Archive for April, 2011

Modelling ourselves after Finland and Singapore

So Finland and Singapore have done well in the PISA tests yet again? No one should be surprised.

Here’s the link to the Time magazine article on the PISA results. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2062419-2,00.html 

I have been teaching in Queensland for about 4 years now, after having taught in Singapore for 22 years. While working on my masters in Queensland, I studied various aspects of the Finnish education system. There is much to be admired in the educational climate of countries such as Singapore and Finland that have been able to provide an education that counts.

I strongly believe that as an educator, my calling is to ensure every child is able to reach his or her optimum academic potential. My years of experience in the classroom with hundreds of students tells me that all students can achieve a lot more than what they aspire for, than what some of their parents believe they are capable of, and unfortunately, what many teachers judge they are capable of. As a professional educator, our task is to give students the learning experience that will make a difference, and we do this by studying their individual needs, considering the various resources available to us to do our job and develop a programme that moves the students towards realising their potential.

The results of international tests such as PISA help all educational systems judge the success of their own institution. What we must take away from these tests is the fact that in the countries that did well, almost every student had a high level of literacy and numeracy that would afford them well as they entered the workforce. That is what every one of our children deserves.

The Time magazine article linked above points out how countries aspiring to achieve this success for their own children have taken on aspects of the successful educational systems. And when it is pointed out that Thailand isn’t seeing the same successes with its imported Finnish model, why is anyone surprised?

The educational models of countries such as Finland and Singapore are a success because they have been crafted with a clear recognition of every ingredient to that success. At the basic level, teachers are treated with respect and as professionals in these countries; I’m not too sure about Finland, but in Singapore, people are the most valuable resource and every child is seen as an important cog in a well oiled machine that will guarantee the country’s future, so programmes have been in place to ensure schools maximise student achievement; and these educational systems have been developed with a clear understanding of the cultural expectations of the people.

The educational systems in Singapore and Finland are miles apart, but so is their culture and expectations. I wouldn’t expect any country can take one model and impose it completely, not without recognising it is just one component of a whole system that works.

I left Singapore 5 years ago despite my personal successes in the educational system. I left because I had 5 children whom I recognised would not be well served within that system. Within the Australian system they are thriving and we have never regretted the decision to move. But we recognise also that they are thriving because they have benefitted from some of the best practices while in the Singapore system, and are now able to use these within the more creative and dynamic  system they are now experiencing. Not everyone is as fortunate.

Not every child or family has the options we were offered. It would be good if every country could offer their children the kind of educational system that would ensure their success in every sense of the word.

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