Category Archives: Government Reports

Links to government reports about educational issues from countries throughout the globe.

Educational Testing in China, France, and Singapore

Reports in news publications focusing on Singapore, China, and France, show that prominent educational researchers and politicians are raising questions about educational testing, and even introducing reforms that drastically alter the testing landscape.  * Links are embedded as hyperlinks below.

China

According to a new document released by China’s Ministry of Education, the efforts of various education reform efforts over the past few decades has had no impact on China’s “tendency to evaluate education quality based simply on student test scores and school admissions rates.” In order to address the problems brought about by high-stakes testing, the Ministry of Education is taking steps to implement more serious reforms to change how schools are evaluated. Their new evaluation framework, which is called “Green Evaluation,” will end the use of test scores as the only measure of education quality and focus on five new indicators: moral development, academic development, psychological and physical health, development of interests and unique talents, and academic burdens.

France

Ed Alcock for The New York Times

Ed Alcock for The New York Times

As The New York Times recently reported in their article, “Rite of Passage for French Students Receives Poor Grade,” criticism of the baccalauréat in France is building. The weeklong national test is “better known simply as the ‘bac,’ the exhaustive finishing exam that has racked the nerves of France’s students since the time of Napoleon.” It is the “sole element considered in the awarding of high school diplomas,” but many critics such as Emmanuel Davidenkoff, the editor of the education magazine L’Étudiant, say the test does not evaluate the most relevant of students’ capabilities. “In France,” he says, “we evaluate essentially only hard knowledge, not all abilities.” The center-left government wants to reform the national school system, but is focused on primary schools. Education Minister Vincent Peillon believes that the tests will evolve as the country continues to reflect on it.

Singapore

Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond

Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond

The Sunday Times reported on a recent visit from Professor Linda Darling-Hammond of Stanford University, who was recently appointed a Visiting Professor to the National Institute of Education in Singapore. Darling-Hammond shared her impressions of the Primary School Leaving Exam (PSLE) on a visit to the country earlier this month. On the one hand, the examination system in general earned her praise as it places an emphasis on the testing of higher order thinking skills such as application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation. On the other hand, Darling-Hammond has reservations on how the results of a examinations taken at a particular stage (12 year olds) are used to determine the academic future of the children. She is of the opinion that a broader range of modes of assessment be used, including, for example, interviews and portfolios. While the latter approach is “less tidy … more time consuming,” positive results could be yielded from such a broader approach to testing.

Singapore

New tool to help chart students’ social, emotional progress

by Ng Jing Yng, Channel News Asia  (June 13, 2013)

In line with the Singapore Ministry of Education’s efforts to implement a student-centred, values-based holistic education, it has put out a tender for vendors to develop an on-line tool to for students’ self-reporting of their socio-emotional competencies. The five areas of socio-emotional competencies to be measured are self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship management and responsible decision-making. Teachers who were interviewed said that in order for the tool to be useful, the questions needed to be well-researched in order for them to yield meaningful findings about the child.

For more information:

Social and Emotional Learning (MOE)

Scan of Ed News: University Rankings, Curriculum, and Teacher Training

(links are embedded as hyperlinks)International-Travel-Agency-262545-262545-1so

Beyond the issues of protests, unions, and funding, which were highlighted in the first part of this monthly scan, part II brings together links to a number of recent articles and reports that touch on the kinds of issues raised by the latest Academic Reputation Survey.

Academic Reputation Survey

Each year, Times Higher Education and Thomson Reuters sends an email to thousands of academics worldwide inviting them to participate in the annual Academic Reputation Survey, which aims to gain insight on the reputations of academic institutions within the academic community. While this method of ranking has been controversial, education news reports show that many countries take these rankings very seriously, making improvements to their education systems that they hope will elevate their national reputation on a global scale.

In their effort to produce the most college-ready students in the world, many countries are focused inward on issues such as language and curriculum, teacher training and evaluation, and school accountability, while also paying close attention to competitive outward measures.

Language Requirements in Higher Education

Of the top 20 schools, the only one from a non-English-speaking country is Japan’s University of Tokyo; all other schools are located in the US, the UK, Australia or Canada. Since 2006, Prime Minister Abe’s has focused on fostering “global talent to reverse the nation’s declining competitiveness on the world stage,” an effort that has led him to target English-language studies as an area of improvement. His plan would mandate that people reach certain scores on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) to gain college admission, graduation, and to qualify for government jobs.

Seen in Beijing, a T-shirt mocking poorly spoken English. Photo: AFP

Seen in Beijing, a T-shirt mocking poorly spoken English. Photo: AFP

Meanwhile, in China, a 2010 survey showed 80% of people polled agreed that there is a language crisis. “Because students devote more effort into passing English tests, they spend less time studying for courses for their major, dealing a ‘heavy blow’ to overall education,” said Zhang Shuhua, head of the Intelligence Research Academy. In March, some of China’s top universities dropped the requirement of an English test as part of their recruitment exams, yet over 40,000 Chinese students poured into Hong Kong to take the SAT exam, and the best are opting to study at foreign universities. This “brain drain” is a trend the leadership is seeking to reverse.

Similarly, Russia will begin testing foreign migrants in the Russian language and establish a “universal history textbook,” a fact that has many concerned. Education Minister Livanov said, “A history manual must not interpret events, but list a sequence of historical facts,” and indicated that it will be the teacher’s job to assess the facts and the logic behind them.

Teacher Training and Evaluation

REPORT CARD: While most schools have adequate numbers of classrooms, separate toilet facilities for girls and boys, the availability of playground, school ramp, kitchen shed and boundary wall remains a major challenge in many States. Photo: K.R. Deepak

REPORT CARD: While most schools have adequate numbers of classrooms, separate toilet facilities for girls and boys, the availability of playground, school ramp, kitchen shed and boundary wall remains a major challenge in many States. Photo: K.R. Deepak

In India, low test scores on basic math and literacy assessments have led to calls for a higher standard for teacher training. Yet, private schools, which many feel provide a superior education, do not offer their teachers the same level of training. According to child rights activist Vasudev Sharma, the disparity in teacher training “is one of the major differences between private and government schools,” yet parents continue to rely on the reputation of private schools.

In a similar move to raise the bar for teachers, Australia will require all future teachers to score in the top 30% of a literacy and numeracy test, and Scotland will require that teachers become content area specialists as well as pedagogues. Yet, as we have seen in Guatemala, efforts to enforce higher standards for teachers leads to concerns about exclusion. Ireland is pushing back against this notion. According to Education Minister Quinn, “a diverse society needs a diversity of teachers, not a ‘one size fits all’ approach which ‘streamlines a particular cohort into teaching’.” At the International Summit on the Teaching ProfessionJohn Bangs went a step further, stating that “a national teacher appraisal scheme is not essential to an education system’s success…. For appraisal to work, therefore, it must be valued by teachers and be seen as a welcome addition to their professional lives.” We have seen further examples of this notion in recent research conducted in Korea, Mexico, and India.

Data Manipulation

Phil Baty, Times Higher Education

Phil Baty, Times Higher Education

While teachers might struggle to see evaluations as essential to an educational system’s success, universities seem to have accepted the importance of the international ranking systems – so much so that they will go to extreme lengths. In response to the University of Cork’s recent attempt to manipulate the data, Phil Baty, editor of the international rankings of Times Higher Education, explained, “Global university rankings have become phenomenally influential in recent years – not only helping students to decide where to invest many thousands of dollars in tuition fees, but also in helping university leaders shape strategies and in helping governments to make multimillion-dollar funding decisions in some parts of the world.” Additionally, as seen in another recent example of educators manipulating data in the US, intense pressure to be successful within systems that value strict measures of evaluation can also lead to unintended outcomes.

Scan of Ed News: Protests, Unions, and Educational Funding

(links to articles are embedded as hyperlinks)International-Travel-Agency-262545-262545-1so

This month’s scan of recent educational research and news reveals a number of inter-connected issues that are arising in different places around the world.  In part one of this month’s scan, we highlight teacher and student protests, the role of teacher unions, and the uses of educational funding. Part II, which will appear later this week, will share reporting on issues of curriculum, testing, teacher and school evaluations, and higher education.

Teacher and Student Protests:

Ongoing protests highlight a globalized concern surrounding the issue of access to high quality education. Student protests in countries such as Portugal, Chile, Bulgaria, and Spain, focus on changing the system in ways that allow greater opportunity for access, while teacher protests Spain, Greece, and France, aim to preserve an established system now threatened by austerity measures. These protests highlight issues dominant in global news reports in recent weeks, such as the role of teacher unions and educational funding.

The Role of Teacher Unions in Ed Reform: Mexico and South Korea

The Hankyoreh

Korea Teachers and Education Workers’ Union (KTU), The Hankyoreh

Mexico recently witnessed the arrest of Elba Esther Gordillo, long-time president of Mexico’s teachers’ union. Charged with organized crime, Ms. Gordillo’s arrest was widely seen as a boon to education reformists and government officials because it called into question the integrity of unions and provided an example of the disruption of “business-as-usual,” at a time when the government is imposing drastic new reformsUnion leaders say these reforms will lead to students having no guarantee of free public schooling; however, the arrest of Gordillo highlights Mexico’s struggle with corruption, seen by many to be the main prohibitor of change. Two recent studies published by the Asia Pacific Journal of Education, found that school reformers should be “advised to rethink the school change model design in a way of fully capturing human aspects in the reform process.” Nevertheless, we can see direct examples of government threats against unions in South Korea, where teachers are now fighting against government efforts to withdraw recognition of the teachers’ union, and in South Africa, where politicians and lawyers are fighting to have education declared an “essential service,” a move that would make it illegal for teachers to go on strike.

Educational Funding:

While most student protests demand affordable higher education, many governments are focused on providing free education to children of all ages. One example is India, where the Karnataka High Court has declared that all private school students between six and 14 years of age are eligible for free education, not just those from poor families gaining admission under a 25% quota fixed by the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act. However, it is also interesting to note that India’s private schools are expanding and raising their tuition rates. According to L.R. Shivarame Gowda, chairperson of the Joint Action Committee of Private Schools, tuition hikes are necessary for providing quality education: “The numbers of private schools in the city are multiplying, so schools need to provide better facilities to keep in pace with the development and retain students.”  In Japan, the issue of educational funding has become more political, as the government has decided to deny North Korean schools access to their tuition-free program. Education Minister Shimomura presented his view that schools under the influence of the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan conflict with the Fundamental Law of Education which calls for education free from any undue political influence. As reported in the International Review of Education, China’s private universities offer an example of institutions that struggle financially, yet provide the people with alternatives that might ultimately allow more students to benefit from the advantages of higher education; however, China also provides an example of how funding alone might not provide children with the education they deserve. The country’s system of residential registers favors those who live in big cities – a holdover from the era of a planned economy, originally used as the basis for rationing of food and other necessities – is fast developing into a serious social issue.

The Hindu

The Hindu


Singapore

14295425_0The Singapore Ministry of Education has been surveying educators and parents about their concerns with the Singapore education system. The results reveal worries about a perceived over-emphasis on exams and grades that contribute to a high stress education system that overlooks non-academic talents. Additional concerns include anxiety about declining social mobility and rates of inclusion due to disparities in access to education that favors privileged children who can afford tuition.

In response to these kinds of concerns, the Ministry of Education has launched initiatives aimed at strengthening efforts to help every student succeed by:

  • building a strong foundation in literacy and numeracy, from the kindergarten level to secondary level. For the primary and secondary school levels, the existing Learning Suppport Programme for Primary 1 and Primary 2 students will be extended through all 6 years of primary education and even to secondary level.
  • providing teachers with professional development opportunities to learn clear research-based principles to reach out to “low-progress learners.” These measures will help ensure that all students benefit from the best opportunities in education regardless of their background and pace of development.
  • piloting 15 kindergartens in working class neighborhoods in Singapore and providing further support to the pre-school sector, which the MOE has traditionally not been overseeing.
  • expanding support for students with special needs by providing additional post-diagnosis services for parents, streamlining the application and enrollment process for special education schools, and increasing funding for low-income students with special needs.

For more information:

More help in Math, English for weaker students

Helping every student succeed (MOE)

Get back to basics of education: Heng Swee Keat

More support for students with special needs (MOE)

Exams and streaming: Recalibrating our education system (commentary)

Japan

Report on Problematic Behaviors of Public School Students

The Ministry of Education (March 13, 2013)

 

Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology: Japan

Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology: Japan

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) in Japan published an updated version of a national survey, titled “Problematic Behaviors of Public School Students (1-12).”  According to the survey, violence against peers and teachers in schools decreased across all grade levels. The number of truant students decreased by 2,000 in elementary and junior high school compared to last year; however, the number of truant students increased by 600 at the high school level. In addition, the number of 1- 12 grade students who committed suicide was 202. This is a 29.5% increase compared to last year. The survey follows a report last month from the National Police Agency that revealed the number of bullying incidents reported in 2012 more than doubled to 260 from the year before. The report also showed that 511 students were arrested or taken into custody in 2012.  A special commission on education reform is expected to address these issues by recommending, among other things, that “moral education” be made a regular subject.

For more information:

Japanese City Takes on Bullies

Harumafuji saddened by bullying incidents

Japan

5,274 Teachers Took A Leave From Work Due to Mental Health Reasons

Nikkei Shinbun (December 24, 2012)

*Link in Japanese

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) reported that the number of public school teachers who took a leave from their schools due to mental health reasons in year 2011 was 5,274. While this number is down 2.4% since 2010, the number is still twice as many compared to 10 years ago. The main reason for the increasing depression is a decrease in a healthy work-life balance.To improve the working environment for teachers, the ministry proposed two plans. One is to assign experienced teachers to new teachers as mentors. The second is to implement training programs for returning teachers, who took a leave from their work, to facilitate their re-entry.

For more information:

Depression, mental illness among Japan’s public school teachers increasing

Teachers too busy to deal with struggling students