Finland Rules!

It’s great to see that ACER’s fetish with all things FINLAND continues, as illustrated nicely in today’s Education Age article by Caroline Milburn (not online yet)

I agree with the basic premise of the article, that it’s a focus on quality TEACHING, not TESTING that is likely to lead to improved student learning and that ‘nations with the best student performances have focused on developing a highly trained teacher workforce rather than publicising school results’.

The article talks about Professor Brian Caldwell’s co-authoring of a new study Why Not the Best Schools? and the findings that teacher training is the key to improved outcomes for students.

Which is all a bit ironic as the short article mentions Finland four or five times as being the best performing system in international testing at the same time asserting that Finland isn’t into testing. Maybe just international testing? 

Caldwell’s conclusion nicely blends the Finnish with the American rhetoric: ‘We should be insisting that every teacher be very well trained to at least a master’s level and not allow any child to fall behind’.

Finland may well do well in international testing but I retain serious doubts as to how tranferrable the education results of that small northern European country are to Australia. Maybe Caldwell is just into skiiing?

[Finland photo from elanores on Flickr]

National Curriculum Debates

What if the national curriculum that’s going to revolutionise everything also included HOW to teach certain subjects such as perhaps reading? Would we all think it so benevolent and non-invasive then.

I’ve railed and wailed here about national curriculum before but Caroline Milburn’s article in the AGE today opens a new line; that methodology might also be part of this nationalist zeal. Summarising an ACER report the article says:

The major challenge in improving teaching lies not so much in identifying and describing quality teaching, but in developing structures and approaches that ensure widespread use of successful practices: to make best practice, common practice,” says the report, written for the BCA by senior researchers at ACER. The Rudd Government has signalled its intention to take an unprecedented role in influencing teaching methods. The first steps of a more interventionist approach in areas traditionally the preserve of education authorities and teacher training institutions were announced this year.

I like the response of literacy expert Dr Ilina Synder who writes:

The national curriculum initiative is an exciting opportunity to forge new directions and aspirations for school education, but she warns that teachers will resist it if it tells them what they should do in the classroom rather than setting out principles to inform the curriculum. Teachers will not welcome a heavy-handed approach that requires them to perform specific tasks without having control or input in the way they are conceived and evaluated. “Teachers expect to be accountable as professionals but they also expect acknowledgment of their professional knowledge and expertise,”

The debates moves on, but it’s currently only being had among politicians and academics. If teacher aren’t careful they’ll wake up to find that the debate is done and dusted and we’ll be told new ways of operating based on what looks good in Finland and what might get a politician re-elected in four years time.