Sunday, March 11, 2012

Cooperative, Imaginative Education!

According to this Book Review published at - educators in America have much that they can learn from Finnish paradigms for education.
Excerpts include:
Sahlberg attributes the improvement of Finnish schools to bold decisions made in the 1960s and 1970s. Finland’s story is important, he writes, because “it gives hope to those who are losing their faith in public education.”

To an American observer, the most remarkable fact about Finnish education is that students do not take any standardized tests until the end of high school. They do take tests, but the tests are drawn up by their own teachers, not by a multinational testing corporation. The Finnish nine-year comprehensive school is a “standardized testing-free zone,” where children are encouraged “to know, to create, and to sustain natural curiosity.”

Every candidate prepares to teach all kinds of students, including students with disabilities and other special needs. Every teacher must complete an undergraduate degree and a master’s degree in education.Because entry into teaching is difficult and the training is rigorous, teaching is a respected and prestigious profession in Finland.

Sahlberg recognizes that Finland stands outside what he refers to as the “Global Education Reform Movement,” to which he appends the apt acronym “GERM.” GERM, he notes, is a virus that has infected not only the United States, but the United Kingdom, Australia, and many other nations. President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind law and President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top program are examples of the global education reform movement. Both promote standardized testing as the most reliable measure of success for students, teachers, and schools; privatization in the form of schools being transferred to private management; standardization of curriculum; and test-based accountability such as merit pay for high scores, closing schools with low scores, and firing educators for low scores.

In contrast, the central aim of Finnish education is the development of each child as a thinking, active, creative person, not the attainment of higher test scores, and the primary strategy of Finnish education is cooperation, not competition.

Since I teach at the University, the dynamics of the educational issues listed here may seem far removed from my work.  I do not think so.  

Over the past decade of teaching, I have found students less capable of thinking with imagination and insight and creative vibrancy than in the past.  

Students want to know "what the answer" is - without wanting to explore the complexities of questions and the nuance of possible alternative responses to situations.  

I wonder what a better world we could create, if we focused not on competition, but cooperation!

Book Review by:  Diane Ravitch over the Book: Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland?Description: <a href=  By Pasi Sahlberg, with a foreword by Andy Hargreaves   Teachers College Press, 167 pp., $34.95 (paper) 

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