This is the second of the series of 3 articles discussing about the policies and successful practices of education systems around the world chosen on the basis of their high performances
in the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). 12 videos were compiled by OECD and the Pearson Foundation, highlighting initiatives taken towards educational reform by 12 different countries. The previous article discussed about 4 such countries and this article will focus on Ontario- Canada, Netherlands, Shanghai- China and Poland.
Ontario, Canada : One of Canada’s social and political priorities is to handle the education challenges faced by immigrant children. Since 2003, Ontario has targeted the development of immigrant children to raise educational standards and boost its economy. The social environment in Canada is favorable for educational success, schooling is widely supported and the society takes collective responsibility for children’s educational welfare. Schools see it as their duty to incorporate immigrants into the mainstream culture and value is placed on high educational achievement for immigrant children. As part of its reforms, Ontario launched a Literacy and Numeracy project to raise Reading and Mathematics results in elementary schools. It also launched a Student Success project to increase high school graduation rates, including a new program for high school students who were not interested in traditional academic subjects. Through reform strategies the earlier lacking support of teachers was won through negotiations with teacher unions through a combination of measures such as reduced class sizes, availability of more class preparation time, the creation of a student success position in each school, and focus on strengthening teachers’ professional capabilities.
Netherlands : Quality of education is a major social concern in the Netherlands. As a main element of its policies, the government has launched a drive to raise teaching standards and the professional qualifications of teaching staff. The Dutch are looking to professional teacher organizations to support and play a significant role in this process. As part of this drive, teachers are increasingly being encouraged to learn from their colleagues through a process of peer reviews and are required to join a National Teacher Registry, run by a body formed by teacher organizations to monitor professional qualifications. Candidate teachers are encouraged to study to attain Master level qualifications, and the government school inspectorates are now given the responsibility for the assessment of teachers’ skills. Other strategies include adapting content and teaching methods to meet the needs of specific student groups, including both those with learning difficulties and high achievers.
Shanghai, China : Shanghai stands out for its commitment to raising education standards for all and for the high quality results that its students achieve. In the 2009 PISA tests, Shanghai ranked at the top. Shanghai’s experiments with educational reform began in 1980, when it started pioneering new types of vocational schools that did not guarantee or assign jobs. In 1990, Shanghai launched a curriculum reform that aimed at reducing the exam-oriented approach of schools in order to build quality education. Shanghai is focused on broadening students’ learning experiences and developing capability rather than accumulation of information and knowledge. In 1994, Shanghai introduced neighborhood attendance at primary and junior secondary levels, thereby obligating teachers to handle children of diverse backgrounds and different abilities. By eliminating public examinations at the end of primary schooling, Shanghai released primary teaching from the exam pressure and allowed innovation and creativity to flourish. Shanghai also raised the bar for entry to the teaching profession. All primary school teachers must have a diploma and all teachers in secondary schools are degree-holders with professional certification. Many teachers have Master’s degrees and continuous professional development for teachers is essential. Since 1990-2000, Shanghai put initiatives to upgrade school buildings and facilities according to a standard program and a system of financial transfer payments mobilized public funding for schools in remote areas. One of the most ambitious strategies has been to draw on the strengths of the best performing schools by getting them to take responsibility for leading improvements at weaker schools.
Poland : With major school reforms, Poland has dramatically reduced the numbers of poorly performing students in its schools and cut by half the variations in performance among schools. The government raised a reform strategy that set three main objectives: raising secondary and higher education qualifications; ensuring equal educational opportunities; and improving the quality of education. In the late 1990s, a new lower secondary school program was introduced for children between ages 13 and 15, followed by three upper secondary options offering academic, technical and vocational tracks. A new system of external examinations was implemented at the end of primary, lower secondary and upper secondary schools, to ensure schools were moving in the right direction. In another significant reform, the government introduced a new salary system for teachers in 2007 which required salaries to be based on the nature of tasks assigned to teachers, things they do and efforts they make to accomplish them, and the results they achieve, as well as on their professional qualifications and experience. The new system also provides for flexibility according to location, and for bonuses in the event of a school achieving excellent results.
The next and final article of the series will discuss about the policies, practices and reforms by a set four different countries. Watch out for it and share your views on the context, the Comment Box is waiting.