I don’t expect the powers to be to take much notice of this but…

….. they ought to.

I’m a teacher, not in the USA but I have experience of teaching in three different countries and though the article is specifically about how Americans are missing the point of Finland’s educational success, the thrust of the piece is equally valid about UK education, particularly England. I’m only going to address one of the themes of the piece right now though I reserve the right to come back to others at a later date.

Once upon a time there were essentially three types of secondary school in England: private (paid for schools, confusingly known as public schools), grammar schools (state-funded but academically selective) and secondary modern schools (for the rest). This is broad brush stuff, I accept, and there were nuances which I’m not going into. Then the state sector was changed so that all schools became comprehensive (apart from in some limited local areas where the grammar schools were allowed to continue creaming off the brightest of students every year….). Skip forward two or three short decades and there are now many, many new types of school, some largely or wholly untested and introduced without evidence of need and for entirely ideological reasons. We have academies (state-funded but freed from local oversight), free schools (which can be set up by, well, anyone who fancies a go at this education lark, for whatever reason), faith schools (this is really going to help community cohesion and harmony, isn’t it?) specialist science schools, performing arts schools, business studies schools, the list goes on. All of which come in a bewildering array of flavours. This is supposedly in the interests of parental choice – something that was never demanded by parents. All the evidence suggests that far from demanding choice, parents simply wanted (and still want) a good school at the end of the road. In practice no choice exists except for though wealthy and/or scheming enough to game the system (the degree of outright fraud involved in otherwise spotlessly clean middle class families trying to appear to reside at their preferred post code is probably very scary indeed but that’s a whole ‘nother topic). Most parents have no choice but to enrol their offspring at the nearest school, assuming they fit the entrance criteria. If they don’t clear that hurdle, tough. They could end up shipping little Jack and Jill several miles a day to a school which will take them on. Competition, you see, supposedly solves all problems, including education.

No. Compare and contrast this to Finland’s clearly more successful one-size-fits-all approach. Wherever you choose to send you children they will get a good quality education. and the country will benefit from that economically and possibly in cohesiveness too. Is this the only factor in Finland’s success? Undoubtedly not. Is this ever likely to be implemented in Britain? Almost certainly not. Should it be? Probably, yes. If only we could keep the politicians and their meddling out of the education game… If only….


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