Thursday, 3 March 2016

The Finnish model

Pasi Sahlberg, Director General at the Centre for International Mobility and Cooperation (CIMO) in the Ministry of Education in Finland is in conversation with Professor John Hattie at the University of Melbourne who wants to know how Finland achieves its high rankings in the PISA tests.

He explains that when Finland started to build its current system 40 years ago, it was considered important to focus on early childhood development and primary education. So primary teachers are very well trained and respected and given a great deal of autonomy and trust. It is also the case that children are given responsibility for their own learning. Children are not streamed until the end of compulsory education at age sixteen. Delaying choice is the way to achieve equity but also important are things outside the school such as health and social welfare.

This is the system that formed the inspiration for Curriculum for Excellence but in recent times the Scottish model seems to have lost its way. 
George Gilchrist, head teacher of two primary schools, believes Curriculum for Excellence has morphed into something it was never designed to be and is in danger of moving towards the GERM agenda identified in many systems by Pasi Sahlberg.

The Global Education Reform Movement (GERM) has infected several countries by introducing standardisation, competition and test-based accountability. Teaching to the test, lack of teacher autonomy and league tables follow, as do free schools or charter schools in some cases.

"The people who really benefit from such systems are the companies and organisations ... for whom education reform has become a lucrative and self-perpetuating market. Patricia Burch had looked at the No Child Left Behind programme employed in the USA and had noted that the standardised tests alone were worth $517million per year. This is now a global market for such companies and organisations, who all have obvious vested interests in their continuation."

As Curriculum for Excellence lurches from one strategy to another, these changes do take a bit of explaining.

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