There is a worldwide education trend known as the Global Education Reform Movement. It is not based on educational need nor is it driven by research-based educational theory. Rather, it is driven by political rhetoric and expediency. Its philosophy is embedded in cost saving and privatisation of education as governments seek to devolve from direct responsibility for provision of high quality public education.
The rationale of governments around the world is that it’s purpose is to improve educational outcome and standards – laudable to the extreme but is the methodology proven and will it success in its purpose? Internationally, the GERM virus is characterised by prescribing more competition between schools and school systems. Private school, charter school, secondary school academies (England), league tables (NCEA, National Standards). It is based on a market philosophy that competition between schools and school systems will raise achievement.
Accompanying this is the notion of school inspections and associated ratings, standardised testing of children and performance pay for teachers. The Finnish example (number one as the world’s best education nation for the last 10 years) is contrary to the concept of competition as a means of improving performance.
School choice is seen as a means of increasing competition and allowing parents to access high quality education for their children. Yes it does for a relatively small number of wealthy and predominantly white parents. Of course the quality of education for carefully screened and selected pupils with engaged and highly driven parents paying $12,000 – $20,000 per year fees plus laptops, sports coaching fees, overseas tours and the like will be better than that provided by open access state schools.
In New Zealand, the newly promoted charter schools will not have to employ trained registered teachers nor will National Standards apply.
Standardised testing worldwide has seen schools teach to the test (11 + exam in England for the last 30 years) and causing schools to narrow the curriculum to concentrate on reading, writing, and maths. Arts, science, sport and social science become casualties. In some countries, standardised test results are linked to performance pay.
The Finnish system is based simply on equity in education – to provide a strong public education system where all children have access to good schools. All schools are equally provided for without a system of “haves and have not’s”.
Teaching is a hugely regarded profession with strong competition to enter teacher training with a Masters level entry qualification. The notion of competition and standardisation testing and competitive models is non-existent. Finnish teachers enjoy antonomy, professional trust and public respect. The Finnish government invests 30 times more in professional development of teachers then it does in testing pupils. They have adopted proven best practices from around the world. Pasi Galberg, the internationally renowned Finnish educator puts it well, “Without strong public schools, our nations and communities are poorly equipped to value humanity, equality and democracy. I think we should not educate children to be similar according to a standardised metric but help them discover their own talents and teach them to be different. Diversity is richness in humanity and a condition for innovation”.