# Top 5 by 2025..

As Jiang Xueqin, the director of the International Division of Peking University High School, wrote in the Wall St. Journal:

According to research on education, using tests to structure schooling is a mistake. Students lose their innate inquisitiveness and imagination, and become insecure and amoral in the pursuit of high scores. …This is seen as a deep crisis… A consensus is growing that instead of vaulting the country past the West, China’s schools are holding it back.

I have been thinking and reflecting in large doses this week. It all started when a fairly important person said we should be in the top 5 schools by 2025. This is an admirable goal. Who are our competition:

Top 10 countries that has best education system.

PISA released its study every 3 years since 2000. The last PISA’s announcement was in 2009. According to last announcement I got the list of top 10 countries that has best educational system. The countries are :

  1. Shanghai-China
  2. Korea
  3. Finland
  4. Hongkong-China
  5. Singapore
  6. Canada
  7. New Zealand
  8. Japan
  9. Australia
  10. Netherlands



A study from the Korea Institute of Curriculum and Evaluation revealed that South Korean students are highly disengaged from their classes compared to those in other nations.

So who are we going to emulate???

I have taught a few years in Japan and have some broad idea of Asian education systems (though this is changing and there are always exceptions). My experience is of a teacher-centered system with high student disengagement.

The strong extrinsic motivations are:

  • constant examination pressure (think HSC x 100)
  • high parental expectations (often status motivated)
  • social status motivation
  • strong sense of competition (often negative in focus)
  • hierarchical social structures

So the Finns jump out like a sore thumb in the Top 5. What is their focus? What have they done (since 1970) to create something akin to the results of their competition. Lets unpack what they did…

(GERM = General Education Reform Movement) – ‘Learn’ = Finnish model

For Visual Learners go here: http://www.businessinsider.com/finland-education-school-2011-12?op=1

From Finland’s director of education, Pasi Sahlberg:

In his post On a Road to nowhere, Sahlberg explains:

Pasi Sahlberg

English education policies rely on more choice, tougher competition, intensified standardised testing and stronger school accountability. These are the key elements of the policies that were dominant in the United States, New Zealand, Japan and parts of Canada and Australia a decade or so ago. Available PISA data reveals the impact of these education policies on students’ learning between 2000 and 2009. The overall learning trend in all these countries is consistently declining. That is a road to nowhere. 



Well, I have nothing against standardised testing, per se. But, I think how the test data is used to hold teachers and schools accountable and how the school’s performance is made public through websites or media – I’m not sure that this is the way we should go, at least this is not the way we have been doing things in Finland. 

Anywhere where these types of things had put in place, teachers have started to focus more on teaching to the test, and curriculum has narrowed. If the test data is only collected through two or three subjects – like is often done measuring literacy and mathematics – this means that these subjects will become the most important things in a school. And the other thing is that these knowledge tests often measure only the things that can be measured and not, for example, problem solving or creativity to the extent that they should be, and this leads teachers and schools to focus on these things more than they could do otherwise.


For example, if I take the competition idea, where in all of these countries that you mentioned, the policies are built on the idea that competition will ultimately improve the quality of teaching. In Finland we don’t have these policies. We believe that cooperation and networking and sharing are the things and important things to make sure that everybody will be able to improve and do things better. Accountability is another one where, in many of these so-called infected countries, schools and teachers and principals are increasingly held accountable through the standardised tests; and in Finland, we have been trying to build trust and responsibility within our education systems rather than accountability. So, many of these GERM elements are actually opposite to what Finland has been doing.


I have made my conclusions….what are yours?

A few readings:

Asia/Finland educational reform http://www.huffingtonpost.com/leonie-haimson/post_1650_b_816043.html

The Asian model – Why Australia should not follow – http://theconversation.edu.au/learning-by-rote-why-australia-should-not-follow-the-asian-model-of-education-5698

What Americans keep ignoring about Finland’s school success http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/12/what-americans-keep-ignoring-about-finlands-school-success/250564/

10 School reform principles from Finland http://bertmaes.wordpress.com/2010/02/24/why-is-education-in-finland-that-good-10-reform-principles-behind-the-success/

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