In the present day Global economy, high-quality education systems are needed to teach students the essential skills that are required to meet the future challenges. Education systems around
the world have been reforming to be at par with the education needs of the modern world. Huge efforts have been made by several countries to improve their education sector, which has a significant role to play in the socio-economic progress of a nation.
A series of 12 videos produced jointly by the OECD and the Pearson Foundation profiles policies and practices of high performing and improving education systems and highlights the initiatives being taken by education authorities around the world to help school students do better. The school systems featured in the videos were chosen on the basis of their high performance in the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). PISA is conducted every 3 years to evaluate the skills of 15-year-old secondary school students in 3 basic areas: Reading, Mathematics and Science. Pencil-and-paper tests are used to assess how well students analyze problems, seek solutions and communicate ideas. The latest round was carried out in 2009, in around 70 countries with the participation of around half a million students.
This article is the first of the series of three articles that will discuss about the policies and practices adopted by 12 different countries for a better educational reform. This part will focus on Belgium (Flanders), Japan, Brazil and Korea.
Belgium (Flanders): The Flemish education system extensively grants autonomy to schools. Anyone is allowed to set up a school and parents and students can choose any school they want. Though highly beneficial, this system has drawbacks too. To raise standards, the Flemish government has developed a strategy based on a ‘triangle of quality’. The first corner of this triangle represents schools. By law, schools are responsible for the quality of the education they deliver, they must meet generalized attainment targets, should promote participation of key stakeholders and must have student councils to represent students. The second corner of the triangle consists of pedagogical advisory services linked to Catholic, private, community and municipal or provincial schools. They offer educational and methodological support and advise schools on how to raise their performance to meet the minimum requirements. The third corner is the Flemish School Inspectorate, whose inspectors check the quality of outcomes at individual schools through classroom observation and interviews with school management, teachers and students.
Japan: A standardized national curriculum and textbooks, coupled with relatively equal distribution of educational facilities and resources, have helped Japan to achieve better outcomes with students performing to a high level. In 2002, Yutori Kyoiku (relaxed education) reform was introduced, it included a 30% cut in the school curriculum and five-day school week to allow students more time to relax. The notion of Sogo Teki Na Gakushu No Jikan (integrated learning) was also introduced, giving schools and teachers greater freedom in selecting topics and areas of study. In 2011, the national curriculum was revised to balance the building of a solid knowledge base with support for creative thinking. Also, PISA-type open-constructed tasks have been incorporated into the national assessment with a view to demonstrating the value of skills that are important for the knowledge economy. The Zest for Living strategy is designed to help students develop independent thinking and has been hailed as a valuable way to help students face the uncertainties and challenges of the future.
Brazil: In 2001, a National Education Plan set out guidelines, goals and priorities for the three levels of government at federal, state and municipal level. In 2007, a federal Education Development Plan combined increased spending in classrooms with performance monitoring to drive improvements. A base salary was introduced for teachers and minimum entry qualifications were raised. A new indicator of education quality called the Basic Education Development Index (IDEB), in order to track schools’ performance. It draws on student test results and graduation rates to provide a nation-wide performance map through which the federal government can identify weaknesses and provide technical and financial assistance. By setting individual quality goals and leaving schools free to choose how best to achieve them, the Education Development Plan has effectively transformed Brazil into a giant laboratory of best education practices.
Korea: The potential of ICT in education was recognized and a master plan to develop ICT infrastructure with one PC per teacher and Internet access in all classrooms was launched. Subsequent strategies have set out to enhance education quality by providing open access to content and by training teachers to integrate ICT into classroom teaching. In 2005, the government launched a Cyber Home Learning System that gives students home access to digital tutoring. In 2011, it announced a $2.4 billion strategy to digitize the nation’s entire school curriculum by 2015. This project (Smart Education) will involve the installation of wireless networks in all schools and the creation of a digitized education system that will run on a range of equipment including PCs, laptops, tablet PCs and smart TVs.
Smart Education’ will help to bridge the education divide between families who can afford to pay for private tutoring and those that can’t. Pilot tests are said to have shown measurable improvements in the performance of students from less well-off families and students in remote areas.
Watch out for the next part that will cover the policies and practices of four other countries. Share your views on the context. The Comment Box is waiting.