Interview with Carol Campbell

 

Dr. Carol Campbell

Dr. Carol Campbell

Carol Campbell is Associate Professor of Leadership and Educational Change at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), University of Toronto and Co-Director of the Knowledge Network for Applied Education Research (KNAER). Carol has international experience in bringing together evidence and strategies to advance policies and practices for higher quality and equity in education systems. This interview, which is part of the Lead the Change Series of the American Educational Research Association Educational Change Special Interest Group, appears as part of a series that features experts from around the globe, highlights promising research and practice, and offers expert insight on small- and large-scale educational change. Recently, Lead the Change has also published interviews with Diane Ravitch, and the contributors to Leading Educational Change: Global Issues, Challenges, and Lessons on Whole-System Reform (Teachers College Press, 2013) edited by Helen Janc Malone, have participated in a series of blogs from Education Week.

The broader context of school choice in Sweden

While Swedish education is not in the news nearly as often as it’s higher-performing neighbor, Finland, it only took a mention of school choice to launch a series of articles and blog posts on Sweden in the past few weeks. The original source was an article in Slate by Ray Fisman, provocatively titled “Sweden’s School Choice Disaster.” While few disputed the characterization of the Swedish education system as “in crisis” (with the decline in international test scores as the primary basis), critics, including Andrew Coulson (from the Cato Institute), Tino Sanandaji (from National Review Online), and Coulson again (responding to Sanandaji) were quick to point out flaws in the analysis linking that decline to Sweden’s approach to privatization of public schools and school choice. Those critiques, in particular, point out the problems with connecting in any direct way the effects of a particular policy amidst so many other educational and contextual factors.

Perhaps co-incidentally, the OECD recently released its own report on the Swedish education system – “Shifting responsibilities: 20 years of education devolution in Sweden” – that discusses the larger decentralization agenda that Sweden put in place the 1990’s. Rather than singling out the effects of school choice, that report discusses a number of factors – including the speed with which reforms were pursued, the lack of a systemic vision, and inadequate capacity for local authorities to carry out their new responsibilities – that may have played a role in Sweden’s educational performance.

To get another perspective on the Swedish education system, we talked with Sam Abrams, a research associate at the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education at Teachers College. Abrams, who has written about the different path taken by Finland as well as the intensive use of technology by one for-profit Swedish school operator offering an alternative to conventional instruction, suggested that the problems highlighted in the OECD report derive from an impatience in Sweden for change. Providing a historical perspective, Abrams explained that the Swedes had been ruled by the Social Democratic Party from 1932 to 1976 and again from 1982 to 1991, leading to centralized authority and high taxation along with growing resistance from conservatives desiring laissez-faire policies. “Building on the rise of Margaret Thatcher and the fall of the Berlin Wall,” Abrams said, “the conservatives in Sweden swept to power in 1991 and implemented a host of market-based reforms, including a full-fledged voucher system for schools. Yet the passion for school privatization and choice outpaced practical concerns about maintaining academic standards, developing teachers, and preventing segregation.” Abrams, who is completing a book for Harvard University Press on international education reform, predicted the Swedes would soon rein in privatization and refocus their efforts at school improvement. As he put it, the Swedes have learned that teachers as well as students want choice, but that choice is no panacea.

All in all, while it’s clear that Sweden has pursued school choice and the educational system as a whole has not improved, understanding school choice and its effects in Sweden needs to take into account the historical, political, geographic, economic and cultural factors that influence the development of the education system and its outcomes. Even for countries like Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Sweden, which to outsiders may seem so similar, taken together these factors can generate remarkably different stories of educational development.

New OECD report leads to questions about educational innovation

While the OECD has released a number of reports this year, their most recent report addresses the measurement of educational innovation at the classroom and school levels. In this report, the OECD looked at “innovations” in education improvement strategy and ranked 19 countries accordingly. The report acknowledges that while the private sector has established innovation indicators derived from research and development (R&D) statistics and innovation surveys, the measurement of innovation and its effectiveness in the public sector is still in its infancy. Creating such measurements might be more difficult, as the report states that “cultural values, social policies and political goals can lead to differing prioritization of these different objectives across countries.” Innovation indicators will need to be linked to specific objectives, such as learning outcomes, if they are to be better understood.

Denmark came in first place, followed by Indonesia, Korea and the Netherlands. While I could not easily find news reports that focused on the high ranking of Korea, and the sole report I found on the Netherlands referred to parental concerns over a lack of educational innovation, multiple sources published reports that pointed to the near-bottom ranking of the US. Yet, even with the report citing a ‘dearth’ of innovation in the US, EdWeek has a feature article on the ways in which school principals in the US are increasingly acting like entrepreneurs and innovators in business.

Interestingly, as Pasi Sahlberg pointed out in his recent article in The Washington Post, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, and Finland—all high performing countries—have sought out innovative ideas for education from the United States, where many such ideas are largely ignored by the country’s education reformers. So, not only is educational innovation difficult to measure for the ways in which the concept of innovation might be country-specific, as the OECD explained, it might also prove difficult to measure due to the ways in which innovative ideas can travel, as countries share and borrow ideas from one another. In his brief response to Sahlberg’s article, Howard Gardner pointed out that innovative ideas have a history of being co-opted, borrowed, and misunderstood. Further, he notes that it is a mistake to attribute these ideas to sole individuals, such as himself–for he was inspired by other scholars, and all scholars are influenced by the freedom or constrictions of the conditions in which they work. To that point, a recent study of Norwegian teachers, which aimed to study those conditions in which “newness is created,” showed that innovative work is brought into being when “pluralities of perspectives” are taken into account.

In The Washington Post, Valerie Strauss also questioned the meaning innovation by looking at the language used in the report. She notes that Hong Kong’s main innovation was “more peer evaluation of teachers in primary and secondary education”; Korea’s main innovation was “more peer evaluation of teachers in secondary education”; and Singapore’s main innovation was “more use of incentives for secondary teachers.” But is innovation a matter of degree? Reports such as this one raise questions about how we can measure concepts without a shared understanding of what those concepts mean. As the news report from Indonesia points out, even Indonesian education experts were surprised to see the country at the top of the list, especially when it has been ranked among the lowest performing countries in math and science on the 2013 OECD Pisa exam.

Deirdre Faughey

Singapore emphasizes 21st Century Competencies

In the wake of our posts on some of the current issues in education in Finland, we asked Paul Chua, Senior Teaching Fellow at the National Institute of Education, to let us know about some of the current discussions in Singapore.

Although Singapore was one of the highest-performing countries on the PISA Computer-Based Problem Solving test, a test meant to, amongst other things, measure students’ ability to think flexibly and creativity, Singapore’s Ministry of Education (MOE) took the opportunity to reiterate the rationale and approaches launched initially in 2010 to cultivate students’ 21st Century Competencies (21CC) .

In reiterating their approach, the MOE  continues to emphasize some of the features of their framework for 21CC that are shared with other countries, including creative and critical thinking, communication and collaboration, and social and cultural skills (see for example Soland et al. 2013, and Voogt & Roblin 2012). However, the MOE has also highlighted a unique connection to the core values that the Singapore education system hopes to cultivate in all its students. Instead of learning the 21st century competencies in a vacuum, in Singapore, the competencies are supposed to be learned in the context of core values, like respect, resilience, responsibility, and harmony. From the Ministry’s perspective, such an approach should remind educators in the classroom of the role that values play in education and help them to enable students to become the self-directed learners, confident people, concerned citizens and active contributors that are the desired outcomes of the Singapore education system.

The MOE’s reiteration also includes an update of their approaches to the delivery of the 21CC.  Rather than creating a separate subject called “21CC,” the Singaporean approach calls for the integration of 21CC into both the academic and the non-academic curricula, such as Character and Citizenship Education and Co-Curricular Activities. In order to support that integration, the MOE hopes to help teachers develop the capacity to deliver a 21CC-embedded curriculum through pre-service and in-service learning courses, as well as on-going collaborative teacher learning through professional learning communities. Schools are also to collaborate with community partners to augment the learning and teaching experience with more imaginative and authentic learning environments and programmes. Finally, while cultivating a school culture that values and promotes the delivery of the 21st century competencies is not mentioned explicitly, that concern is reflected in the Singaporean school quality assurance framework.

In recent years, the MOE has also introduced a slew of initiatives to better assure the effective delivery and attainment of the 21st century competencies. These include modifications to the assessment practices in the primary schools; introduction of more varied secondary schools landscape; tweaking of the direct secondary school admission criteria at the interface between primary and secondary school education; and re-alignment of the school self-assessment and recognition framework. First, modifications to the primary schools assessment, including the development of holistic assessments, were recommended by the Primary Education Review and Implementation (PERI) Committee. These modifications were intended to better balance the acquisition of knowledge with the development of skills and values. In addition, a review of the reporting of the scores of the primary school leaving examination is currently underway “to support a more holistic education for students … on equipping students with values, attributes, knowledge and skills for work and life in the 21st century.” (Heng, 2014a). Secondly, to create a more varied and colourful (secondary) school landscape to realize the vision that “every school a good school,” and thereby alleviate the parental pressure of getting their children admitted to schools with the best academic reputations, all (secondary) schools are being supported by the Ministry to develop distinctive and rich learning programmes through the Applied Learning Programmes (ALP) and Learning for Life Programmes (LLP). Many of these Learning Programmes are themselves focused on the development of students’ 21st century competencies. Third, the Direct (Secondary) School Admission scheme is being tweaked so that a greater range of non-academic attributes such as resilience, character and leadership are recognized and hence encouraged, and yet implemented without adding to the burden of assessment. Finally, the Ministry has re-aligned its school self-assessment and recognition scheme to reflect its desire to nurture “every school a good school.” The re-alignments have been made for the intent of “broadening our definitions of excellence” (Heng, 2014b), as well as to give schools “more space to design student-centric programmes … and to create distinctive schools, good in your own ways” (Heng, 2014b).

OECD measures financial literacy of students around the world

The OECD released the results of an exam that aimed to assess the financial literacy of students in Australia, Belgium (Flemish Community), Shanghai-China, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Israel, Italy, Latvia, New Zealand, Poland, Russia, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain and the United States. As we have done with other OECD test results, we conducted a search of international news reports on the results of this exam by country. Note that aside from the deluge of results from US media sources, Australia and New Zealand were two countries that reported extensively on the results  – with the Australian headlines distinctly contradictory. In general, much of the reporting focused on the fact that the majority of teenagers in the world don’t know enough about financial issues. The OECD noted that, similar to results on other OECD tests, student performance tends to fall along class lines, with “more socio-economically advantaged students scor[ing] much higher than less-advantaged students on average across participating OECD countries and economies.”

We also spoke with Anand Marri, Vice president and Head of Economic Education at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and Associate Professor at Teachers College Columbia University, about the results. He pointed out that the financial literacy of students likely reflects the financial literacy of teachers as well as other adults. Without a concerted effort to enable teachers to develop their financial literacy and to make financial literacy an explicit part of the curriculum, we should not expect many students to develop financial skills on their own. Yet in the United States, only 15 out of 50 states have graduation requirements related to personal literacy and the vast majority of social studies teachers have not taken more than one economics course. He also noted, as the OECD report pointed out, that financial literacy is highly correlated with performance in math and reading, but that it would be particularly interesting to know more about the teaching of financial literacy and the preparation of those who teach financial literacy in countries that score higher in financial literacy than their math and reading performance would predict (like Australia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, the Flemish Community of Belgium and New Zealand).

Australia 

Aus students lack financial literacy skills: OECD (www.ifa.com.au)

Disadvantaged youth have poor financial literacy – study (www.probonoaustralia.com.au)

Australian students get top marks for financial literacy (www.financialstandard.com.au)

Aussie teens show financial smarts (www.dailytelegraph.com.au)

Columbia

Columbian students last place Pisa financial literacy exam (www.colombiareports.co)

Central Eurpoe, Baltic countries:

Central European, Baltic Teens Score Well in OECD Financial Test (http://blogs.wsj.com)

Czech Republich

Czech teenagers rank sixth in international financial literacy survey (http://radio.cz/en)

Israel

Israeli teens get a failing grade for financial literacy (www.haaretz.com)

Italy

Italian teens can’t handle money: Report (www.thelocal.it)

Shanghai – China

Students in Shanghai score highest for financial literacy (Irish Times)  

Spain

Spanish 15-year-olds lack financial literacy proficiency (www.globalpost.com)

US

American Students score below average in financial literacy (www.forbes.com)

American teenagers outranked by Chinese in money smarts (www.cnn.com)

US Students fail to make the grade on financial literacy (www.time.com)

New Zealand  

Financial literacy depends on wealth (www.stuff.co.nz)

Pisa results shed the spotlight on financial literacy levels (http://www.scoop.co.nz)

Kiwi teens 5th best at managing money (www.3news.co.nz)

UK

Is the UK falling behind? OECD results underscore the importance of financial literacy for future growth (http://www.economicvoice.com)

 

The search for a more equitable education system in Chile

Recently, I spoke with Dr. Beatrice Avalos-Bevan, Associate Researcher at the Center for Advanced Research in Education, at the University of Chile, in order to follow-up on an earlier post about the recent reforms in Chile. In that post, we noted that reports on educational reforms in Chile made it seem that the country might be putting an end to private education. Diane Ravitch also commented on these reports and followed up with Mario Waissbluth. As we explained in our earlier post, while the country is not ending private education, President Michelle Bachelet aims to eliminate parental payments or co-funding of subsidized private schools and increase funding for all schools by implementing new education and tax reforms that would help pay for a more equitable education system.

In conversation with Dr. Avalos-Bevan, we spoke about the issues of educational inequality that have captured the attention of teachers and students, leading to the large and sometimes violent protests over the past decade. Beginning in 2006, protests were organized by secondary students during the first term of President Michelle Bachelet’s administration – a movement that came to be known as the “Penguin Revolution” (after the white shirts and dark jackets of students’ school uniforms). The protests became more numerous and violent during the following Sebastián Piñera administration. When Bachelet returned for a second term as President in 2014, she was elected on an education reform platform that was embraced by students and teachers, and she even brought some of the former student leaders in to work in her administration.

As Mario Waissbluth explained in our last post, the “first wave of legislation” was sent to Congress in May; however, students continue to be dissatisfied because initial actions did not consider as yet changes in the administration and improvement of municipal or public schools, although these have been announced for the second semester of this year. This has caused students and teachers to reconvene their street protests as a way to put pressure on the administration and call attention to their ongoing concerns this past June. Those protests ended with the use of tear gas on thousands of university students

School Funding and Student Protests

As Dr. Avalos-Bevan explained, in the current system there are public or municipal schools, subsidized private schools, and elite private schools. The concern over inequality stems from the fact that the subsidized private schools are able to collect money from the government while also charging tuition. As a result, these schools receive a level of funding that the public or municipal schools cannot attain. Over time, the student population attending public schools has been shrinking, as more families strive to place their children in well-resourced subsidized schools.

The student protests have honed in on school funding because the students personally experience the increasingly segregated school system and the differences in the quality of education provided by the public or municipal schools versus the subsidized private schools. They also pay attention to the country’s poor performance on international assessments, such as Pisa and TIMSS, and attribute it to the flaws they see in the system.

Dr. Avalos-Bevan explained that in order to create a more equitable system, all schools need to receive a higher amount of government funding. For this reason, President Bachelet has suggested increasing taxes by 3% of gross domestic product, and increasing the corporate tax rate to 25% (up from 20%). President Bachelet will also stop funding of current private subsidized schools that operate on a for-profit basis, making all subsidized primary and secondary education free, creating more universities and increasing kindergarten funding and pre-K institutions.

Quality and Teacher Education

Colegio de Profesores, the largest teachers’ union in Chile, joined the student effort and held a strike last month to protest President Bachelet’s reform efforts, which they say don’t go far enough to address the fundamental issues of inequality that plague Chilean schools. Despite what some have seen as indicators of significant reform, others are concerned that the process has not encouraged “adequate public participation in the bill-writing process.”

In addition to refining school funding in Chilean schools, Dr. Avalos-Bevan says that there is a similar problem with private universities and the teacher preparation programs they have created. In the years between 2004-2010, private colleges have increased and are now being criticized for what many identify as an increase in profits without sufficient evidence of quality education. These institutions are known to admit students to their teacher education programs with very low qualifications, who graduate without adequate skills. According to Dr. Avalos-Bevan, the government has created a test (the Prueba Inicia, or Start Test) that aims to assess the students’ content knowledge as they leave university, but the test is currently administered on a voluntary basis. Therefore, many teachers graduate without taking this assessment. Of the few who take this test, many perform poorly.

Despite this issue of teacher education, Dr. Avalos-Bevan believes the main problem has to do with teachers’ working conditions. Salaries are low compared with those who enter professions that require the same level of education (4-5 years), and 75% of a teacher’s contract time has to be spent teaching in the classroom (27 hours per week, which is the highest of all OECD countries, according to the latest TALIS survey), leaving little time for planning, grading, and meeting with other teachers. Dr. Avalos-Bevan would like to see the establishment of a teaching career, with specifications as to how teachers may progress, what kinds of salaries they may achieve, and paths for them to move into other positions in the education system. Currently, there is a strong civil society movement pushing for changes in this direction that expects to propose a plan for the President to consider.

Deirdre Faughey

TALIS Survey

“Most teachers work ‘largely in isolation’ and do not engage in the collaboration with colleagues that could make their teaching much more effective,” claims a report based on the latest Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS). TALIS questioned more than 100,000 lower-secondary teachers in 34 countries, and while the results have not drawn as much attention as the 2013 PISA results, media in several parts of the world have picked up on the release of the TALIS data.

Denmark, http://www.folkeskolen.dk/

Danish teachers have much less training than the rest of the OECD (link in Danish)

 France, Le Figaro

French teachers insufficiently trained and evaluated during their career (link in French) 

Italy, Il Giornale D’Italia

The older teachers? In Italy (link in Italian)

IsraelThe Jerusalem Post

Average Israeli middle school teacher is middle aged female, satisfied with job

“The average Israeli middle school teacher is a middle aged woman who is for the most part satisfied with her chosen profession, the National Authority for Measurement and Evaluation in Education said on Wednesday, citing the results of the Organizations for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Teaching and Learning International Survey.”

JapanThe Japan Times

Japanese teachers work longest hours among OECD members

“Japanese teachers work an average of 53.9 hours per week, the highest figure among the OECD’s 34 member countries. The figure for Japan was well above the average of 38.3 hours among OECD members, according to the Teaching and Learning International Survey, which Japan participated in for the first time.”

Malaysiawww.malaysiandigest.com (with video)

Malaysian Teachers Spend 29pc Of Their Time On Admin Work, Says Study

“Malaysian teachers only spend on average 71 per cent of their working time on actual teaching and learning, while the rest of their time is occupied by administrative tasks and keeping order in the classroom.In comparison, the average teaching and learning time of the 33 countries surveyed in the global poll Teaching and Learning International Survey (Talis) 2013 was 78.7 per cent.”

Mexico, http://www.am.com.mx

Mexico designated by violence in secondary (link in Spanish)

Netherlands, http://www.nltimes.nl

Teachers happier in NL than elsewhere

“Results revealed that on average, Dutch teachers are happy with their work and more satisfied then the majority of their foreign colleagues. In The Netherlands, teachers take five hours for weekly class preparation, compared to an international average of seven. TALIS also found high levels of teaching co-operation occurring the The Netherlands, with over 50% of principles reporting that they rarely need to take steps to support co-operation. Dutch teachers were also reported to actively take extra training to improve in their field, and enjoy high levels of job growth.”

Poland, The News/Polskie Radio (audio clip)

TALIS report shows Polish teachers have excellent education but lack competences required by present day school challenges.

Singapore, Channel News Asia

Teachers in Singapore are the youngest, but among the best-trained worldwide: Survey

“Singapore has the youngest teaching force among the countries surveyed, with an average age of 36 – seven years below the global average is 43, according to TALIS. ‘We have a relatively younger teaching force due to the significant increase in the number of teachers in recent years. The younger teachers complement the depth and expertise of more experienced teachers who continue to be valued, and who provide professional support and mentoring for the Beginning Teachers,’ the Ministry of Education said in a statement.”

Spain, Libertad Digital

Why are Spanish teachers rated so poorly? (link in Spanish)

SwedenThe Local

Swedish teachers feel least valued: OECD

“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.”

UK, Education Media Centre

OECD TALIS authors comment on the experience of England’s teachers (audio)