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Dec

11

The PISA-Finland Connection

Debates on education, best education

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”
Aristotle

All over the world, at different levels of society -governments, employers, educators and specialists in education theories, parents, students- there is an intense debate about the best ways to conceive and organize the educational process. The policy makers: “How can we achieve the goal of getting a well prepared, flexible workforce?”.The parents and the children: “What type of school is helping the most in developing the individual potential and laying the groundwork for roads to personal success?”. Educators: “Where and how to strike the balance between learning and skills, between financially driven policies and the autonomy of culture, between the multifaceted biography of a class and the -more or less- unifying curriculum?”.

 

When rambling on the Internet in search for answers, one can be tempted, after a real idea-storming, to mumble the line of a well-known Bob Dylan song: “The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind”.

Or maybe you didn’t ask in the right place. Go to Finland! There it is the Mecca of educational science, there the alchemists’ dream is fulfilled with a slight touch of Renaissance optimism: every child is becoming a gold asset for the society. And how do we know that? Through the results of PISA tests, where the young Finns have scored year after year better than others (you thought Pisa is in Italy…?).

The education reform in Finland handed a strong argument for the testing program heralded by OECD and, reciprocally, the high-ranking PISA Finnish tests confirmed that the path of changes in educational Finnish system is the right one.

 

Not all the people cheered the PISA-Finland connection.

First, there are critical voices of the whole PISA testing strategy: “One of the most passionate accusations against PISA is that it kills ‘the joy of learning‘. PISA has been accused in the past of only focusing on math and science to produce a specific workforce.

‘Because PISA is an organization of economic development it only focuses on what can make money,’ Neil Boland, senior lecturer at AUT University in Auckland, said in reference to the contents of the letter.” http://goo.gl/tDuy4L

Then, the good performing at PISA tests were not, as it is claimed, the result of the reformed Finnish school system, but of the old one. Are the British academics just envious or we have to acknowledge that a modern myth is debunked?

Finally, the PISA scores of Finnish kids are declining in recent years, although their educational requirements are well matching those of the PISA tests. Not a cause of concern it seems for Finland, interested more on equality in school than competition, the PISA itself being belittled.

 

In the end, every country, every local community, every family will have to find answers to the education problems according to their historical, economical and political environment, according to the global challenges.

At a personal level, there is no universal schooling recipe, as in medicine there is no universal cure. There were always self-taught persons, defying all educational systems, and others, the most of all, that couldn’t find their way in life without a guidance/a teacher.

The personal note is once more presented to us as the foundation of an engaging learning process, as for a military is the charisma of a commander –

What to defend and what to conquer? The frontiers of knowledge and of innovation.

By Cristi V. Andrei

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