I’ve read about this information about the Finnish schools before, but it is nice to have it all collected into one talk. My thanks to Adam Burk for sharing it.
How does Finland do so much better than the US in education? They do everything differently.
Almost no standardized testing, well prepared teachers, huge respect for the teaching profession, professional autonomy for teachers, competitive entry system for teachers, a system controlled from the bottom up, and a much reduced emphasis on competitiveness in their education system.
I highly recommend finding an hour and watching this video (Thanks to @KenMLibby for sharing it). In it, Dr. Pedro Noguera shares some examples of effective ways we could change schools and speaks out against the ineffective reforms that have been enacted in the US for decades.
Note that much of what Dr. Noguera suggests could be implemented in the high poverty schools in Canada just as easily as the US. I don’t think we have as much difficulty with highly scripted instruction here in Canada, thankfully, but we do have a huge child poverty problem, and it behoves us to look at ways we can help our children as much as we can.
While education reformers like Michelle Rhee, Joel Klein, Bill Gates, and others will tell you that education is stuck in the status quo, right underneath their noses there is a quiet revolution occurring in education.
The revolution is happening through social media. Every day thousands of hours are spent by educators, even during the summer, to improve their personal practice through discussion and sharing of resources. Every day more and more educators are joining the fray, choosing to sign up for social media sites (like Twitter) so that they can become part of the conversation on education reform. While the number of educators not yet sharing their ideas dwarfs the number sharing, those that are sharing are vocal about the benefits that they are getting and inviting their colleagues daily to join them.
There are probably 50,000 educators using Twitter alone, and if each of these teachers posts just 1 average length tweet a day, that’s about 500,000 words written each day on education by people in the trenches. If each teacher on Twitter reads just 10 tweets a day, that would mean that more than 5,000,000 words about education are read each day via Twitter (The actual numbers are likely to be much higher than these conservative estimates).
Outside of Twitter, educators are connecting through Classroom 2.0, Future of Education, and literally thousands of other Nings and professional development sites. There are almost certainly thousands upon thousands of conversations between educators, about education, happening on Facebook every day as well.
Educators are doing much in the non-digital world to connect as well. Edcamps and Teachmeets, which are free professional development conferences,have sprung up all over the world. Educators are organizing TEDx conferences, like TEDxUBC, TEDxDenverEd, and TEDxPhillyEd, to name just a few (I attended all three of these).
Much of this quiet revolution is happening during times when educators would have traditionally been off work, during their summers, their breaks, and at their homes, challenging the idea that educators aren’t willing either to change, or to spend their own time doing it. Educators are not being paid to participate in the opportunities discussed above, nor are they being given much support.
Instead of blaming all of the current problems of education on educators, maybe it’s time to support the thousands of innovative educators out there taking matters into their own hands? None of the accountability systems in place, or being developed, accounts for the incredible professional sharing occurring globally in education today.
The grassroots efforts are a much more effective way to introduce systemic change than top-down efforts ever will be since peer pressure is always stronger than authorative pressure.
One basic assumption we often have about life is that there is only way to get things done. We struggle to see paths other than the one before us. Sometimes we are so blind to the alternate views of reality that we construct arguments against why they are possible, rather than accepting the evidence in front of our eyes.
I recently discovered that there are at least 2 other ways of tying one’s shoes, for example, a fact I did not know for nearly 30 years. I have almost certainly witnessed literally thousands of different people tying their shoes over the years but have never noticed these other methods before now. I only noticed because I’ve been helping my son learn how to tie his own shoes, I’ve been reflecting on how shoes are tied, and then suddenly noticed that there are people who’s shoes are tied using completely different methods than what I’m familiar.
If I can be wrong about something simple like shoes being tied, what else could I be wrong about? Maybe one reason why education reform is such a struggle right now is that the many sides of the debate can only see the direction with which they are familiar? I don’t think that my vision of what education reform should be is wrong, but am I being myopic?
Every path has a fork. Sometimes you can double-back and try a different path, but you are never stuck on the one you’ve chosen. No path is one way. One thing is clear though, it is rare that two forks of a path lead to the same place. Let us remember that while we may not like the path that is being chosen for us in education reform, when the pendulum swings again, we can retrace our steps, and hopefully undo a lot of the damage that is being done.
I’d like to help the people in charge of the reform see that they are on what I think is the wrong path, but I also need to keep my eyes open and look for the evidence they see that convinces them that they are on the right path. Without understanding why they are so sure of their direction, I cannot expect to be able to convince them of the error of their ways. Similarly, I must be open to the possibility that it is me who is on the wrong path.
I don’t think that’s true though. I just think I have a different destination in mind.