Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Semi-disposable self-assembly schools

One last piece of Gove-kicking, then I'll be done:
...we looked to social democratic Sweden for reform. Fifteen years ago the Swedes decided to challenge declining standards by breaking the bureaucratic stranglehold over educational provision and welcome private providers into the state system.
Former education secretary (boy, did I enjoy writing that 'former') Michael Gove, writing in the Indy in 2008

With the benefit of hindsight, we know that these reforms were a long way from delivering an Ikea-style Swedish success story:
After Sweden's students tumbled in the latest Pisa rankings, a new review suggests that due to a rigorous schedule of testing elsewhere, the students were too tired to care.
The Teacher and Learning International Survey (TALIS) asked teachers in OECD countries about their views on their jobs.
Sweden landed at the very bottom when it came to rating a career in teaching. Only France and Slovakia had worse results. Only one in twenty Swedish teachers thinks that their profession is appreciated in Sweden.
The average for OECD nations was 31 percent, and the highs were found in Malaysia and Sweden's neighbour Finland, where 59 percent of respondents said their job was highly valued.
The majority of Swedish high-school students can't work out simple sums, researchers have warned after grading a math skill test taken by 1,500 pupils in Sweden. They were stumped that teachers had not raised the alarm.
Some people have suggested that people who don't like Michael Gove's reforms are suffering from an irrational 'Goveophobia.' Personally, I don't think I'm being irrational in rejecting his obsession with competition and rankings, especially when Sweden, his model for a competition and ranking-obsessed system seems to be losing the international "competition" for educational excellence and to be tumbling down the international rankings that he values so highly.

Whereas neighbouring Finland, a country that's doing more or less the opposite of everything Michael Gove would like to see in education, has fared consistently better* (Finland has a publicly funded, comprehensive school system with no league tables, no artificial market and phony "choice", no constant testing and streaming, no grammar schools or academies, almost no private schools and the kids are taught by teachers who must have a master’s degree and who belong to strong trade unions). Perhaps the happy Finns could be even more "competitive" if they adopted the Chinese 9-hour-test-drill-and-kill-suicide model, so I suppose it's a small mercy that Gove got all starry-eyed about Sweden rather than China. Let's just hope that his successor, Nicky Morgan, hasn't been taking her educational inspiration from The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.

*It may have dropped a few PISA points, from its position at the very top of the table in recent years, but Finland still seems to be doing way better than Sweden.