Category Archives: Newspaper Articles

Links to newspaper articles about international educational issues.

Scanning the Globe: Access, Protests, and PISA 2012

A quick review of the headlines on education and educational policy we’ve seen from around the world over the last few weeks reveals continuing concerns about issues of access and financing in both developed and developing countries.  Australian Teacher Magazine reported on concerns about the extent to which the current Australian government will support the previously approved “Gonski” reforms, and Education International raised questions about a bill that will introduce an income cap to Japan’s tuition-free program for public high schools. An article in The Hindu described how school cancellations caused by excessive holidays and weather can interfere with the requirements for increased instructional time in India’s Right to Education Act. Euronews reported on the difficulties that students in countries like Uganda, Kenya, and Mexico face just getting to school.

Protests over the past few weeks included those over conditions for education and support for educators in the Ukraine that took place as part of the demonstrations against the government’s efforts to delay an association agreement with Europe; rallies against education cuts in Spain; and protests by students at the University of Copenhagen in response to a working paper from the University administration describing proposals designed to get students to complete their courses on time.

But the big news, at least for a moment, was OECD’s release of the 2012 PISA results including overviews, country-specific notes, full reports and data.  We pulled together headlines from around the world, many of which labeled the results “bad news,” except in countries like Lichtenstein, Poland, Estonia and the usual high-performing Asian countries and portions of countries (like Shanghai).  Alexander Russo rounded-up the responses in the United States and The Times Education Supplement put together their own list of news and opinion.

Concerns about the orchestration of the announcement and the media blitz surrounding it were raised on both sides of the Atlantic, by Paul Morris on the Institute of London Blog as well as Richard Rothstein and Martin Carnoy from the Economic Policy Institute in the US. While Marc Tucker and Tom Friedman agreed on some of the multiple factors that might contribute to Shanghai’s success, Adam MinterJunheng Li, and Diane Ravitch pointed to some of the problems and concerns about the Chinese education system expressed both inside and outside China (as well with some of the concerns about vast numbers of students in Shanghai who are unrepresented in the PISA tests).

Although slipping a bit in math, Finland – along with several other European high-performers like Estonia (discussed by Pasi Sahlberg), Poland (discussed by Amanda Ripley), and Liechtenstein – still serves as a focus for some examinations of the ingredients of a successful education system. Given the domination of the rankings by the Asian high-performers however, some of the main story lines for the next few years seem to be set. On the one hand, stories about success on PISA will highlight how hard students’ work and the amount of time students spend on schoolwork while mentioning concerns about the amount of pressure on students and the need to support the development of higher-order skills. (See for example, reports from the BBC about South Korea and a report in the Japan News that credits Japan’s strong performance on PISA 2012 in part to a decision by the Japanese Ministry to back-off a commitment to “pressure-free” education and an increase in the volume of study content and the number of class hours). On the other hand, others will continue to point to the many issues of inequality and the social and economic factors that play into these results and other comparisons (see for example stories from France, and the US; while it does not focus on PISA, a recent article from the Asia Pacific Journal of Education explores the inequitable distribution resources across schools in South Korea).

Pisa 2012 headlines from around the world

The release of the Pisa 2012 rankings produced a flood of headlines around the world, many of them noting what was seen as bad news (except in many parts of Asia). Below, we provide a list of headlines from around the world that we put together based on a quick, unsystematic scan of mostly English-language publications:

Asia

Australia, News.com.au

PISA report finds Australian teenagers education worse than 10 years ago
“AUSTRALIAN teenagers’ reading and maths skills have fallen so far in a decade that nearly half lack basic maths skills and a third are practically illiterate.”

China, China Daily

Asia tops OECD’s latest education survey

“Asia outperformed the rest of the world in the latest Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) survey published on Tuesday by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).”

Hong Kong, South China Morning Post

Shanghai teens still world’s best at reading, maths, science in Pisa survey

“Mainland city’s 15-year-olds the best at reading, maths and science, global survey finds, but HK youngsters are snapping at their heels.”

Japan, The Japan Times

Nation’s kids top fields in PISA test

“For the first time ever, Japanese 15-year-olds topped the list in reading and science performance in an international academic survey last year covering 34 developed countries, according to data released Tuesday by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.”

South Korea, The Korea Herald

Korea tops OECD in math proficiency

“The performance of Korean students proves the country’s established education system and also strong zeal for education, according to the Korea Institute for Curriculum and Evaluation.”

Malaysia, malay mail

PISA: Malaysia up in maths, down in science and reading

Malaysian students scored higher in mathematics but registered declines in both reading ability and science, according to the latest Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) survey released today.

New ZealandNew Zealand Herald

Significant drops in NZ educational achievement – OECD report

“New Zealand educational achievement has dropped significantly in the core subjects of science, maths and reading, according to a OECD report.”

Singapore, Channel NewsAsia

S’pore edges up in PISA rankings as weaker students improve

“An international study of 15-year-olds’ mathematics, science and reading skills shows Singapore has made progress when it comes to helping weaker students level up to their peers.”

 

Europe

Finland, Yle.fi

Finnish pupils’ PISA results decline

“As expected, Finland has dropped in the OECD’s comparison of test results from 15-year-old pupils in 65 countries and regions. It placed 12th in mathematics, which was the main theme this year. However Finland ranked best in Europe in the other two categories: reading and science.”

France, Rfi.fr

French falling behind in maths says Pisa global education survey

“A global education survey released today showed that France has dropped to an average position in international maths tests and needs to improve educational results for immigrants and the poor.”

Germany, The Local

Germans improve Pisa education results

“German schoolchildren are improving in international comparisons, inching up the Pisa scale but still remain behind not only education giants such as Singapore and Hong Kong, but also Switzerland and the Netherlands.”

Liechtenstein, The Telegraph

OECD education report: Liechtenstein uses tiny classes and a specially-tailored maths programme to beat the competition

“With teachers on up to 130,000 euros per year, classrooms rarely over 15 pupils, and lucrative banking, hi-tech or industry jobs up for grabs, motivation is high”

Norway, The Nordic Page

Norway Left Behind Denmark and Finland in New PISA Survey

“Norwegian students have demonstrated the worst performance in math and science since 2009, but they are better in reading, shows OECD’s PISA survey.”

Spain, El País

No improvement in math, but Spanish students edge up in reading and science

“OECD’s latest Pisa global education survey places Spain slightly below average”

UK, The Guardian

UK students stuck in educational doldrums, OECD study finds

Influential Pisa report says Britain’s mid-table position is virtually unchanged from 2009 as attainment gap persists”

 

North & South America

Argentina, Infobae (via Google Translate)

Argentina deepens the decline in its educational quality

the international survey ranked “the country 59th among 65 nations. Seven out of 10 young people got the lowest grade in math.”

Brazil, Jornal do Brasil (via Google Translate)

Despite advances in education, Brazil occupies the lowest position Pisa

“Brazil is still in the lower levels of the ranking. Among the 65 countries compared, Brazil ranked 58th. However, since 2003, Brazil has the biggest gains in performance in mathematics, out of the 356 points that year and reaching 391 points in 2012, according to data released on Tuesday.”

Canada, The Globe and Mail

Canada’s fall in math-education ranking sets off alarm bells

“Canada has dropped out of the top 10 in international math education standings, a decline that is raising alarms about the country’s future prosperity.”

Chile, La Tercera (via Google Translate)

Chile rose two points in math, but their results stagnate

“The country scored 423 points, while the OECD countries averaged 71 more. School of Shanghai achieved 613 points. Since 2006, Chile has increased every year 1.9 results in Mathematics. Since 2000, the rise in Reading has been three points.”

United States, This Week in Education

Vietnam wins! (Pisa 2013)

(Alexander Russo’s roundup of headlines and stories about PISA 2013 from around the US)

Age of school entry in the UK, Poland, Germany and Switzerland

AFP-JIJI

AFP-JIJI

At what age should children begin school? Over the past month, reports from the UK, Poland, Switzerland, and Germany, have shown that each country is considering, and in some cases implementing, changes in age of school entry.

In the UK, The Guardian cited Sally Morgan, the head of Ofsted, who believes children should be allowed to attend school from as young as two in order to establish a new type of “all-through” educational model that educates children from the ages of two or three up to age 18. It is a move that would, according to Morgan, help to close the gap between affluent and disadvantaged students. In contrast, The Telegraph and The New Scientist have both published reports that show the perspective of those who think students would be better off if compulsory education was delayed until the age of 7 years old, due to the belief that early education is too focused on the three-Rs, causing “profound damage” to children. While this topic has long been debated, the issue was reignited when 130 early childhood education experts signed a letter calling for an “extension of informal, play-based preschool provision and for the start of formal schooling in England to be delayed until the age of 7, from the current effective start at age 4.”

In Poland, tvm24.com reported on a narrow referendum vote (232 against, 222 in favor) on the age children should be obliged to start school. The vote followed weeks of debate over whether the education infrastructure is ready to handle the increased number of pupils when the age children are required to start school is reduced from seven to six-years of age over the next two years. Parents protested the vote.

In the World section of The Japan Times it is reported that 6% of children in Germany who started school in 2011-2012 had postponed entry, while some 3.8% were “early starters.” This article explains that fifteen years ago the country “sought to bring forward the age that children begin school to the calendar year in which they turn 6, to be more in tune with other European countries and due to a pressing labor force shortage. A year was also sliced off high school in many places.” At the time, the call for change did not consider parental objections, which ultimately prevented the plan from moving forward.

In Switzerland, the country enacted a plan called HarmoS in 2009 to ensure a nationwide set of rules to provide students with a “fairer educational start.” This plan went into effect in 2009, but cantons (or states) have six years to implement it. Genevalunch.com reports that Canton Vales, and in particular its right-wing UDC (People’s Party) political group (which considers that it defends family rights and has been one of the last holdouts to the national plan) voted to allow children to start school at the age of 4. The change means that students will be starting school one, and in some cases two, years earlier than in the past.

Inclusive education in Denmark and China

Recent articles from www.dr.dk and The New York Times, describe recent moves toward more inclusive education policies in Denmark and China.

In Denmark, the policy aims to include students with behavioral and learning difficulties in public primary and lower-secondary schools. 10,000 children are expected to be transferred to standard schools by 2015. The Danish Union of Teachers supports the idea, but is concerned that schools don’t have the necessary resources and support; parents are concerned that teachers are not trained to teach in inclusive classrooms.

China gave disabled citizens the right to attend mainstream schools in 2008. According to the New York Times article, in September 2012, about 8,700 disabled children began school in Beijing, with about 5,700 going to mainstream schools and nearly 3,000 to special schools. As in Denmark, parents have, in some cases, objected to the inclusion of disabled children in class. Experts have called for more trained therapists in schools, and a loosening of bureaucratic and political control to allow specialists with “on-the-ground” experience to be in charge.

Denmark

Denmark’s latest education reforms require that both teachers and students spend more time in school, but what is the plan for how that time will be spent? A recent news report describes that it is the conservative Danish People Party’s view that in order to address a disparity between the number of students studying at the general upper secondary schools and the needs of the Danish job market, the government should limit the enrollment to upper secondary schools and increase the number of students studying at vocational and commercial schools. The ruling government, for it’s part, has developed a plan that focuses on ” improved academic standards, increased professional standards of teachers, principals and other pedagogical staff and clear objectives and increased local independence for the development of the public school.”

This follows reforms proposed in Norway earlier this year, which sought to review the practicality of the curriculum and explore how vocational education could better meet the needs of that country’s job market.

Teacher evaluation at the heart of protests over Mexico education reforms

Omar Torres/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Omar Torres/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

As reported in The New York Times yesterday, teachers took to the streets of Mexico City to protest the country’s education overhaul program.   The teachers occupied public spaces, blocked access to hotels and the airport, and warned of greater mobilization in coming days. They are protesting the fact that the coming education reforms promise to weed out underperforming teachers, raise hiring standards, and weaken the union. Prior demonstrations have already succeeded in pushing lawmakers to forego an evaluation requirement aimed at halting the practice of buying and selling teaching jobs. According to the article, “Teachers buy, sell or inherit positions as though they were family heirlooms. Removing poorly performing teachers is virtually impossible, even over allegations of sexual or substance abuse.”  The new law would make teacher evaluations obligatory every four years.

see prior IEN reports:

Mexico Approves Massive Education Reform

Reforms in India and Mexico in the Journal of Educational Change

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

Addressing teacher quality in Australia and India

Reports over the past month show that Australia and India are countries are implementing new policies to address teacher quality, albeit with two distinctly different approaches.

In Australia, principals will be given the power to address teacher behavior as part of an $150 million reform effort to improve the quality of teaching. Education Minister Adrian Piccoli described it to the AAP as “more like a private sector approach to performance management….It’s going to be a fair process but a tougher process than what exists already.” Teachers who fail to meet the new standards of conduct could be released, demoted, fined or cautioned. Additional reforms include salaries based on meeting standards rather than employment length.

In India, the government has adopted a three-pronged strategy to improve teacher quality, which includes (i) the strengthening of Teacher Education Institutions, (ii) the revision of curriculum for teacher education in accordance with the National Curriculum Framework for Teacher Education 2009 and (iii) the laying down of minimum qualifications for Teacher Educators and their continuous professional development.

In Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of the Indian state of Kerala, the District Institute of Education and Training (DIET) will embark on a three-month study to analyze how classroom practices correspond to the prescribed curriculum of the district’s primary schools.  As Mohammed Kabir, a DIET official, explained to The Hindu, “There is an increasing need to analyze the problems faced by practicing teachers to get a complete picture. Sometimes, teachers follow textbook-based teaching while the curriculum mandates on activity-based learning. This might be out of habit or due to lack of understanding about the methodology. Here, teachers can open up on the problems they face in adapting to the methods”, said Mohammed Kabir, a DIET official.

Austria

Austria’s Families spend 118 Million Euros a Year on Tuition

by Walter Müller, derStandard (June 25, 2013)

*Original article in German

On average, Austrian families pay more than 600 euros per year in tuition. Extrapolated from the data of 2,901 surveyed parents, a total of 118 million euros are paid for tutoring. About half of surveyed parents feel “very strong” or at least “noticeable” financial stress caused by the cost of tuition. This relates specifically to socially and financially disadvantaged households, if paid tuition is affordable at all. But the high tuition costs are only part of the problem. More than three-quarters of the respondents answered that they need to learn regularly with their children at home. Six out of ten parents do generally find it hard to help the children with their homework and check their knowledge on tests or homework. Education expert Bernd Schilcher explains that the issue of tuition is “basically a scandal.” The reason why high sums need to be raised by the families for private tuition in Austria lies, according Schilcher in the “too-short school days.” Austrian students spend 180 days a year, which Schilcher believes is not enough time. He believes that a new school system with instruction and exercises in the afternoon would cut the need for tutoring in half.

For more information:

Survey: Luxury Private Tutoring

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.

South Korea

Controversy over abolition of NEAT English test among high school teachers

by DoKyoung Lee, Kookmin Ilbo (June 21, 2013)

*link in Korean

As part of a new university entrance system, NEAT (National English Ability Test) faces abolition even before its introduction as errors have been revealed in the electronic data processing system. Invested with 30 billion won (US$ 26 million), NEAT was designed to aim for practical and effective English education, an escape from traditional grammar drill training, and will replace the existing English exam starting in 2015; however, this date has been pushed back 2019 due unprepared school teachers and students, and concerns about the possibility of increasing private education expenses. While there are conflicting opinions on the issue among the schoolteachers who prepare students for this exam, the Ministry of Education has avoided further comment after mentioning that they will indicate their plan for NEAT when they make an announcement for new policies of revised university entrance system in coming August.

For more information:

Homegrown English tests in trouble