This is the second part of my report on Pasi Sahlberg’s Bayfield School talk, 5/10/12. Part 1 is here.
Sahlberg is emphatic that all students must have the same chance at receiving a good education at all levels and that in order to improve education you must improve equity.
What does he mean by equity in education?
‘Equity in education is the strength of relationship between a pupil’s family background and the education they receive.’
Rich, poor, immigrant, first generation, native, whatever – all should receive the same quality teaching and the same opportunities. It’s a lofty ambition, but not impossible by any means.
Performance Pay / Collaboration
Teachers work collaboratively within schools and school-to-school. Schools share ideas and resources with each other. There is no performance pay – Sahlberg says it does not work, and it would not be accepted by teachers or management there as they value working collaboratively and see that as key to providing a good and fair education for all. It’s no different to what teachers here are saying – we value cooperation and collaboration above the chance of an extra dollar.
Here Sahlberg offered a warning:
‘Accountability is what’s left when responsibility is taken away.’
He stressed that accountability should be trust based, with schools self-monitoring, and monitoring each other, with minimal external monitoring from government or external agencies, and emphasised that, ideally, you should be reviewing your practices and performance with other schools, locally. When asked what he thought had led to the level of trust teachers enjoy in Finland, he said
‘I think it’s to do with how teachers are viewed and treated by government and Fins. There is trust.
Ministers do not tell teachers how to teach.’
Finnish teachers must get an undergraduate degree and Masters degree before they do their teacher training. There is no other path. No one-year course, no 6-week fast-tracking, not even a three-year course. There is a better chance of getting into medical or law courses than teacher training. After 30 years of this system, now just about all Finnish teachers have been trained this way. As a result, teachers are seen as well-trained and well-educated, and they are held in esteem. There are no teacher shortages. I know I’d be more than happy to do a Masters and upgrade my skills and knowledge. I see that as a win:win situation.
The idea of different types of school and of private fee-paying schools is not one that Finland supports. Sahlberg explains that offering choices in education weakens the whole system and weakens communities by causing unnecessary competition. He argues that schools must be connected to their communities and to each other for success. In Finland, parents can choose any school for their children, yet they almost always choose the local school because there is an understanding that the level of care and education will be the same at all schools even if the topics/areas covered differ. Rather than pitting school against school, cooperation, equality and fairness are again the focus.
In other words, teachers want to do their best for their students, and people trust teachers and schools to be doing just that.
Fewer regulations. Less monitoring. More trust.
Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?
Read the rest: Part 1 is here.