Cross-country education borrowing and lending (June 11-17, 2012)


As countries, schools and individuals look to improve education systems and practices, we often "borrow" and "lend" education policies and ideas from and to one another. This week we look at a variety of education systems and ponder the benefits and drawbacks of "education borrowing and lending".

 

Videos:

Please watch the following videos this week:

Strong Perforners and Successful Reformers: A video series profiling policies and practices of education systems that demonstrate high or improving performance in the PISA tests, Pearson Foundation. (~20 minutes/video)

Please select 2 or 3 videos to watch from this series. The series features videos about education in China, Brazil, Canada, Finland, Germany, Singapore, Portugal, Poland, Korea and Japan.

 

Schooling the World Trailer (~3 minutes) 

 

Readings(s), Optional:

The following optional readings build upon this week's topic:

 

Discussion Questions:

Please discuss the following questions below. Then throughout the week, try to respond to at least two other comments from your colleagues.

  1. After watching this week's videos, complete the following sentences:
    1. I think...
    2. I wonder...
    3. My ideas about... are changing...
  2. Based on your own life experiences which education systems and practices do you most want to learn from? Please explain.
  3. Global standardized assessments such as the PISA and TIMMS tests are often used to benchmark and compare education systems. How do you feel about this? 
  4. What are the benefits and drawbacks of "educational borrowing and lending"?
  5. What skills, knowledge or ideas do you have that others would benefit from? How do you "lend" these assets?"
  6. What else?
  7. Please respond to at least 2 other comments from your colleagues this week.

 

Skype Discussion, Optional:

Task Discussion


  • Aleksei Malakhov   17 juni 2012 12:32

    Hey guys, rise and shine! I'm waiting to read your comments and share ideas - after all this is what our course is about, isn't it? I don't know which video episodes you chose but if you want to have some good laughs, try Ontario. Especially when the teacher addresses the class (who supposedly have difficulties understanding English) and says that "if you have some language difficulties just come up and tell me, OK?" Pathetic. In fact, in my daughter's school the ESL teacher does a really good job, I'd rather choose him for a prom video.

  • Anna   18 juni 2012 03:05
    Reageer op:   Aleksei Malakhov   17 juni 2012 12:32

    :-D

  • Aleksei Malakhov   13 juni 2012 21:00

    1. After watching this week's videos, complete the following sentences:

    1. I think that teacher training is an important area to invest into. However, making an MA prerequisite for entering the profession (like in Finland) is a bit too demanding, imho.
    2. I wonder how Finnish teens manage to beat their peers in PISA, given the fact that in their home country they seldom do standardized tests. It's common knowledge that sometimes your test-taking skills bring you closer to higher results than your knowledge (my daughter brings excellent results for French tests but can hardly say anything in it).
    3. My ideas about ed reform and social change are being modified. I naively thought of ed reform as a conscious effort of society to attain better living (I know, I know, stupid me). Now it seems like ed reform is employed to tackle the diffuculties imposed by public policy. In Canada it's mainstreaming growing immigrant population (like my kids). In Saudi Arabia it's building labor force for burgeoning petrochem industry (which is a pretty recent development). However, if the former example isn't exactly the case of borrowing (although it bears striking similarities with what the Finns do), the latter is exactly this - making American-styled industrial colleges (like Jubail Industrial) staffed with American faculty to prepare forkforce for factories run by American execs.

    3. Global standardized assessments such as the PISA and TIMMS tests are often used to benchmark and compare education systems. How do you feel about this?

    I feel just like I always feel about standardized reading and math tests. On the one hand, it seems plausible to gather data and compare it across different countries or periods of time. Statistically-wise, it's pretty convenient. Another question is, whether these numbers give you the info you really need. First, I just feel it's kind of narrow to concentrate on literacy and numeracy. Second, I doubt that a purely quantitative approach provides trustworthy evidence about the quality of ed systems. Ontario ed authorities also look at graduation rates in addition to PISA results, and they are important but again dropout is not always a result of poor schooling.

    4. What are the benefits and drawbacks of "educational borrowing and lending"?

    Depends on what is being borrowed and lent, and with what purpose. On the one hand, this may be a way of disseminating best practices in education. On the other, the practical application of the same (rhetorically) intervention varies from society to society tremendously. Take public-private participation. When school voucher programs were launched in the US, the idea was to enhance efficiency and equity thru' promoting market mechanisms in education (competition and choice - M. Friedman). When this reform was implemented in Chile, efficiency and equity were last things on Pinochet's mind. It helped him undermine the power of the independent teachers' union and therefore strengthen his dictatorship. In Mongolia, the whole idea was downplayed and didn't go further than paper non-reform (G. Steiner-Khamsi). My wild guess is that some officials just used the buzzword to pump some good ole green buck out of international donors. Well, as I said, "borrowing and lending" is a double-edged sword.

    6. What else?

    We can assume that an educational reform works better if it's a part of a bigger reform package (that's why the US is hardly likely to borrow ed system from Finland, according to the report we read). For example, Estonia, in its post-Soviet transitional period borrowed a lot from Finland (due to their geographical, cultural and linguistic proximity) - not only education but also governance, public administration and health care to name some of the institutions. This was a neccessity at the time - to go on with Soviet institutions would be going headfirst into a cul-de-sac. The question, however, is whether borrowing is always a necessity and whether it's worth it to initiate a big social change to endorse an ed reform.

  • Anna   18 juni 2012 03:04
    Reageer op:   Aleksei Malakhov   13 juni 2012 21:00

    "The question, however, is whether borrowing is always a necessity and whether it's worth it to initiate a big social change to endorse an ed reform."

    Interesting that education reform often follows other reforms/vision, as opposed to vice versa.

    "Now it seems like ed reform is employed to tackle the diffuculties imposed by public policy. In Canada it's mainstreaming growing immigrant population (like my kids). In Saudi Arabia it's building labor force for burgeoning petrochem industry (which is a pretty recent development)."

    I think this boils down to how a society sees the role of education as an institution. Is it to prepare the labor force? Is it to turn people into "Canadian citizens"? Is it to promote a certain culture? Is it for knowledge's sake? Is it to promote innovation? I think education should be connected to greater policy/societal concerns/opportunities, but those policies/concerns/opportunities should be defined widely! Societies needs lots of different types of people, thinking, skills and might I say values (!) to flourish!

    Interesting point about the Chilean vouchers above. Funny how if you don't read into the context of a situation, you might misinterpret the role of a foreign reform!

    As always, thanks for sharing with such enthusiasm! I always learn something new when I read your posts!

  • Anna   13 juni 2012 04:47

    Note: I watched/read the transcripts for Finland and Korea.


    After watching this week's videos, complete the following sentences:

    I think all teacher education should require coursework in comparative education where teachers can observe and study “the process of education” in a variety of institutional and non-institutional contexts.

    I wonder if the mass spread and adoption of “Western education” is good for the world? I also wonder why is it that the people that we ask to prepare “the future workforce” so often have NO experience outside of the education industry?

    My ideas about data-driven instruction are changing. When I worked in very poor urban schools in New York City, I thought standardized assessments were critical for helping identify and “fix” “failing schools” and “failing teachers and principals”. It used to break my heart that kids in “the projects” living on one side of the street got short changed because they were “zoned” in a “bad school” with terrible teachers/leadership, while kids in “the projects” living on the other side of the street got a much better education as they were lucky enough to live in a zone for a public school with excellent leadership/teachers. While I still think there is a place for data-driven education techniques, I think the world has become overly reliant on using literacy and numeracy tests as the benchmark of education success. I think standardized test data is great for measuring some things in schools, but definitely not for measuring others (e.g., compassion, collaboration, ability to build things, leadership, etc.). While the Pearson videos/McKinsey report are very interesting, they are measuring school and system wide success through very narrow measures as to what it means to educate well and be educated.

    Based on your own life experiences which education systems and practices do you most want to learn from? Please explain.

    I would love to participate in and observe education in a variety of non-institutional and institutional contexts that I have never before experienced. For example, it would be fascinating to spend time in a Mongolian farming community where farming techniques are passed via the family and learned from a young age. I am so disconnected from the food I eat. It would be good to learn how communities that sustain themselves through direct agrarian means educate their people.

    I would also like to see what it is like to be educated in the American military. I’m such a pacifist, it never crossed my mind to even think of joining the armed forces. But, when I talk to people in the military, many members feel a huge sense of purpose, community, a career trajectory, a love for the humanitarian side of the work, a love for the physical activity... Also, I’d be curious what type of training people receive that enables them to be mentally okay with “going to war” - something I really struggle with as I just want everyone to get along.

    As a practitioner of yoga, I’d love to spend concentrated time on an ashram learning away from my computer. I’ve become addicted and overly dependent on technology. Would be curious what a year away from it in meditation, etc. would do to me. I suspect I wouldn’t miss technology much at all!

    Global standardized assessments such as the
    PISA and TIMMS tests are often used to benchmark and compare education systems. How do you feel about this?

    In thinking about this question, I found this useful video that explains what this PISA assessment is and what it measures:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q1I9tuScLUA

    Here is a quick explanation of the TIMMS: http://nces.ed.gov/timss/faq.asp#2

    I don’t have issue with the assessments in and of themselves, especially since they focus on thinking and informational literacy... But again, I believe we over rely on this information to compare school systems. I’d like to know what school systems produce “the happiest students,” “the most fulfilled adults,” “the best collaborators,” “highly innovative societies”... I suspect many of the countries that rock out the PISA assessment many not rock out assessments of other important outcomes. Also, I think they exams put places like Finland and Singapore on a pedestal. This often leads to people thinking, “let’s just copy what they are doing” while ignoring certain cultural, geographic or demographic factors that also highly influence Finland and Singapore’s “success”.

    What are the benefits and drawbacks of "educational borrowing and lending"?

    Benefits: The possibility of finding a “better” solution, process or way of doing things.

    Drawbacks: Borrowing curriculum/policies/etc. without modifying/localizing can lead to giant waste of funding/resources/etc.

    What skills, knowledge or ideas do you have that others would benefit from? How do you "lend" these assets?

    My strengths are in project management, “getting things done” and being able to work in highly diverse (from a country demographic point of view) contexts (some might call this cultural sensitivity). I am also great at finding “travel deals!”

    I “lend” these assets through teaching, mentoring and informal sharing of ideas at the dinner table, on walks and over coffee :-).

    What else?

    I wish the Pearson videos spent more time focused on the curriculum, social settings and “process of education” in each of the highlighted countries. It would have been interesting to hear “what is bad” about each system from teachers as well. All systems have areas of strength and weakness. The videos felt a bit “imbalanced”.
  • Aleksei Malakhov   13 juni 2012 20:48
    Reageer op:   Anna   13 juni 2012 04:47

    > I think the world has become overly reliant on using literacy and numeracy tests as the benchmark of education success

    I also was wondering why ed community all over the world is so crazy about literacy and numeracy. I mean, they are OK, but hey, is that all? I remember a US report from around mid-previous century about public ed, showing concern that mass ed falls behind standards and fosters mediocrity - and what's the recommendation? Oh yeah - put more effort into teaching literacy and math. Some cities launch voucher programs in public and private schools - how do we measure success? - literacy and math tests (BTW, they didn't show much worth talking about). Now, it's the same ole blues again - standardized tests in literacy and numeracy, this time launched by OECD.

  • Anna   18 juni 2012 03:08
    Reageer op:   Aleksei Malakhov   13 juni 2012 20:48

    Let's talk about other standards to "measure"... What would you add to basic reading literacy and numeracy...

    Here is a starting list in no particular order:

    • financial literacy
    • happiness/fulfillment 
    • labor force participation
    • the ability to actualize ideas
    • collaboration/ability to work in groups
    • cross-cultural sensitivity
    • languages beyond English
    • environmental/sustainability awareness and activity
    • emotional intelligence (althought this would be a hard "objective measure" to define)
    • physical fitness/health
    • Care to add more?
  • Aleksei Malakhov   19 juni 2012 10:31
    Reageer op:   Anna   18 juni 2012 03:08
    • social and interpersonal skills
    • ability to positively reflect on past experience
    • ability and willingness to share ideas and learn from others
    • discovery and invention
  • Matthew Rachansky   20 juni 2012 13:13
    Reageer op:   Aleksei Malakhov   19 juni 2012 10:31

    Hey Anna and Aleksei! Your commentary was both interesting and informative.

    Unfortunately Anna, many people feel the same way you did when working in the NYC school system (or learning within it). Standardized tests are pushed too hard here. I'm a rather open critic of them myself.

    Scoring points on a test is great, and I think the West could stand to learn from many of these countries. In fact, I think other countries borrowing from the U.S. regarding education practices would only be to their detriment. As we discussed last week, there are many reasons for this. The last week, where we look at educating the whole self should be interesting in this regard.

    Memorization of facts will only get you so far. To educate someone, they must have understanding of various topics beyond basic factual knowledge.

    I'll have my own response to the questions shortly.

  • Anna   23 juni 2012 02:52
    Reageer op:   Matthew Rachansky   20 juni 2012 13:13

    Thanks Matthew I look forward to reading them. I shared some ideas on how I think education should change under "Educating the Whole Person". I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this topic as well. Have a nice weekend.

  • Anna   23 juni 2012 02:53
    Reageer op:   Aleksei Malakhov   19 juni 2012 10:31

    ability to positively reflect on past experience <-- I like that. Learning from past + and "failures" is so important! Failure is many times a gift in disguise!