Tag Archives: Educational Policy

What’s Changing Post-COVID in Finland, New Zealand, and South Africa?

This week, IEN’s Correne Reyes takes a look at how education policies and initiatives have evolved post-COVID in two relatively “high-performing” education systems — Finland and New Zealand — and in a developing education system — South Africa.

Around the world, COVID school closures led to enrollment drops and concerns about health and safety that education systems like South Africa continue to confront. Meanwhile, systems like Finland and New Zealand appear to have dealt with those initial issues and are now tackling challenges like the emotional toll resulting from the pandemic.

According to The Conversation, in South Africa “Although improving, the achievement outcomes are still low, fragile and susceptible to shocks. The COVID-19 pandemic has dealt the education system a major blow, especially for poor and vulnerable learners.” As one example, South Africa reported a 30,000 student enrollment deficit in Grades R and Grade 1 due to the lockdown. With extended school shutdowns in July 2020 and January 2021, 9 million students faced hunger and malnutrition since they rely on school meals for their daily nutrition. Furthermore, only 22% of households have a computer and 10% have an internet connection, limiting remote options. Inequitable internet access means that is primarily students from wealthier communities with better resourced schools who have been able to continue their learning during the school closures. Despite these challenges, the South African government announced a plan to reduce the education budget over the next three years with a cut of over 4% for this financial year, which is likely to lead to further inequity.

“Although improving, the achievement outcomes are still low, fragile and susceptible to shocks. The COVID-19 pandemic has dealth the education system a major blow, especially for poor and vulnerable learners.”

Although Finland and New Zealand continued to experience some school closures, they have been able to turn their focus in policymaking to the health and wellbeing of their students and to rebuilding their foreign student numbers.

In terms of health and emotional support, New Zealand announced an investment of $75.8 million in their newest education wellbeing package to tackle the mental health that have arisen due to COVID-19. For the first time, primary and secondary schools will have “greater access to guidance counselors and counseling support services.” Additionally, Finland’s recent government proposal requested that “both comprehensive and upper secondary schools must have at least one social worker per 670 pupils / students and one school psychologist per 780 pupils / students.” This ratio would ensure more equal access and quality of health services in different parts of Finland. Finland suggests this would “promote the extension of compulsory education, improve opportunities to tackle bullying and also help to fill learning and well-being gaps caused by the corona.”

“New Zealand announced an investment of $75.8 million in their newest education wellbeing package to tackle the mental health and wellbeing issues that have arisen due to COVID-19.”

In both New Zealand and Finland, pandemic-related concerns have also shifted to address the loss of international students. Before the pandemic, international education in New Zealand was the fifth largest export industry, amounting to about $5 billion dollars a year. However, with the pandemic, and a 62% drop in related income from the decline in international students, experts predict it may take 10 years for the industry to recover. Education New Zealand chair, Steve Maharey, recognized that New Zealand was too dependent on China and India for students and the industry needed to diversify. To address the same issue, the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs has prepared the D visa, a bill that would allow third-country researchers, students and their family members the possibility to obtain a Finnish long-term visa, in hopes to promote education and work based migration.

No surprise? Predictions for education in 2022 include hopes for attention to student engagement, well-being, and climate change

Following last week’s scan of education stories that look back at 2021, this week, Thomas Hatch pulls together some of the articles that make predictions for education in 2022.

Echoing the hope and despair in the stories reflecting on 2021, many of the predictions for education in 2022 highlight continuing concerns about learning loss, stress and anxiety, as well as hopes for addressing student engagement, well-being, and climate change.  Thomas Arnett captured the conflicting sentiments, writing: 

In most places, fighting the current fires in conventional schools will suck up most of the oxygen in the room. Nonetheless, my hope for 2022 is that among the roughly 13,000 school systems in our country, there will be a substantial subset that launch new versions of schooling that five to ten years from now will prove that they offer exactly what many students need. — From How will 2022 reshape K-12 education?

The US & Around the World

61 predictions about edtech, equity, and learning in 2022World News Era

61 predictions about edtech, equity, and learning in 2022

Top education predictions for 2022: ‘Need for trained teachers to increase’, say expertsIndia Today

8 K-12 trends to watch in 2022: Fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, ongoing policy pingpong, curricular controversy and more are set to impact schools this year,  K-12 Dive

3 Big Education Wishes for 2022 (focusing on personalization, grace, and renewing the Every Student Succeeds Act), Michael Horn & Diane Tavener, Class Disrupted (podcast)

What’s in store for K-12 schools in 2022?

Could we see a mass exodus of teachers fed up with educating through a pandemic? How might two years of learning in a pandemic impact test scores? Will Universal Pre-K ever become a reality?

What’s in store for K-12 schools in 2022? Class Dismissed

9 mostly pessimistic 2022 education predictions for 2022 – From a teacher, Larry Ferlazzo, Answer Sheet (Washington Post)

4 educator trends going into 2022, Abbas Manjee, SmartBrief

Five 2021 education stories that will continue to matter in 2022, Yasmine Askari,  MinnPost

 Trends Shaping Education in 2022, Tom Vander Ark, Getting Smart

Education Technology 

13 Predictions for K–12 and Technology in 2022THEJournal

Five Ed Tech Trends To Look Out For In 2022, Nick Morrison, Forbes

Pandemic Gave Teachers New Insight into Ed Tech. Now, it May Be the Next Big Thing in 2022 — and Beyond,

[W]hile some districts are still spending stimulus money just to spend it instead of taking the time to research and evaluate their options, most have a better understanding of technology than they did before COVID-19 struck and are demanding information about the tools students use. 

Pandemic Gave Teachers New Insight into Ed Tech, Tim Newcomb, The74

Special Education

Two key predictions around special education for 2022The Hill

Higher Education

7 higher education trends to watch in 2022Higher Ed Dive

US Education Policy

What education policy experts are watching for in 2022Brookings

Albany 101: Here are the big NYC education issues to watch in the new legislative sessionChalkbeat

California education issues to watch in 2022 — and predictions of what will happenEdSource

Hope and Despair? Scanning Education Stories that look back at 2021

This week, Thomas Hatch pulls together some of the blog posts and news stories that look back at 2021. Next week: A roundup of predictions for 2022.

Schools Week in the UK summed up what many may have been feeling, declaring “The year a return to normal only got further away” while US News & World Report looked for a silver lining, exploring “How 2021 set the the stage for a seismic overhaul of education.” For my own part, I tried to both look back and look ahead in a commentary for the Journal of Educational Change on what can change in schools (“We will now resume our regular programming”):

“What if this is a moment when we can re-imagine education?” But “What if it isn’t? What if, despite the changes wrought by the pandemic, the conditions that sustain conventional schooling remain in place?”

Here, in no particular order, are a few more headlines from the “reviews” of 2021 from some of our regular sources.

Around the World

From learning recovery to the futures of education, UNESCO

Grave violations of children’s rights in conflict on the rise around the world, UNICEF

Meet Gen Covid: Growing up under the shadow of Covid-19, the young in Asia talk about loss, gain and hope, Straits Times

2021 in education: a year in review (UK), Twinkl Digest

The year a return to normal only got further away (UK), Schools Week

2021 in Review, FreshEd Podcast (Will Brehm with Susan Robertson & Mario Novelli)

In the US

Education in 2021: 10 Photos That Capture a Chaotic Year, Education Week

Protesters against a COVID-19 mandate gesture as they are escorted out of the Clark County School Board meeting at the Clark County Government Center, on Aug. 12, 2021, in Las Vegas.
Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP

2021 in pictures: Images that captured the tragedy and resilience that marked 2021, Hechinger Report

16 charts that changed the way we looked at America’s schools in 2021, The 74

Education data legislation review 2021: State activity, Data Quality Campaign

Top 2021 education legislative trends, Education Commission of the States

Survival Mode: Educators Reflect on a Tough 2021 and Brace for the Future, EdSurge

After A Year Of Uncertainty, College Presidents Reflect On COVID-19’s Impact, EdSurge

2021 education year in review, The Report Card with Nat Malkus (in conversation with and Erica GreenLaura Meckler, and Eesha Pendharkar)

Proof Points 2021 Year in Review: A reading mystery, test-optional admissions and the problem with small classes, Hechinger Report

Philanthropy Awards, 2021, Inside Philanthropy

Oppression, Trust, and the Development of Change Leadership: The Lead the Change Interview with Morgaen Donaldson

This week, Morgaen Donaldson discusses her work on the development of educators, policy and educational change in the November Lead the Change (LtC) interview Donaldson is Associate Dean for Research at the Neag School of Education, Director of the Center for Education Policy, Analysis, Research and Evaluation, and the Philip E. Austin Endowed Professor of Education Leadership and Policy at the University of Connecticut. The LtC series is produced by the Educational Change Special Interest Group of the American Educational Research AssociationJennie Weiner, Chair; Olga O. Fellus, Program Chair; Corinne Brion, Secretary/Treasurer; Alexandra Lamb, Series Editor; Cynthia Wise, Social Media Coordinator. A pdf of the fully formatted interview is available on the LtC website.

Lead the Change: The 2022 AERA theme is Cultivating Equitable Education Systems for the 21st Century and charges researchers and practitioners with dismantling oppressive education systems and replacing them with anti-racist, equity, and justice-oriented systems. To achieve these goals, researchers must engage in new methodologies, cross-disciplinary thinking, global perspectives, and community partnerships to respond to the challenges of the 21st century including the COVID-19 Pandemic and systemic racism among other persistent inequities. Given the dire need for all of us to do more to dismantle oppressive systems and reimagine new ways of thinking and doing in our own institutions and education more broadly, what specific responsibility do educational change scholars have in this space? What steps are you taking to heed this call?   

Morgaen Donaldson: Educational change scholars are vital to the effort to dismantle oppressive systems and reimagine new ways of thinking and doing in our own institutions. Educational change is about new principles and processes of operating, and it seems to me that scholars in this space often think and act with this mindset. For me, this work means trying to think of new ways to conceptualize problems and solutions across various disciplines or domains. For example, when confronting a problem in the workplace, I examine individuals’ needs, motivations, and incentives as well as organizational structures and cultures in identifying possible paths forward. I love this work; I’ve always loved puzzles and big, complex challenges without easy solutions. Conceptualizing new ways of thinking and doing is exciting. Trying to shift the culture and structure of our higher education institutions to embrace these novel approaches is often frustrating and takes a clear vision and great leadership skills. Within the organizations with which I am affiliated, I try to ask the question “Why not?” more often than the question “Why?” For example, my colleagues and I recently moved our Center for Education Policy Analysis, Research, and Evaluation out of a department and into the Neag School of Education writ large. In discussing our new mission, committee members advocated for including explicit partnerships with community members. At first, I shied away from this idea. It sounded too difficult and time-consuming for a center focused on policy research. With urging from one of my colleagues, I started asking why not involve community members? After all, they feel acutely policies’ impact (or lack thereof). Yes, it requires faculty members to think and act differently, but maybe this is exactly what we ought to be doing.  I also try to spend time examining problems before I start conceptualizing ways to address these challenges.

Dismantling oppressive systems is even more difficult because the layers of these systems are multi-faceted and oppression pervades and refracts through them. Educational change scholars must examine how oppression functions through these layers and commit to challenging and eliminating oppression at all levels, from the societal, to the organizational, to the inter-personal, to the intra-personal. This is hard and continuous work and scholars must commit to working over a lifetime to eradicate this oppression. Within my work, I try to keep equity in the forefront of my decision-making. I try to ask about how my actions will recreate, erode, or upend oppressive systems. Our actions and inactions often have inequitable reverberations, and I am working on anticipating the impact of my words and choices on equity and making decisions and consciously advance equity through my voice and my actions

LtC: Given your work focused on teacher and now principal evaluation and the challenge of ensuring the organizational and institutional infrastructure and capacity to engage in this work with fidelity and to ensure better outcomes for adult and student learning alike, what are some of the major lessons the field of Educational Change can learn from your work and experience?   

MD: I think policymakers, practitioners, and researchers are often looking for simple answers to complex problems. When I started my book on teacher evaluation (Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Teacher Evaluation), I was interested in learning what could help teacher evaluation make a difference in teachers’ instruction and students’ learning. Was it better feedback? More observations? More opportunity for structured reflection? Peer review? I learned that the answer to the complex problems plaguing teacher evaluation was in itself complex and somewhat unglamorous. My work uncovered that the best way to improve teacher evaluation is working over months and years to develop a clear, strong vision of effective teaching and deep learning and then maintain that focus across all initiatives in the school. Schools that lead with a strong vision of teaching and learning and incorporate teacher evaluation as one arm of their efforts towards these ends wind up implementing teacher evaluation relatively robustly. Schools that set aside everything to focus only on teacher evaluation generally do not do it that well. When schools prioritize good teaching and deep learning and this vision pervades everything the school does, teacher evaluation ends up working well.

“When schools prioritize good teaching and deep learning and this vision pervades everything the school does, teacher evaluation ends up working well.”

More recently, my colleagues and I conducted a five-year study of principal evaluation in three states. We have learned a great deal from this project. Overall, we found that about half of districts implemented principal evaluation as part of a suite of activities meant to bolster school leadership. In these districts, both district leaders and principals reported that principal evaluation helped them develop as leaders. In the other half of districts, principal evaluation was said to have marginal effects on practice, or effects only for the struggling principals. We further found that principals report more positive effects of principal evaluation when they perceive their principal evaluation system to support their intrinsic motivation. Lastly, we found that district leaders tend to implement principal evaluation differently in higher- and lower-performing districts. In higher-performing districts, leaders tend to implement evaluation processes organically, with little attention to the evaluation rubric or weights, but maintain a focus on instructional leadership. Their counterparts in lower-performing districts enact the processes as specified in the state guidelines and district policies but widen their lens beyond instructional leadership to include managerial, logistical, and community-oriented leadership (Donaldson et al., 2021; Mavrogordato et al., under review).

Ltc: In some of your recent work on teacher evaluation, you highlight the need for better understanding of whether and how evaluation can lead to improved teacher practices. Given your findings regarding the need for trust between evaluators and teachers and the development of social capital, what do you see as the most needed changes to policy/practice to address these issues in the field, in educators’ daily practice and interactions with colleagues and students alike?   

MD: Trust is essential for the success of every organization. It may be even more important for schools, given the segmented, egg crate structure of the organization (Lortie, 1975) and the fact that its chief purpose is to guide the learning and development of other people’s children. Moreover, in the case of teacher evaluation, lack of trust has often hampered its implementation and dampened any positive effects. Trust is central to teacher evaluation and the broader success of efforts to improve teaching and learning in schools. 

“Trust is essential for the success of every organization.”

So how could trust among teachers and between teachers and school leaders be deepened?  For one, schools can provide more opportunities for teachers and leaders to struggle together and in partnership about thorny problems of practice. When teachers and leaders come together on equal footing to examine a problem from multiple perspectives and in different dimensions, everyone plays a role in coming to a shared understanding of the problem and a shared commitment to solving it. Collaboration around problem-diagnosis and problem-solving can build a partnership among teachers and between teachers and leaders that also fosters trust along the way.

Trust between educators and caregivers is also incredibly important. I think this may be the relationship that is most in need of enhancements to trust. In preschool and the early grades, schools are generally welcoming to parents and caregivers, but parental/caregiver involvement gradually wanes as children grow older (Murray, McFarland-Piazza, & Harrison, 2015). To build trust, schools could open their doors to caregivers on a more regular basis, inviting parents into classroom lessons, asking students to share work and involve parents in creating projects. This will build trust between teachers and parents/caregivers and also help educators learn more about students’ families, which can then inform their teaching. There is a lot of work to be done in this area.

LtC: Educational Change expects those engaged in and with schools, schooling, and school systems to spearhead deep and often difficult transformation. How might those in the field of Educational Change best support these individuals and groups through these processes?    

MD: There are two ways that scholars in the field of Educational Change could better support these individuals who are spearheading deep and difficult transformation. First, I think scholars of Educational Change and other researchers need to work harder to translate their research into practice and reflect practice in their research design and methods. To me, the impact of my scholarship in schools and school districts is more important than the number of times it is cited. I think the field could and should do a much better job identifying topics that are meaningful to practitioners and communicating findings to the world of practice much more deliberately through ongoing engagement with the field. Educational Change scholars can also advocate that the practical impact of scholarly work should be recognized and rewarded in university promotion and tenure decisions. Second, I think scholars in the field of Educational Change have a responsibility to study and understand what it takes for individuals to make change and investigate the toll on these changemakers. COVID-19 has heightened our collective awareness of the challenges facing educators and the day-to-day struggles that many of them experience. I think the field of Educational Change should pay more attention to the resources and experiences of change leaders and examine the consequences of playing this role for them, their health, and their careers.

LtC: Where do you perceive the field of Educational Change is going? What excites you about Educational Change now and in the future?

MD: COVID-19 exacerbated the inequity and inequality that has plagued education systems worldwide. I think it is becoming more difficult for defenders of the status quo; the evidence that students and schools are struggling is stark. After a year and a half with educators and students struggling mightily to engage in a version of schooling, education cannot afford to start up again with “business as usual.” This provides a window for Educational Change scholars to reconceptualize how school and schooling are done. Educational Change scholars can and should partner with practitioners to envision and enact a new system that addresses persistent and pronounced inequities in schooling inputs and outcomes. No one would wish COVID-19 to have occurred, but Educational Change scholars have an opportunity to speak up and share their knowledge about how schools could radically reconfigure how education is done to provide greater benefits to students.


Donaldson, M.L. (2020). Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Teacher Evaluation: Understanding the Research and Theory. New York: Routledge.

Donaldson, M.L., Mavrogordato, M. Dougherty, S. & Youngs, P. (2021). Doing the ‘real’ work”: How superintendents’ sensemaking shapes principal evaluation policies and practices. AERA Open, 7(1).

Lortie, D. C. (1975). Schoolteacher: A sociological study. University of Chicago Press.

Mavrogordato, M., Youngs, P., Donaldson, M., & Dougherty, S.  (under review). “Principals experiences with principal evaluation in 22 small and mid-sized districts.”

Murray, E., McFarland-Piazza, L., & Harrison, L. J. (2015). Changing patterns of parent–teacher communication and parent involvement from preschool to school. Early child development and care185(7), 1031-1052.

Children 5-11 can now get a COVID-19 Vaccine: Headlines from across the US

Last week, the FDA authorized the emergency use of the Pfizer vaccine among children ages 5-11. Additionally, the CDC also voiced its support. Consequently, around 28 million children in the US can now obtain the COVID-19 vaccine.

Although many parents and educators have embraced the news, others remain concerned. According to The74’s summary of the October KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor report

  • Nearly 3 in 10 parents of 5-11 year-olds (27%) are eager to get a vaccine for their younger child while a third say they will wait to see how the vaccine is working. 
  • 3 in 10 parents say they will definitely not get the vaccine for their 5-11 year-old (30%). 
  • Parents are now 5-11 percentage points more likely to say they will “definitely not” get their children vaccinated.
  • 53% of parents are worried their child may be required to get vaccinated for COVID-19 even if they don’t want them to.

To respond to the concerns, many states, counties and school districts have begun incentivizing parents to vaccinate their children, utilizing many approaches. Here’s a quick scan headlines that give a sense of the resources and responses to the vaccine rollout across the US:

Covid Vaccine for Kids Ages 5 to 11: Top Questions Answered, WebMD.

What pediatricians want parents to know about the Covid vaccine for kids, NBC news.

Some parents want to wait to vaccinate their kids. Here’s why doctors say do it now, NPR.

Answering kids’ (and parents’) questions about the Covid-19 vaccine for ages 5 to 11, CCN Health.


School officials in Phoenix are giving $100 gift cards to vaccinated students, Time.


Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego and Oakland school districts mandate vaccination against Covid-19 for their students or opt for remote learning, Politico

“Nearly 350,000 California students face an imminent choice: Get vaccinated for Covid-19 or stay home.”


Tallahassee-Leon county is hosting a family fun day that offers free breakfast, lunch and Covid-19 booster shots, Tallahassee Democrat


Chicago will suspend school for a day on Nov. 12 to host “Vaccination Awareness Day”, Chalkbeat, Chicago


Minnesota is encouraging students to obtain the vaccine but has refrained from an official mandate, StarTribune.

New York

New York City is encouraging children to receive the vaccine by offering $100 incentives, NBC

“Children who get their shots at schools or at other city clinics across the five boroughs will be eligible for the $100 incentive that the city has offered since late-July to new vaccine recipients getting their shots at city-run sites.”

NYC schools start vaccinating 5- to 11-year-olds to cheers, relief, and some frustration, Chalkbeat.

COVID-19 Vaccines Roll Out for Young Children in NYC, Early-Bird Families All Smiles, The 74.

Photo Essay – Inside a Vaccine Site for Kids: A Brooklyn Pharmacy Becomes A Comforting Spot for COVID Shots, The 74.



Hundreds of kids-size vaccine doses administered at Oaks Amusement Park, KGW8.

South Carolina

In Anderson, high school students can obtain $100 for getting the Covid-19 vaccine, Time


Travis County will use a school based approach to roll out vaccines for children., Kxan

Dallas will maintain mask mandates despite vaccines being available for young children now, Dallas News


Given the increased demand for vaccines, Washington state urged parents to be patient, Seattle Times

School districts increase their efforts to vaccinate their students by utilizing their buildings during school hours, evenings and weekends, Seattle Times.


— Dulce Rivera Osorio

Surprise, Controversy, and the “Double Reduction Policy” in China

This week, Aidi Bian shares her perspective on what’s been happening in China since the announcement by the Chinese government of major changes in the education system there. Bian is a bilingual math teacher and form tutor at HD Ningbo School, which belongs to a private educational group with 5 campuses in Beijing, Shanghai, Ningbo, Qingdao and Nanjing. She has previously reported on “New Gaokao in Zhejiang China: Carrying on with Challenges” and contributed to “AI and education in China

Surprise and controversy came with the announcement of a new “Double Reduction Policy” for China’s education system in late August. The policy, Opinions on Further Reducing the Burden of Homework and Off-Campus Training for Compulsory Education Students, was released by the highest office of the central government. The document requires a reduction in the burdens for students created by homework and off-campus tutoring programs. This contributed to what some have described as the downfall of the tutoring industry in China, estimated to be worth more than 400 billion RMB. The central government determined that the academic stress and pressure in education is having an irreversible, harmful influence on the next generation of the country and concluded that it must take harsh action to change the situation by administrative force.

The central government determined that the academic stress and pressure in education is having an irreversible, harmful influence on the next generation of the country and concluded that it must take harsh action to change the situation by administrative force.

China has long been known for high academic pressure in elementary and secondary education. Parents put great emphasis on academic achievement of their children from the first day of school (even from kindergarten) to win the fierce competition of entering good colleges. Recent years have witnessed a rapid expansion of the private tutoring industry with the help of the internet (especially online tutoring after COVID). This in turn has created further anxiety for parents who are constantly bombarded with advertisements for tutoring. The explosive growth of the tutoring sector has created a vast market, forcing many families to invest in tutoring training either willingly or under peer pressure. In some way, the educational cost of raising children has become so high that young couples refuse to have more than one child, creating big problems for a government that wants parents to have more children to relieve the challenges of a rapidly aging population. Along with an ongoing emphasis on test scores, the demands of heavy schoolwork and tutoring raise concerns about students’ physical and mental health. The Double Reduction policy is aimed at addressing these issues, freeing families from the economic burden of educating a child and protecting the physical and mental health of the next generation.

The Double Reduction policy includes the following key points:

  • Reduce the amount and time of school homework (specific time limits for written homework were listed for different grades).
  • Provide after school care for students by requiring schools to offer after-school services (such as extracurricular activities and evening self-study) to keep students in school until parents get off from work.
  • Strictly regulate private tutoring, including banning tutoring during weekends and winter/summer breaks, forbidding tutoring companies from going public, and preventing school teachers from providing any tutoring service.
  • Outlaw frequent formal exams and rankings in schools.

Some families welcomed the policy in relief while others seemed to get even more anxious as they feel compelled to pay more money to find private tutors or to take on the burden of tutoring their children themselves. Some parents also worried that if they have no way to keep their children occupied with studying, their children will spend more time on the internet, watching videos and playing games. To ensure the enforcement of the policy, local governments have been encouraged to report violations and infractions, which has caused some conflicts among students, parents and teachers. The policy was effectively enforced over the past months. Yet, the strong demand for tutoring remains constant, with parents afraid to risk their children’s future given the fierce competition for the best scores, the best schools, and the best educational supports and resources.

The policy was effectively enforced over the past months. Yet, the strong demand
for tutoring remains constant, with parents afraid to risk their children’s future
given the fierce competition for the best scores, the best schools, and the best
educational supports and resources.

Although not part of the “Double Reduction”, related policies were also implemented around the same time to address the broader goal of educational equality. One new policy sought to address the problem that in some big cities parents will buy expensive houses just to get into an area where their children can enroll in the best schools. To that end, local governments are now pursuing a “random draw” to decide which schools children go to. To further promote equality, some cities also began to implement a teacher rotation program. The best teachers and principals are required to move to other local schools so that students in different areas of the city have equal access to high quality education from experienced educators. With all the efforts, the government is aiming for a high-quality in-school education and restrict the wild growth of after-school competition.

– Aidi Bian

Related links:

China Releases “Double Reduction” Policy in Education Sector

Will ‘double reduction’ policy lead to fairer education?

China’s new private tutoring rules put billions of dollars at stake

China’s crackdown on tutoring leaves parents with new problems

Beijing’s Top Teachers Will Rotate Shifts Across Schools

Beijing to Rotate Teachers to Promote Educational Fairness

Scanning the headlines for results from OECD’s Education at a Glance: September 2021 Edition

OECD’s Education at a Glance 2021 provides annual international comparisons of education statistics. This year, the report focuses on equity and also highlights the measures countries have implemented to the educational response during the pandemic. This week’s scan reveals the aspects of the findings that media outlets around the world have emphasized. For a comparison, see IEN’s Education at a Glance scan from 2019.


Australian children at risk of being left behind on early learningMirage

Australia has the fourth highest level of reliance on parent out-of-pocket costs to fund pre-primary education and ranks 41 out of 44 OECD nations on preschool attendance in the year before school.


OECD study: Austria takes first place in vocational training, APA OTS News

Austria achieved first place with 75.6% in the ranking of pupils who complete upper secondary level with a professional qualification. This value is well above the OECD average of 38.4% and also above the EU average of 43.5%.


OECD points to Brazil’s low investment in basic education during the pandemicDire

About two-thirds of OECD member and partner countries reported increases in the budget allocated to primary schools to help them deal with the crisis in 2020. Compared to the previous year, Brazil had no changes in the education budget for primary education, both in 2020 and in 2021


(Translation) OECD comparison: The socio-economic background still influences educational choices to a great extent – small regional variations in the level of education in FinlandValtioneuvosto Statsrådet

Even in Finland, students with a lower socio-economic background are more likely to continue in vocational education than in upper secondary school after lower secondary school. Of those who chose vocational education, 59% of the parents had not completed a university degree, compared to 27% of students who chose upper secondary school.


(Translation) According to the OECD, Hungary has performed at a high level in educationMagyar Hírlap

...Hungary is one of the countries that provided targeted support to education actors during the epidemic, such as the state’s continued provision of free and discounted childcare and additional benefits for educators working in disadvantaged settlements for their work to prevent dropout.


Ireland ranks in last place in OECD for investment in educationThe Irish Times

The annual Education At A Glance 2021 report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development shows spending on education – ranging from primary to higher and further education – in Ireland accounts for 3.3 per cent of our GDP in 2018. This compares to an EU average of 4.4 per cent and is significantly behind top-performers such as Norway with 6.6 per cent


(Translation) The huge gap in schooling in the corona year was revealed: Israel versus the world in educationY Net

The report shows that during the Corona period, high schools in Israel were closed for more days than in OECD countries, as were middle schools. High schools were closed for 76 days compared to an average of 70 days in the OECD, and middle schools were closed for 93 days compared to 65 days. On average in other developed countries, however, primary schools and kindergartens were closed for fewer days – 52 primary days were closed compared to 58 in OECD countries, while kindergartens were closed for 36 days compared to 43 days in the OECD.


OECD: Japan lowest in women studying scienceNHK World-Japan

Stressing the high level of Japanese women’s knowledge and ability, the OECD noted the effects of the strong imposition of stereotypical images for women’s career options in Japan, and the lack of role models in science fields.


The unemployment rate among young adults in Latvia is higher than the OECD averageDiena

In Latvia, the unemployment rate among adults aged 25-34 without secondary education was 19.7% in 2020, which is six percentage points more than in the previous year. This was a higher increase than the OECD average, where the unemployment rate for young adults was 15.1% in 2020, two percentage points higher than in 2019.


Norway among countries with lowest proportion of women in vocational studies, The Local.no

In total, women make up less than 40 percent of students on vocational courses—this is more than five percent below the OECD average. Among Norway’s Nordic neighbours Finland has the highest proportion, 51 percent, of women studying vocational subjects followed by Denmark, 43 percent, and Sweden, 41 percent. However, depending on the subject, the gender disparity could vary massively. For example, women made up just 8 percent of people studying electrical engineering. This is around half the OCED average.

South Korea

S. Korea has larger classes, lower employment rates among college graduates than OECD averages: Education MinistryKorea Herald

In terms of public education funding, the report showed the South Korean government took a lesser financial burden than other OECD nations.


Spain has second-highest percentage of young people who neither work nor study in EUEl País

According to a new report, 19.9% of youngsters between the ages of 18 and 24 fell into the NEET category (neither in employment nor in education or training) in 2020 – a problem that was exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.


Educational inequalities highlighted by Covid-19 pandemic, Expatica

In Switzerland there have been concerns that some disadvantaged pupils fell through the learning net during the shutdown of schools in spring 2020 – by not having anywhere quiet to study, access to computers or not turning up to online lessons. Switzerland…was not among the countries that allocated additional funds to ensure resources targeted those who needed them the most.


England has highest university tuition fees in developed world – OECD, Evening Standard

Universities in England can charge up to £9,250 per year for an undergraduate degree, and even more to overseas students. Scottish students do not pay tuition fees in Scotland, and Northern Irish students benefit from a lower tuition fee cap in Northern Ireland.

– Correne Reyes

What will change in schools post-pandemic?

The school closures and related educational adaptions throughout the Covid-19 pandemic led to many calls for “re-imagining education,” but which changes in schools actually can be made right now? Which ones will be made in the future? To address these questions, IEN is launching a new series to track both what changes in schools and what does not in order to reveal the conditions and constraints that have to be addressed to transform education over the long term.  The series is part of a long-term project exploring school improvement efforts and educational innovations in both developing and developed contexts. The series pursue issues my co-authors, Jordan Corson and Sarah Van den Berg, and I raised in The Education We Need for a Future We Can’t Predict (Corwin, 2021). The first post in the series comes from Larry Cuban, co-author with David Tyack of Tinkering Toward Utopia(Harvard University Press, 1995), who highlights how calls for ambitious educational reform already may be “downsized” as the realities of returning to school get closer — Thomas Hatch 

Downsizing School Reform after the Pandemic

Posted originally on Larry Cuban’s blog on July 15, 2021

The silence is deafening. Perhaps other observers have noted calls for major school reforms, I have not. The pandemic’s closure of public schools in March 2020 and the partial re-opening of schools in fall 2020 and full return to face-to-face instruction in winter 2021 have grabbed mainstream and social media attention. Especially for the rapid expansion of remote instruction and the Zoom marathon that all of us are running.

No reform agenda, however, have I seen for bettering the nation’s public schools. I have yet to detect any groundswell for altering the familiar school organization, Common Core Curriculum, and existing accountability measures already in place. There is much reform talk, of course:

Consider the words from a recent report of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights of the disparate effects of the pandemic on white and minority students:

[W]e have a rare moment as a country to take stock and to begin the hard work of building our schools back better and stronger—with the resolve necessary to ensure that our nation’s schools are defined not by disparities but by equity and opportunity for all students.

Or the head of a major administrators’ professional organization:

“There are a lot of positives that will happen because we’ve been forced into this uncomfortable situation,” said Dan Domenech, executive director of AASA, the school superintendents association. “The reality is that this is going to change education forever.”

Talk is one thing, however, action another. Reform-driven policies have notably been absent from most of the 13,000 school districts spread across 50 states and territories during and after the pandemic, particularly when it comes to repairing inequities prior to and during the Covid-19 crisis.

Consider state and national testing. During the pandemic, the then U.S. Secretary of Education postponed the federally-required National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) until 2022. The current administration has called for standardized tests to be administered in the fall of 2021.

Apart from temporary suspension of nation and state tests, I have yet to hear of or read about any coalition of reformers offering concrete policies that can reduce the stark differences in funding and staffing schools in urban and suburban districts that have become, in a word, re-segregated. Progressive educators and their allies have surely called for such changes before, during, and after the pandemic’s closing of schools, but beyond exhortations, I have not noted an emerging coalition of school reformers at either the state and federal levels not only endorsing but also funding such efforts.

In fact, as Republicans have taken over most state legislatures–they now control 62 percent of them–, the appetite for funding schools and igniting school reform have shrunk considerably. Although conservative state legislators have called for more teaching of patriotism and less teaching about race, keeping schools as they are remains strong.

Progressive rhetoric for reducing inequalities in funding districts, ending disproportionate assignment of inexperienced teachers to high poverty, largely minority schools, and increasing “ambitious” teaching remains high in mainstream and social media but has yet to lead to substantial adoption of such policies, and most important their implementation in schools and classrooms.

Of course, lack of concrete reform-driven policies and their implementation does not mean that reforms begun prior to the pandemic and then put on hold have disappeared. Those reforms seeking the expansion of remote instruction have gained ground with the sudden switch from face-to-face to screens in March 2020. While surely distance learning now has a secure niche in a school district’s kit-bag of “solutions” to emergency closures, becoming more than an option for parents to choose is, well, doubtful (see here and here).

Remote instruction, then, is, by default, the coercive reform du jour. Yet frequent reports of test score decline and loss of academic skills especially among minority and poor students during the pandemic have yet to push the “pause” button on distance instruction as a choice for parents to have should they reject face-to-face instruction in school classrooms (see here and here).

With the spread of remote instruction as a school reform, what has thus far emerged from the pandemic emergency are not big-ticket, comprehensive overhaul of public schools aimed at reducing inequities among American children and youth but a shrunken version of what the past 18 months have offered.

And that is why I titled this post: Downsizing School Reform after the Pandemic.

Pracademics, Transformational Professional Learning, and Educational Change: A Conversation with Deborah Netolicky

In this week’s post, Dr. Deborah Netolicky (@debsnet) discusses her work as a pracademic scholar practioner in the latest Lead the Change interview from the Educational Change Special Interest Group of the American Educational Research Association. Netolicky is currently Head of Teaching and Learning at St Mark’s Anglican Community School, Honorary Research Associate at Murdoch University, Chair of a local primary school board, and recent recipient of both the 2021 AERA Educational Change SIG Emerging Scholar Award and the 2021 Michael Fullan Emerging Scholar Award. Netolicky blogs at theeduflaneuse.com and is author of Transformational Professional Learning: Making a Difference in Schools and editor of Future Alternatives for Educational Leadership: Diversity, Inclusion, Equity and Democracy, and co-editor of Flip the System Australia: What Matters in Education. A pdf of the fully formatted interview will be available on the LtC website.

Lead the Change (Ltc): The 2021 AERA theme is Accepting Educational Responsibility and invites those of us who teach in schools of education to accept greater responsibility for the inadequate preparation of educators for work in racially, ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse P–12 schools and postsecondary institutions. For example, when educators discipline African American students at disproportionately higher rates, misdiagnose them for special education, identify too few of them for advanced placement and international baccalaureate programs, deliver to them a culturally irrelevant curriculum, teach them in culturally disdaining ways, and stereotype their families as careless and hopeless, the schools of education that produced these professionals are just as responsible as the professionals themselves. Furthermore, if scholars who study and document these trends do too little to make our findings actionable, then we, too, are contributors to the cyclical reproduction of these educational inequities. Given the dire need for all of us to do more to dismantle oppressive systems in our own institutions and education more broadly, what specific responsibility do educational change scholars have in this space? What steps are you taking to heed this call?

Deborah Netolicky: The rhetoric of education policy the world over is about the common good and quality, equitable outcomes for all. In Australia, we had the Melbourne Declaration (Barr et al., 2008) and now the Mparntwe Declaration (Education Council, 2019). Both declare an education goal of excellence and equity for all young people, and the building of a democratic, equitable, just, culturally diverse society that values Australia’s Indigenous cultures. Australia likes to imagine itself as a multicultural melting pot of inclusive diversity, yet, as in many countries, our rhetoric and our imagined national identity fall well short of our reality. As Suraiya Hameed, Marnee Shay, and Jodie Miller (Hameed et al., forthcoming) note, the concept of excellence in education for Indigenous students has been greatly under-theorised and requires a strengths-based rather than a deficit perspective. Racism, sexism, classism, religious discrimination, sexual orientation discrimination, ableism, and the reverberations of our colonial past, persist. Inequities remain. Educational change is too often a political ball bounced back and forth, with governments making decisions based on short term political cycles and winning election votes, rather than on holding the line on sustained improvement for all.

Part of ‘accepting educational responsibility’ is working from a foundation of citizenship grounded in a shared moral purpose. Citizen-scholars and citizen-practitioners engage deeply with education committed to excellence, equity, and opportunity for all. We must not ignore the reverberations of past oppressions and the echoes of past violence in our current world. If we are to address the intensifying challenges that face society, education, and individuals, education scholars and practitioners need to make the implicit explicit, deeply interrogating systems, structures, policies, pedagogies, practices, and our own beliefs, behaviours, and language. Scholars, practitioners, and pracademic scholar-practitioners need to engage with, and provide safe spaces for, education debates, including, and especially, those that are uncomfortable and awkward, and that require us to examine our own motivations, biases, and privilege. As many authors argue in the forthcoming edited book Future Alternatives for Educational Leadership: Diversity, Equity, Democracy, and Inclusion (Netolicky, forthcoming), positive educational change requires challenging and providing alternatives to Western (that is, White, masculine, materialist, hetero) norms and paradigms.

Decolonisation—deconstructing dominant ideologies and dismantling educational structures—is not enough. What is needed is not just the breaking down of systems of power and privilege, but also the building up of what we would like to exist in its place. This means including, embracing, and investing in Indigenous, culturally diverse, and culturally marginalised ways of knowing, being, teaching, and leading in education. We need these ways of knowing and doing to understand and apply inclusive policies and practices that serve all those in our communities, especially the most vulnerable.

“What is needed is not just the breaking down of systems of power and privilege, but also the building up of what we would like to exist in its place.”

LtC: Much of your work is informed by your positionality as a “pracademic” and the special understandings and experiences that come as a result. What would be some of the major lessons the field of Educational Change can learn from your work and experience sitting in this specific space?

DN: Much of my scholarly work has involved looking at education, educational change, professional learning, and educational leadership through the lens of identity (e.g., Netolicky, 2017, 2019, 2020a). I have defined identity as the “situated, ongoing process through which we make sense of ourselves, to ourselves and to others” (Netolicky, 2020d, p.19). Examining education through the lens of identity allows us to remain focused on education as a human endeavour, wrestling with multiplicities, complexities, and tensions. In our forthcoming chapter, Claire Golledge and I (Netolicky & Golledge, forthcoming) advocate for what we call a wayfinding approach to school leadership that balances intuition with strategy, improvisation with systematisation, empathy with policy, the individual with the whole. This approach, and awareness of the multiple tensions navigated constantly by those working in schools, could be considered and engaged with by those in the field of educational change.

In the book Transformational Professional Learning: Making a Difference in Schools (Netolicky, 2020d), I utilise my positionality as boundary spanning teacher-leader-researcher who works to bridge the gap between research and practice. The structure of the book mirrors the ways I bring a practice lens to scholarship, and a research lens to my daily work enacting theory into practice. In our upcoming Journal of Professional Capital and Community Special Issue—‘Pracademia: Exploring the possibilities, power and politics of boundary-spanners straddling the worlds of practice and scholarship’—Trista Hollweck, Paul Campbell, and I (Hollweck et al., forthcoming) explore the identities, spaces, and tensions of what can be called pracademia. The multipart identities and multiplicitous spaces of pracademia involve simultaneous active engagement in education scholarship and practice.

Democratic educational change benefits from those operating in different educational spaces and also those operating between and across various educational arenas and communities. The pracademic whose day job is in the world of practice is free from the metrics and pressures of academia, free to engage in scholarship in some ways on their own terms, but also often in or beyond the margins of the academe. The pracademic whose day job is in a university is active in the practice of school-based education through working amongst and alongside practitioners, immersed in the work of school contexts, and engaging in scholarship ‘with’ rather than ‘to’ or ‘of’ those in schools. Often the in-between spaces involve unpaid bridging, sharing, and collaborating work.

Identity work—of pracademics, practitioners, or academics—can be part of scholarship that is a political act, edging from the margins of the academe towards the centre, in which we challenge ourselves to do “writing that matters – to us, to our communities, to our nations, to social justice, to the greater good” (Netolicky, 2017, p.101). Education theory and practice are always intertwined, but embracing the concept of pracademia in educational change is about intentionally embracing nexus and community. It is about co-creating a collective space shared by teachers, school leaders, scholars, policymakers, political advisors, and community members. It is about working within and across education spaces, and working together.

LtC: In some of your recent work regarding the future of education in a Post-COVID world, you speak to both the possibilities for a return to some practices and change for others. What do you see as the most needed changes to policy/practice in the field, in educators’ daily practice and interactions with colleagues and students alike to create, as you say, reform for good?    

DN: Injustices and deficiencies in our education and social systems are being revealed during the pandemic. Often multiple and intersecting disparities such as racial, gendered, socioeconomic, and cultural inequities became evident in, for example: the significantly increased risk to women’s employment and livelihoods compared to men’s; and the increased risk of mortality from COVID-19 of Indigenous Australians, ethnic minority groups in the UK, and Black Americans, as compared to their White counterparts. The pandemic also accelerated educational change, forcing innovation and introspection in education (Netolicky, 2020b). The person—child, student, teacher, leader—has come into sharper focus. Care and collaboration rose to the top of the priority list in education (Doucet et al., 2020), as did increasingly flexible ‘whole-person’ approaches to judging student success and providing student pathways for future success. What has receded is a focus on standardised testing as education systems are forced to reflect on how the apparent success of education is measured, and negative impacts of cultures of competition, surveillance, and hyperaccountabilities. While tertiary entrance examinations went ahead in Australia in 2020, alternate admissions pathways were also introduced by Universities. These include calculation of a predicted Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) based on students’ Year 11 results, and a Special Tertiary Admissions Test available to all students including those studying vocational pathways at school. In the UK, examinations (GCSE, A-Level, Scottish Highers, and Scottish Advanced Highers) were cancelled in 2020 and 2021, replaced with aggregated teacher-assessed grades that currently form the basis of UCAS applications. US universities have varying admissions policies, but most are currently ‘test-optional’ for a year or more (some permanently), meaning applicants do not have to sit the SAT or ACT standardised college admissions test. Rather, US applicants are submitting portfolios of achievements, employment, and community involvement to demonstrate their readiness for university. Universities leading flexible admissions criteria and processes (including portfolio entry, virtual tours, and online interviews) may help to change the focus of schools towards preparing students for beyond school, rather than on succeeding in examinations at the end of school. These increasing flexibilities may also go some way to democratising the university admissions process for marginalised groups.

“The pandemic also accelerated educational change, forcing innovation and introspection in education.”

During periods of remote learning, educators asked themselves: (1) What is it that we’ve missed during remote education that we want to bring back to schooling and education?; and (2) What is it that has been removed that we do not want to return to? (Netolicky, 2020c). Underpinning these questions are what we—those of us working, teaching, and leading each day in schools and universities—have come to realise are paramount: health and wellbeing, the importance of learning for all students regardless of circumstance, meaningful work, community, connectedness, adaptability, and resilience. We learned that governments, education systems, and schools need strong, clear leadership that can respond to crises with immediacy while considering the long-term view and the needs of the specific community. We learned that technologies can support teaching, learning, collaborating, and developing student autonomy, but cannot replace the connection, engagement, and learning that is possible when we are face to face. We learned that schools are more than places of learning. They are sites of community, relationships, society, values, and care. They also serve the practical, economic function of looking after children while parents go to work.

“We learned that schools are more than places of learning. They are sites of community, relationships, society, values, and care.”

Teachers have missed seeing students in person, and the complex and important non-verbal communication of the classroom, in which the teacher can ‘read the room’, see how each young person is approaching the day and the lesson, re-engage a disengaged student, or re-teach a concept to those who aren’t getting it. Students have missed school as a place where they see their friends and their teachers. What we would benefit from continuing to develop are:

  • Curricula in which students are active agents;
  • Use of a range of technologies to enhance learning, collaboration, and communication, and to empower students in their learning;
  • The declining focus on high-stakes testing and cultures of competition between schools and education systems, replacing this with a focus on multiple pathways to success and flexible alternatives that address the needs of students and their families; and
  • Providing trust, support, and resourcing to the teaching profession so that educators can get on with the complex work of serving their communities.

LtC: Educational Change expects those engaged in and with schools, schooling, and school systems to spearhead deep and often difficult transformation. How might those in the field of Educational Change best support these individuals and groups through these processes?    

DN: Transformational professional learning— “learning that shifts beliefs, and thereby behaviours, of professionals” (Netolicky, 2020d, p.18)—has the capacity to support schools and school systems to successfully propel fruitful educational change. I argue (Netolicky, 2020d) for professional learning for those working in schools that:

  • Is targeted and ongoing;
  • Is driven by educational (not corporate or political) agendas;
  • Considers identity and humanity, providing high support and high challenge; 
  • Offers voice, choice, and agency to the adult learner; 
  • Pays close attention to context, culture, and relationships, avoiding one-size-fits-most models; 
  • Enables collaboration that is rigorous, purposeful, sometimes uncomfortable, and allows respectful disagreement; 
  • Broadens our definition of professional learning beyond courses or conferences; and  
  • Invests time, money, and resources in the learning of teachers and school leaders. 

Those in the field of educational change can support practitioners through teacher training, partnerships, sharing their scholarship broadly, and supporting practitioners undertaking post-graduate study. In my literature class, we are currently studying Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, and discussing the ways in which this 1985 novel continues to resonate with modern readers, dealing as it does with inequities; misuse of power to protect the needs of a few; unjust class structures; oppression due to gender, sexuality, race, and class; and reduction of individual freedoms with increased government control in the name of a ‘greater good’ (something we have experienced during the pandemic). One of the characters talks about the intention of the novel’s distressing dystopian reality as intended to be “better” but notes that “better never means better for everyone. It always means worse, for some.” We need education that is good for all, not just good for some. It is imperative that we continue to consider the very purpose of education, and how we invest in what we value. I often talk in my workplace about changing culture and building trust ‘one conversation at a time’. We all have a responsibility to change education for the better for all students, one conversation, policy, study, action, paper, citation, webinar, social media post, at a time. Scholars can ensure that they are speaking not only to one another, but to communities, governments, and education professionals. We can communicate our scholarly work through accessible channels (such as open access, and popular, online, or social media) so that it is available to those working in schools.

Those working with, and alongside, schools and school systems can do so with an understanding of the realities of the lived experiences of school-based educators, including: intensification of workload; increasing job complexity; and escalating emotional stresses resulting from family and social issues impacting students such as violence, financial difficulties, discrimination, and mental health. We can resist the short termism of fast policy change that follows election cycles, in which politicians present education policy quick fixes or simplistic solutions to win votes, rather than playing the long game of education. We can all advocate for sustained educational change focused on common good and long-term improvements. We can challenge deficit media narratives around teaching and schools when they are accused of ‘failing’ or ‘falling behind’ and instead work to instil trust in, offer alternate narratives of, and engage in scholarship that shares the voices and complexities of, the teaching and school leadership profession.

“We can all advocate for sustained educational change focused on common good and long-term improvements.”

LtC: Where do you perceive the field of Educational Change is going? What excites you about Educational Change now and in the future?

DN: One exciting thing I see happening in the field of educational change is the global, networked approach fortified and amplified by the pandemic. Collaboration—local, national, and global collaboration that is meaningful, transparent, productive, and focused on the shared moral purpose of the greater good for all—is key to a positive future. Now, more than ever, we are talking, researching, and working together, across societies, countries, systems, sectors, and fields, to co-design solutions to injustice, inequity, and discriminatory structures and practices.

An ongoing development in educational change and other fields is an increasing diversity of voices, perspectives, and representations. As Jon Andrews, Cameron Paterson, and I noted (Netolicky et al., 2019), and as is evident in my experience as editor of two books aiming to share diverse perspectives, this is not easy to achieve. It is often those with important perspectives to offer—from a range of ethnic and cultural backgrounds, genders, sexualities, classes, belief systems, and (dis)abilities—who are least able to contribute, for a range of complex reasons. It remains important for all scholars, educational leaders, and organisers of conferences and events, to consider who is cited, who is invited, and who is excluded, and to pursue the ongoing work of diversity and inclusion. We need to ask ourselves what behaviours and language we accept without challenge. We need to speak against microaggressions in our own professional and personal contexts. We need to consider how measurements of educational ‘excellence’ might perpetuate discrimination, favouring some and disadvantaging others. What do our measures measure, and what do our methods of research reinforce?

We need to seek out and seek to understand Indigenous and non-Western knowledges, ways of knowing, theories, and theorists. Including diverse cultural positions and approaches to research moves from problematising and othering cultural minorities, to expanding perspectives and the current knowledge base (Shay, 2019). What is exciting is the increasing valuing, reclaiming, and development of Indigenous research methodologies. Australian examples include Melitta Hogarth’s Indigenous Critical Discourse Analysis (Hogarth, 2017, 2018) and Marnee Shay’s Collaborative Yarning Methodology (Shay, 2019). Drawing simultaneously on Indigenous and Western methodologies—learning, working, and researching at ‘the interface’ (Ryder et al., 2020)—can challenge societal norms (Hogarth, 2017) and lead to innovation, the formation of new knowledge, and the development of culturally safe methodologies (Ryder et al., 2020). It is this work at the boundary, the interface, or the nexus that offers possibilities, as it means not binary thinking but both/and thinking in which new spaces, communities, and knowledges are formed, that can move educational change forward, while honouring and acknowledging its past.


Barr, A., Gillard, J., Firth, V., Scrymgour, M., Welford, R., Lomax-Smith, J., Bartlett, D., Pike, B., & Constable, E. (2008). Melbourne declaration on educational goals for young Australians. Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs.

Doucet, A., Netolicky, D., Timmers, K., & Tuscano, F. J. (2020). Thinking about Pedagogy in an Unfolding Pandemic: An Independent Report on Approaches to Distance Learning During COVID19 School Closures. Education International & UNESCO.

Education Council. (2019). Alice Springs (Mparntwe) Education Declaration. Carlton South, Victoria: Education Services Australia.

Hameed, S., Shay, M., & Miller, J. (forthcoming). “Deadly leadership” in the pursuit of Indigenous education excellence. In D. M. Netolicky (Ed.), Future Alternatives for Educational Leadership: Diversity, Inclusion, Equity, and Democracy. Routledge.

Hogarth, M. (2017). Speaking back to the deficit discourses: A theoretical and methodological approach. The Australian Educational Researcher44(1), 21-34.

Hogarth, M. D. (2018). Addressing the rights of Indigenous peoples in education: A critical analysis of Indigenous education policy. (Doctoral dissertation, Queensland University of Technology).

Hollweck, T., Campbell, P., & Netolicky, D.  M. (forthcoming). Defining and exploring pracademia: Identity, community, and engagement. Journal of Professional Capital and Community.

Netolicky, D. M. (2017). Cyborgs, desiring-machines, bodies without organs, and Westworld: Interrogating academic writing and scholarly identityKOME 5(1), pp. 91-103.

Netolicky, D. M. (2019). Elevating the professional identities and voices of teachers and school leaders in educational research, practice, and policymaking. In D. M. Netolicky, J. Andrews, & C. Paterson (Eds.) Flip the System Australia: What matters in education. Routledge.

Netolicky, D. M. (2020a). Being, becoming and questioning the school leader: An autoethnographic exploration of a woman in the middle. In R. Niesche & A. Heffernan (Eds.) Theorising Identity and Subjectivity in Educational Leadership Research, pp. 111-125. Routledge.

Netolicky, D. M. (2020b). Leading from Disruption to ‘Next Normal’ in Education. In Education Disrupted, Education Reimagined: Thoughts and Responses from Education’s Frontline During COVID-19 (e-book). World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) in partnership with Salzburg Global Seminar.

Netolicky, D. M. (2020c). School leadership during a pandemic: Navigating tensionsJournal of Professional Capital and Community, 5(3/4), 391-395.

Netolicky, D. M. (2020d). Transformational Professional Learning: Making a Difference in Schools. Routledge.

Netolicky, D. M. (Ed.). (forthcoming). Future Alternatives for Educational Leadership: Diversity, Inclusion, Equity, and Democracy. Routledge.

Netolicky, D. M., Andrews, J., & Paterson, C. (Eds.). (2019). Flip the System Australia: What Matters in Education. Routledge.

Netolicky, D. M., & Golledge, C. (forthcoming). Wayfinding: Navigating complexity for sustainable school leadership. In D. M. Netolicky (Ed.), Future Alternatives for Educational Leadership: Diversity, Inclusion, Equity, and Democracy. Routledge.

Ryder, C., Mackean, T., Coombs, J., Williams, H., Hunter, K., Holland, A. J. A., & Ivers, R. Q. (2020). Indigenous research methodology – weaving a research interface. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 23(3), 255-267. 

Shay, M. (2019). Extending the yarning yarn: collaborative yarning methodology for ethical Indigenist education research. The Australian Journal of Indigenous Education, 1-9.

ABOUT THE LTC SERIES: The Lead the Change series, featuring renowned educational change experts from around the globe, serves to highlight promising research and practice, to offer expert insight on small- and large-scale educational change, and to spark collaboration within the Educational Change Special Interest Group of the American Educational Research Association.  Kristin Kew, Chair; Mireille Hubers; Program Chair; Na Mi Bang, Secretary/Treasurer; Min Jung KimGraduate Student Representative; Jennie Weiner, LtC Series Editor; Alexandra Lamb, Production Editor.

What has remote learning looked like in Finland? School closures, equity, stress, and well-being

This week Raisa Ahtiainen reports on the work of a research partnership between the Centre for Educational Assessment at the University of Helsinki and the Research Group for Education, Assessment, and Learning and the Research Group on Children’s and Adolescents’ Health Promotion both at Tampere University. (See Schooling, teaching and well-being of school community during the COVID-19 epidemic in Finland.) Since the start of the pandemic and the transition to remote learning in March 2020, the members of this partnership have been documenting how teaching has been organized during the school closures in order to provide an overview of the situation for the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture. Further, the study aims to support the development of the practices of education organizers and schools. This post draws from data collected in May 2020, just after Finnish schools reopened following the initial lockdown and in the fall of 2020, about 6 months later. Data included surveys with five different groups – students, guardians,  teachers, principals and school welfare group members -that yielded almost 100 000 respondents in total. A third wave of data collection is being carried out in April 2021. For news stories on the school closures and reopenings see “Kids head back to school across Finland” (May 2020),“Three-week shutdown for Finland in March” (February 2021), and “Corona group recommends remote learning continue until Easter” (March 2021).

This spring, many students in Finnish comprehensive schools have returned to their classrooms after a 3-week remote learning period that started on March 8, 2021. In contrast to March, 2020 when all schools were forced switch to remote learning with just a few days’ notice, in 2021, remote learning applied only to the students in the upper grades of comprehensive schools (7th to 9th grade). However, in some regions the remote learning period has been extended until the beginning of April due to the high number of local COVID-19 cases.

After the nationwide remote learning period ended in May 2020, the regulations governing remote learning were changed at national level in response to the variation in the spread of the coronavirus around the country. Consequently, since August 2020, the local education organizers (i.e. municipalities) have been given responsibility to make their own decisions on remote learning (e.g. for 1-2 weeks) for a school or certain group of students and teachers if there have been verified Covid-19 cases or exposures. That has made the course of actions concerning needs for temporary local remote learning periods more flexible, and it is in line with the decentralized approach to governance in the Finnish context.

Based on experiences gained during the 8-week remote learning of spring 2020, the government has also made temporary changes in the Basic Education Act (i.e. the legislation guiding work in comprehensive schools) to make sure the most vulnerable student groups can still have access to school. That means schools are required to stay open for students in pre-school (the year before children enter government schools, around age 6), for students in grades 1-3, and for students receiving special support (students with SEN). These students have the right to go to school, with their teaching organized in school buildings. It has been seen as important to secure and support learning and schooling of these students during the exceptional times.

What did remote learning look like in Spring 2020?

In the spring 2020, remote learning divided students’ perceptions of learning. Some students reported that remote learning suited them well and they felt that learning at home had been more effective than at school. However, nearly half of 7th to 9th grade students and a third of students in 4th – 6th reported that they had learned less than usual during remote learning. The researchers concluded that despite the fast transition period, technically, remote learning went surprisingly well. Consequently, they noted that, if schools turn to remote learning again, the focus should be on the content of learning and on supporting students individually.

However, the results also confirmed the researchers’ suspicions that during the exceptional period in spring 2020 equality in education was not achieved as well as under normal circumstances. That is, the researchers found large differences in the distance learning practices of schools. For example, about a quarter of teachers and principals said that the school had jointly decided on loosening assessment requirements or on not lowering student grades, but more than half of the schools did not have such guidelines in place. In one in five schools, assessment practices were not agreed upon at all. In most schools, the aim of remote learning was to arrange teaching according to the school timetable/schedule as much as possible, meaning that the teacher was to be regularly available to students. However, as many as one-fifth of 7th to 9th grade students said that video-based teaching had not been provided at all in their literacy, mathematics and language courses. There were also big differences between schools with respect to how schools had been able to provide their students with the digital equipment they needed for studying. About a third of parents said family members had taken turns using the equipment. In addition, when the usual school timetable/schedule was not followed or their normal teacher was not available to teach, the students’ stress symptoms increased. The differences in operating practices between comprehensive schools with only the upper grades (7-9) were remarkably large. However, schools with lower grades (4-6) typically implemented remote learning practices that were less structured and students received homework packages instead of interactive remote learning instruction.

… as many as one-fifth of 7th to 9th grade students said that video-based teaching had not been provided at all in their literacy, mathematics and language courses.

Based on these findings, the researchers argued that well-implemented remote learning has a clear structure, it is interactive and students are required to be self-directed in a way that suits their level of development. Especially, for younger students, they found that more guidance was needed. Guardians of the younger students (1st to 3rd) grade were frustrated with remote learning tasks that their children received that did not include teacher guidance. 

What did remote learning look like in Fall 2020?

In the autumn 2020, the researchers examined a wide range of safety guidelines that schools were advised to follow. There were large school-specific variations in safety practices reported by teachers that were not explained by regional differences in the coronavirus situation. Guardians’ perceptions of the daily operations of the schools greatly differed from the situation described by the teachers, but confidence in the operation of the schools was strong. School safety practices were related to whether the school had experienced corona exposures during the autumn, although the epidemiological situation in the area explained the exposures more strongly. According to the study results, schools should continue to adhere to safety practices.

Further, the study paid specific attention to the number of and reasons for student absences and their effects on learning. According to the guardians, there were differences in the remote education received by students in the autumn depending on the reason for the absence from school. Remote learning was most positively described by guardians whose children had had many absences due to quarantine imposed by health care staff. In contrast, for students in voluntary quarantine, the situation appeared to be the opposite.

Remote learning was most positively described by guardians whose children had had many absences due to quarantine imposed by health care staff. In contrast, for students in voluntary quarantine, the situation appeared to be the opposite.

In order to achieve equal learning opportunities for students, the researchers proposed that it would be good for schools to consider whether in the future it would be possible to implement distance learning more uniformly for students absent for various reasons.  Overall, students with more school absences felt that they received slightly less support to mitigate the effects of the spring exceptional situation and to keep up with their studies. Personal contact from the teacher, even remotely, was related to the student’s experience of receiving support. The researchers stress that schools should therefore continue to pay attention to reaching students personally who are absent for various reasons in when exceptional circumstances continue. Even a short personal interaction with a student during the school day can act as a means of engagement. The researchers pointed out, however, that in general, a large proportion of both primary and lower secondary school students felt that they had received study help from their teacher when they needed it.

School closures, remote learning, and well-being

Furthermore, school practices are important for the well-being of students and families, especially in distance learning situations. According to the study, the stress associated with a child’s schooling was high among guardians during the exceptional circumstances in spring 2020. Although the situation was not yet normal in the autumn, when the schools were generally open, the stress experienced by the parents was clearly less than in the spring.

It may be that in teacher communities where teachers are used to collaborating and sharing effective practices, the school is perceived as more ready to face school closures in the future

Stress experienced by teachers and principals due to their work was generally at the same level in the spring and in the autumn in 2020. In contrast, recovery from work-related stress was easier in the autumn than in the spring. The majority of teachers and principals felt that the school was well or very well prepared to implement remote learning if the school would be closed in the future. There were no regional differences in the responses based on the epidemiological situation in the region. However, school-specific variation was found, and part of it was associated with teachers’ experiences of collective efficacy. The researchers found that collective efficacy experiences are built on shared experiences of success and management. Thus, it may be that in teacher communities where teachers are used to collaborating and sharing effective practices, the school is perceived as more ready to face school closures in the future. Schools should therefore strive to maintain and strengthen cooperation between teachers and the team spirit of the school, as it can help the school and its staff to cope with this difficult time. 

Note: The research on ‘Schooling, teaching and well-being of school community during the COVID-19 epidemic in Finland’ is funded by the Finnish Ministry of Culture and Education

                                                            — Raisa Ahtiainen