinds of blanket testing carried out in GERM countries such as Australia, New Zealand, U.K. and U.S.A., all parts of the Global Education Reform Movement. With little interest and no stake in the outcomes, Finland offers to undertake PISA tests just for fun. The term GERM was constructed by Pasi Sahlberg of Finland who has a mission to share the schooling accomplishments of Finland with world educational leaders who are prepared to think about what they are doing to their children. Australia is not included in that category; we Aussies don’t like to strain ourselves too much thinking about the things that really happen to kids at school. Sahlberg’s book, Finnish Lessons, and his advice have been totally ignored by Australian politico-testucators and given the ‘silence treatment’ by the Australian press. No reason has ever been provided for giving such a prestigious educator the short shift. Anyhow, who cares?
In PISA scores, Finland is ‘up there’ with Singapore, Japan and South Korea for very different reasons. West Pacific countries, from Seoul to Tasmania and Stewart Island all believe in the power of fear as a teaching weapon. It’s part of our Western Pacific cultural DNA. There is a wide spread belief in these countries that heavy, high stakes testing that promotes both fear of failure and the attachment to monetary rewards motivates children to do well at certain standardised tests. Australia, for instance, has a legacy of one-hit end-of-year examinations that decide the future of candidates who are forced into the contest. It’s part of our DNA. Carried to the extreme in the East Asian galaxy, signs of which are appearing in Australia, is the promotion of a total school focus on testing success through more time at school,  reducing school learnings only to the quantifiable,  extended use of adult-oriented didactic teaching techniques,  more after-school time at back-yard tutoring businesses and  heavy homework assignments. Jealous of near-neighbour’s accomplishments, she who must be obeyed now demands this sort of schooling for Aussie children. This is Australia’s schooling future, but, trust me, you have it all wrong, dearie.
Sadly, that is what is happening in schools. Test-based schooling using a one-size test-based curriculum aimed at PISA results is inevitable. Who cares? Yet …
Finland pupils spend less time at school routines than most other western countries. By age 15, they have spent less than 4 years of ‘formal’ schooling yet accomplish higher scores in the PISA tests for 15 year-olds than most. 4 years. Yes. 15 years is the age that children contest PISA, at which Finland excels. Your thinking principal will be able to explain why this is so. Make sure you ask.
Why is Finland so different? It has thought about schooling for a long time and continues to do so. “Finland’s leaders realized in the 1940s that its non-system of exclusivist frequently private, and often inefficient schools – a system based on the idea that ‘everyone could not learn everything’ –would not help the nation move from an agrarian to a manufacturing country.” [Connie Goddard] While pondering and discussing and examining its own conscience for many years, it developed a national conscience of wanting to ‘own’ its system, rather than ‘rent’ one from another nation.
In 1970 it started to develop a system based on drastic philosophical and structural changes. As Pasi Sahlberg states in Finnish Lessons P.9: “The Finnish experience shows that consistent focus on equity and cooperation – not choice and competition – can lead to an education system where all children learn well.” Members of the Finnish business and banking community were as sceptical and critical, [as their Australian counterparts tend to be] until the 2001 PISA results were announced. How did we get way up there? Australia’s business community, however, maintained its criticism of schooling procedures for good reasons until 2008 when it paid for Joel Klein to visit Australia on Julia’s advice, to sell his gospel. The big boys just went the wrong way. Bad move. Reformation in Australia took the standard GERM direction, and ‘rented’ the New York system.
How does Finland teach learners to achieve with joy and relish?
Finns have empowered their teachers. They believe in them and what they do. Teaching is one of the most prestigious of occupations. They don’t need to ‘test’ their teachers and their schools by testing pupils using defective devices nor pontificate on what WE [politicians] will do to increase standards when they slip. Finns believe in the power of the profession and they have deliberately assisted it to grow in its own knowledge and to be proud of its professional ethics.
Finns don’t use the word ‘accountable’ in any generalised sense. Accountability resides within each person in the learning chain in a collaborative community way. Teachers develop their curriculum collaboratively. They would never copy nor ’rent’ one structured to one-size-fits-all that maintains mediocrity through the fear of test results, like we do down here. They believe in limitless achievement and the joy in learning as much as one can. As Connie Goddard says in her review of Finnish Lessons: “Overall, Finnish Lessons provided valuable evidence that investing in teachers and instruction –rather than in tests and inspections – can bring about admirable, even excellent, results.” http://www.tcrecord.org/Content.asp?ContentID=16671
These are amongst the most obvious differences between a successful learning culture and ours There are so many other different lessons that we can learn from such a schooling authority and from our gross error in following an urban NY dysfunctional system administered by measurers. What should fair-dinkum Aussies do?
- Stop the inanities of the introduced test-based system – NAPLAN.
- Think and talk. [Take time. Talk with practitioners.]
- Think of the future. What kinds of school ‘products’ does Australia need?
- Value the act and the art of teaching.
- Think dinky-di Australian.
Only then is there any chance of being in the ‘top 5 by 25’ PISA results….if that’s the aim of Australian schooling. Start with the banning of ridiculous blanket testing.
How many school’s professional libraries, departmental chief’s private libraries, Education Ministers’ book shelves, political party rooms and political candidate’s home shelves contain:
- FINNISH LESSONS by Pasi Sahlberg and
- FERTILIZERS, PILLS & MAGNETIC STRIPS – The Fate of Public Education in America by Gene Glass
- THE DEATH & LIFE OF THE GREAT AMERICAN SCHOOL SYSTEM – How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education by Diane Ravitch
Please allow me to introduce the blog-site of Gene Glass, distinguished educator, renowned researcher into class-size issues and famed opponent of Competency Based Education, 1980s’ style. It’s worth searching through.