Firstly the Gonski Review should be congratulated for adopting a needs based approach to education, to enhance disadvantaged students’ ability in achieving a fundamentally sound and equitable education. The Gonski Review largely focuses on education funding, and stops there; it is not the answer to fixing our education system, and nor should it be seen as such.
I agree that disadvantaged students need more resources, but not necessarily more of the same inefficient education system and curriculum we currently have. One definition of madness is to keep doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome. In many ways, the recent Government reforms are retaining much of the same education system we currently have.
What are needed in our education system are: innovation, smarter implementation and effective teaching methods. If you want excellence, as a starting block: it is worthwhile to study the methods and policies of those who are already achieving excellence.
Finland is a country that is achieving top of the world class results in education in mathematics, literacy and science. Overall scores Finland is ranked first in the world. It has achieved supremacy, and does so; spending less per student than other countries. Due to Finland’s economic constraints in the 1970’s, Finland has been able to achieve a higher education standard whilst spending less than other countries. For example, Finland spends $7,500 per student on average, compared to $8,700 in USA. Yet Finland significantly outperforms USA in education outcomes.
The high achievement of Finland’s education system is largely due to incorporating innovation, effective teaching methods, good time management and embracing equity in education.
Finish children start school at 7 years old, they have a shorter school day, spend less time in a classroom than children in other classes and are given little or no homework in early and middle years. Rather than drilling students with information, teachers engage students in problem solving and reflective-inquiry based teaching methods.
Until year 5, students are not graded. There are no standardised tests in Finland, students are not compared to an average score. Finish teachers believe that standardised testing does not promote equity and equity helps produce excellence in education. Finish teachers engage in individualised teaching, recognising students learn differently and disadvantaged students are identified and receive remedial assistance early. Teachers can spend several years teaching the same students, which can help them identify different learning styles and needs of individual students.
Creativity is encouraged and music, dance and drama are equally regarded as maths and science. Educators in Finland believe that innovation is born from creativity and science. The Finish value flexibility and being capable of producing new ideas quickly. Nokia and Angry Birds are products of Finland. Finland engages twice the number of researchers than the OECD average.
Teaching is a very highly regarded profession in Finland, as highly regarded as doctors and lawyers. There is a high demand for people seeking to become teachers and the criteria for acceptance into studying teaching is very high. Helsinki University receives 2400 applicants for 120 positions. Teachers in Finland require a high educational standard, it takes 5 years of study to achieve a Masters Degree: compared to 4 years of study and degree standard in Australia.
Teachers are respected for the fact they play an important role in developing future citizens. Prospective teachers must value bettering the lives of others, before they are accepted into study to become a teacher. Teachers in Finland typically stay in their profession for many, many years; compared to USA that has seven times higher exit rate.
There is much we could learn from Finland if we wish to pursue an education revolution.
(NB. I did not make any of the above videos, nor do I own or claim any rights to them. The following videos are posted purely for educational purposes only. The copyright of the material belongs to their respectful owners.)
** The Finland Phenomenon by Bob Compton DVD is available for purchase at http://www.2mminutes.com/films/finland-phenomenon.asp ***