‘PISA-envy inspires governments to look to higher-performing countries for solutions, ways of addressing their own schools’ perceived shortcomings’.
Panic develops, they argue, when educational entities begin to slide down the league tables created by an essentially competitive system. Whether in Singapore or Maryland, the contextual landscape, for both learner and institution is rendered redundant, they argue.
‘This is a pretty daft way of developing education policy….’
The authors do recognise that PISA has and is changing however. For 2018, PISA contracts are being awarded to the global conglomerate Pearson. Their critique is rendered at Pearson, who, as a body corporate operating for profit, are influencing educational policy and providing solutions for the problems it ‘recognises’. Thereby fostering the self created conveyor belt of continuous cash.
The article authors dwell on the role of Sir Michael Barber, a Blairite adviser, who developed an uncompromising, outcomes-focused market-based approach to public policy.
The article authors argue that an out of the box, vertically measured, performance driven system, that assumes the vast superiority of private entrepreneurship and solution creation of perceived ‘problems’ in education, is the apotheosis of the neo-liberal project.
In summary, Unwin and Yandell state that if…
… education is a commodity, deliverable with the aid of scripted lessons and the rest of the paraphernalia of an ‘Academy-in-a-box’ and measurable through a few simple standardized tests, then there’s probably nothing to worry about.
If education is something else, however, then policy and practice may need to change to overcome this self-prescriptive solutions machine.
A long Australian history of success, but qualified…
“Australian women are among the most highly educated in the world, yet their participation in paid work remains comparatively low.” Elizabeth Broderick, Sex Discrimination Commissioner (2007 – 2015). This beginning to the time-line is an illustration of how, even when progress has journeyed so far over time, that there is so much travel left to achieve.
Despite Bella Guerin becoming the first Australian woman to achieve a Batchelor of Arts degree, in 1883, we can still read at the end of the Open College timeline that, in OECD analysis, that the full-time weekly wage for a woman is 17.5% less than a man’s.
We liked the presentation and the easy readability of the content, although there is enough referenced content to satisfy the Australian gender historian too.
In 2017 the Australian Government – Department of Women published a full report, for the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW61).
In it, Kate Jenkins the new Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner, maps the topography of contemporary Australia in the context of women’s gender equality.
Sharing ‘…Australian successes and challenges and gained insights on increasing women’s economic participation, including through: equal pay; reducing gender-segregated industries and workplaces; recognising and valuing unpaid work; improving data collection and working alongside men to achieve gender equality’.
There is a very useful reflection on the developing status of Australian Indigenous Women, tempered by the highlighting of continued and persistent risk of violence and discrimination to Australian women in rural areas, as a general finding.
The report of proceedings we also found useful as a research guide to Australian civil society actors, interested in gender equality, which we may not have discovered from this distance.
Our verdict after digesting the sources above? The Australian gender equality journey is one with much success to report, but which continues to highlight a burgeoning equality gap for the Australian woman.
Inequality, like poverty, is a policy choice. Governments, wherever they are, need to do better on this evidence.
Latest ONS provisional figures show that in the year ending September 2016:
a. long-term immigration to the UK was 596,000 and long-term emigration was 323,000 b. net migration was therefore 273,000 c. long-term immigration for study was 126,000 (87,000 were non-EU nationals) d. long-term emigration for former students was 62,000 (41,000 were non-EU nationals)
The ONS comments therefore ‘...if all international students emigrated from the UK after their studies and immigration for study was remaining at similar levels, then we’d expect the immigration and emigration figures to be similar‘. There is therfore pressure to examine the statistical differences revealed.
This progressive analysis has revealed that, in the government domain, there exists no single data resource that can answer the question ‘…what do students do after their studies if so few are emigrating?‘
The University of Glasgow – a ‘mooc’ point in the making…
Glasgow University have a new massive, open on-line course (MOOC) under way, courtesy of the FutureLearn network. It seeks to engage educators, adult learners and those broadly interested in the countering of inequity in the provision of education.
Entitled The Right to Education: Breaking down the barriers, there is much to support the aims of IETT within its modules. Particularly useful is the course delivery of international perspectives from educators, policy makers and other contributors to the on-line debate around the globe.
The work of the Univerity lead educator, Dr Margaret Sutherland (Senior Lecturer: Social Justice, Place, and Lifelong Education), and her team, delivers this pan-global perspective to help contexualise the relative educational riches and the deficits whch we enjoy in the UK.
The Unesco Education for Allprogramme had promised that all children would have access to school by 2015. This progress had halted by 2008, as can be seen from the UNESCO video below…
Today there are, it is estimated, some fifty eight million children not in school. That is one in ten of all children who are denied access to schooling, with that earlier target of universality extended now to 2030.
Half the educationally deprived children live in sub-Saharan Africa. They are predominantly poor, female, already at work whilst young or are excluded by a disability. The supply side of the educational equation has equal paucity, as some 27 million teachers will be needed, it is estimated, to fill a new full demand by 2030.
So we are able to see that, despite the constraints and inequalities, both social and economic, that dog education in the UK, in the global, aggregate view conflict, caste, faith and gender can all drag a child away from life affirming educational experiences.
You can take a look at the brief programme details here, or you can register with FutureLearn to be notified when the next iteration of the course from The University of Glasgow is available. See more here.
On this evidence, there is by 2030, perhaps, still much for all of us to do globally?
The web pages contain new resources for CS education, including prgrammes and resources for learners, as well as programmatic resources for teachers. The educator material offers the visitor free online courses, as well as access to software programs like Pencil, in order to grow basic practical skills.
The coding and tools section of the web site makes available open source resources like Blockly, IDE’s for Chrome apps and practical collaboration techniques to explore coding through drawing art, playing music and creating games.
The research, diversity and scholarship sections of the new site are, perrhaps narturally coming from Google, very heavily influenced by U.S. curriculum and learning opportunities. However, the Open Source and collaborative software elements of the coding platform are universal.
If you have a laptop, a well motivated CS teacher and a school network then you should be able to benefit from the Google CS Education Platform wherever you are located.
Prime Minister James Callaghan made a speech to an audience at Ruskin College in Oxford on the 18th October, 1976. A speech that, some would argue, launched the Great Debate about education.
Certainly some of the issues and challenges, that James Callaghan raised that day at Ruskin College, remain as pertinent and telling as ever today. Callaghan emphatically stressed, in his speech, the value of the Trade Union movement, not a view often embraced by a Prime Minister today for sure, but also lucidly saw children as delivering an endowment for a future society.
Speaking on that day in 1976, a detailed reading of the full text saw Callaghan giving long credit to Trade Union education energy, highlighting the role that unions and social activists play in energising human capital, often sailing against the pre-dominant elitist and exclusive educational cultural wind.
Callaghan saw the wide and emphatically important debate abroad in the country in his time about the economy, political or otherwise, but ventured to say ‘…not as important in the long run as preparing future generations for life. RH Tawney, from whom I derived a great deal of my thinking years ago, wrote that the endowment of our children is the most precious of the natural resources of this community. So I do not hesitate to discuss how these endowments should be nurtured‘.
Fiona Millar, writing in The Guardian in December 2016, has revisited the 1976 Callaghan postulation and has teased out many facets of the Callaghan analysis that often leaves the contemporary liberal, educated, education-aware reader in despair, when education is viewed down the long telescope of history.
‘Do we have a curriculum that promotes basic standards while allowing a child’s personality to “flower in its fullest possible way” as Callaghan put it?’
‘Would he (Callaghan) have envisaged systems of oversight so fragmented and convoluted that some headteachers can become proprietors of small business empires from which they directly profit?’
‘Would Callaghan have wanted good heads and teachers suffocated by hyper-accountability, wrestling with what is best for their schools against what is best or their pupils, while the less scrupulous boost performance by weeding out the most challenging pupils?’
Millar has chosen a good time to revisit this educational clarion call from a Labour Prime Minister who, on a detailed reading of this speech, represents the gold standard of education analysis and is deserving of perhaps a kinder view from history than he was previously afforded.
This is Computer Science Education Week. Across the globe, and in the UK too, children and young people are taking part in the Hour of Code.
An attempt to harness fresh interest and excitement, as well as understanding, of the basics of web and code literacy. Important knowledge to have in the skills basket, as the world moves ever more closer to technology.
Whilst such initiatives do not address the core issue of access to this technology, for those who have a route to a point of contact with a keyboard, the enthusiasm is evident.
The lack of women entering STEM continues to be part of the science and education debate. That there are gender role-models for young wormen is celebrated in a recent on-line article from Microsoft.
…women and girls who, while representing roughly 50 percent of the world’s population, account for less than 20 percent of computer science graduates in 34 OECD countries,
17 for 17 allows seventeen female computing professionals, from a variety of academic backgrounds and interests, the opportunity to express their vision of how the world of computing and code will change society by 2027.
Microsoft in Cambrdidge, UK has members of its team illustrating the future advances in biological computation, artificial intelligence and machine learning, human centred computing and accessibility, as well as security and privacy forecasts.
Despite some pessimism about the political landscape of education, it is always welcome to see gender affirmation and success in an often difficult, male dominated arena.
The barriers may be coming down at last.
Best wishes to our readers for the forthcoming festive holiday…
Flotsam: an occasional series of education ideas from other places.
An interesting time to be re-visiting this article, of Spring 2015, from Pasi Sahlberg which illustrates the latest Finnish thinking on the convergence , a blending, of the curriculum. ‘To replace the teaching of classic school subjects such as history or English with broader, cross-cutting “topics” as part of a major education reform .’
Educationalists need not panic is the Sahlberg message, despite our current government persistence with testing and rigid curriculum application. We visit Finland in this article, but with a side trip to Singapore too, in the interests of compare and contrast. (Ed.)
Finland’s plans to replace the teaching of classic school subjects such as history or English with broader, cross-cutting “topics” as part of a major education reform have been getting global attention, thanks to an article in The Independent, one of the UK’s trusted newspapers. Stay calm: despite the reforms, Finnish schools will continue to teach mathematics, history, arts, music and other subjects in the future.
But with the new basic school reform all children will also learn via periods looking at broader topics, such as the European Union, community and climate change, or 100 years of Finland’s independence, which would bring in multi-disciplinary modules on languages, geography, sciences and economics.
It is important to underline two fundamental peculiarities of the Finnish education system in order to see the real picture. First, education governance is highly decentralised, giving Finland’s 320 municipalities significant amount of freedom to arrange schooling according to the local circumstances. Central government issues legislation, tops up local funding of schools, and provides a guiding framework for what schools should teach and how.
Second, Finland’s National Curriculum Framework is a loose common standard that steers curriculum planning at the level of the municipalities and their schools. It leaves educators freedom to find the best ways to offer good teaching and learning to all children. Therefore, practices vary from school to school and are often customised to local needs and situations.
The next big reform taking place in Finland is the introduction of a new National Curriculum Framework (NCF), due to come into effect in August 2016.
It is a binding document that sets the overall goals of schooling, describes the principles of teaching and learning, and provides the guidelines for special education, well-being, support services and student assessment in schools. The concept of “phenomenon-based” teaching – a move away from “subjects” and towards inter-disciplinary topics – will have a central place in the new NCF.
Integration of subjects and a holistic approach to teaching and learning are not new in Finland. Since the 1980s, Finnish schools have experimented with this approach and it has been part of the culture of teaching in many Finnish schools since then. This new reform will bring more changes to Finnish middle-school subject teachers who have traditionally worked more on their own subjects than together with their peers in school.
Schools decide the programme
What will change in 2016 is that all basic schools for seven to 16-year-olds must have at least one extended period of multi-disciplinary, phenomenon-based teaching and learning in their curricula. The length of this period is to be decided by schools themselves. Helsinki, the nation’s capital and largest local school system, has decided to require two such yearly periods that must include all subjects and all students in every school in town.
One school in Helsinki has already arranged teaching in a cross-disciplinary way; other schools will have two or more periods of a few weeks each dedicated to integrated teaching and learning.
In most basic schools in other parts of Finland students will probably have one “project” when they study some of their traditional subjects in a holistic manner. One education chief of a middle-size city in Finland predicted via Twitter that: “the end result of this reform will be 320 local variations of the NCF 2016 and 90% of them look a lot like current situation.”
You may wonder why Finland’s education authorities now insist that all schools must spend time on integration and phenomenon-based teaching when Finnish students’ test scores have been declining in the most recent international tests. The answer is that educators in Finland think, quite correctly, that schools should teach what young people need in their lives rather than try to bring national test scores back to where they were.
What Finnish youth need more than before are more integrated knowledge and skills about real world issues, many argue. An integrated approach, based on lessons from some schools with longer experience of that, enhances teacher collaboration in schools and makes learning more meaningful to students.
Students involved in lesson design
What most stories about Finland’s current education reform have failed to cover is the most surprising aspect of the reforms. NCF 2016 states that students must be involved in the planning of phenomenon-based study periods and that they must have voice in assessing what they have learned from it.
Some teachers in Finland see this current reform as a threat and the wrong way to improve teaching and learning in schools. Other teachers think that breaking down the dominance of traditional subjects and isolation of teaching is an opportunity to more fundamental change in schools.
While some schools will seize the opportunity to redesign teaching and learning with non-traditional forms using the NCF 2016 as a guide, others will choose more moderate ways. In any case, teaching subjects will continue in one way or the other in most Finland’s basic schools for now.
Our readers may also be interested in another recent article from The Conversation.
David Hogan, an Australian academic, argues that despite the adoption of Singapore’s ‘Asian’ education model by Conservative governments, reflecting as it does the full embrace of rigid, testing and prescribed curriculum activity, the benefits of this more ‘fixed’ approach is still waiting to be proven.
As a counterpoint, it is the antithesis of the Finnish model in the Sahlberg article above. In fact for Hogan, this adoption in the West of a Singaporean model is a mistake.
Published this month on the web pages of Age of Awareness is an insider view of the education system in Singapore, which also recognises the strength of ‘Asian’ education in the most recent PISA standards rankings.
The article, Singapore’s Education System: A Local Perspective, argues that learning by rote, which it is claimed is the basis of the success featured, denies learners the ability to think creatively and makes finding answers to problems that do not have ‘pre-defined solutions’ very difficult for students in the Singaporean system.
(Editors Note: We like Age of Awareness. With its strapline, ‘Another World is Possible‘, and its content providing an international view on the ‘…creative, innovative, and sustainable changes to the education system‘, we recommend it. See more here… )
We weren’t quite sure what to make of these web pages at first. Built by Gapminder in Sweden, they show two hundred and forty families, across forty six countries, and link a series of images of their possessions and homes to their average monthly income.
Was it voyeurism that made us uncomfortable? Was it the notion of ‘economic tourism’? Or simply the discomfort of being shown a stark reality, illustrating how individuals and families, often precariously, cling to hope, aspiration and dignity?
For the team at Gapminder the proposition for Dollar Street is clear. These are the facts and they should temper all discourse about the other – other people, communities and culture.
Was it our imaginations, or did the preponderance of families with incomes of less than five hundred dollars a month across the globe decline to smile in the photographs? Of course this could be a cultural thing, rather than a crude measure of some sort of economic level on an imagined ‘happiness index’.
However, the wealth of Creative Commons images on the site and the short biographies of the people photgraphed make for an interesting comparative study.
To counteract litanies of fear, prejudice and racism can be no small aim. Rendering global ignorance redundant by illuminating the world with facts. No small ambition for a small Swedish independent Foundation.
‘For the first time in human history reliable statistics exist. There’s data for almost every aspect of global development. The data shows a very different picture: a world where most things improve; a world that is not divided. People across cultures and religions make decisions based on universal human needs, which are easy to understand.
The fast population growth will soon be over. The total number of children in the world has stopped growing. The remaining population growth is an inevitable consequence of large generations born decades back.
We live in a globalized world, not only in terms of trade and migration. More people than ever care about global development! The world has never been less bad. Which doesn’t mean it’s perfect. The world is far from perfect’. Source: https://www.gapminder.org/about-gapminder/
For teachersGapminder has a proliferation of resources and toolkits available to explore the world through data.
Having wrangled with the intrusive nature of the Dollar Street image index, and having read the Gapminder mission statements, we felt their argument that the world is indeed ‘a better place’ to be much needed in troubled econo-social and educative times.
Following the ‘Brexit’ referendum and the recent series of affrays across the political landscape, with a resultant refreshed exposition on the economy, the topography of industry is now littered with claims for an upsurge in economic flexibility, innovation, challenge and growth.
We revisit Sir Ken Robinson talking about ‘How to Change Education?’ as a consequence.
What better time in the current climate to look again at the education reform focus of the Robinson arguments about schools as Enlightenment driven, rigid, formulaic and command and control industrial systems.
The RSA Animate, featured above was a wonderful synthesis of those arguments and offers a direct challenge to some more traditional ‘informed thinking’ about the educational process for our children.
You can see the full, original RSA talk (24 mins) by Ken Robinson in July 2013 here…
With the socio-political present focus on ‘the other’, isolation and insularity – the call to arms for fresh thinking about creativity embedded in the Robinsonian education reform argument, to secure the future of all our children, becomes now doubly telling, we think.