Sunday, 8 January 2017

The Finnish model

This is fascinating, considering that Curriculum for Excellence was supposed to be partially based on the Finnish system.


Cambridge Assessment April 2015

"Because of its leading position in PISA 2000, Finland has been subject to very high levels of ‘educational tourism’...
The children in PISA 2000 were 15 years of age. We assumed that it was unlikely that 1985 was the first year of the school system being of an interesting form, so we looked back at what was happening in the 1990s, the 1980s, and the 1970s. What we found was a period of genuine improvement in educational outcomes and a determined set of reforms to schooling - but what we discovered was that the vast bulk of educational tourists had arrived in Finland 2001 and made a serious error. They got off the plane and asked the Finns about the system in 2000 – not what it was like during the 1970s and 1980s, when standards were rising. During the time of sustained improvement, the system was very different; policy formation was distinctive, the way in which this policy was implemented was distinctive - and very different from the way things were in 2000..."

"Skip to the year 2000, and few recognised that the Finnish state exercises a form of control which would cause outrage in England; it specified how much teaching time should be allocated to specific subjects. In the period of rapid improvement in educational outcomes Finland used state-controlled textbooks to encourage and regulate the movement to a fully comprehensive system. This process ceased in the early 1990s, although when I asked Finnish teachers what made for high quality education in the country, they cited ‘high quality teachers and high quality materials…’ and expressed their continuing surprise that this was no longer the case, ‘…the only key steering mechanism not regulated by the State…’ (Vitikka, Krokfors & Hurmerinta 2012). And the dates count; the approved textbooks continued to be used in schools and continued to condition pedagogy – and this would indeed have been the period in which the ‘children of PISA 2000’ were educated."

"And it’s important to recognise that the consensus about ‘fully comprehensive education’ which was driven through the system in the 1970s followed wide, prolonged discussion and negotiated agreement about which form the education system should take. Marc S Tucker (National Center on Education and the Economy, USA) explored with Finns the way in which this represented a general social consensus – it was generally considered to be the desirable direction of economic and social development in a country which would be highly dependent on human capital for its economic success. The education system did not improve as a result of some commitment to a general sense of ‘school autonomy’ – rather it improved at a time when a consensus had been carefully developed, around a very tightly defined common set of ideas and practices..."

"Far from ‘permissive, divergent autonomy’ this would best be described as ‘specific social consensus’ – a very different story from the one usually told about Finland..."

"There are some fascinating insights to be gained from looking in detail at Finland – but the greatest insights come from looking, with sensitivity, at history and a wide range of evidence."

"The Finns effected wholesale, coherent system change. Moving an entire system to fully comprehensive education was an outstanding feat of social consensus, policy formation and meticulous, centralised implementation strategy. Look there – the past, not the present – for insights as to what another nation might aspire to do, and what means might be used to achieve it."

The Scottish government has launched a governance review of early years and schools education and they tell us that their guiding principle is that decisions should be taken at school level.

That was not the Finnish model in its heyday. I wonder if they know what they are doing !

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