24 August 2010

Obsession With Ranking- Episode 1

This is my first post in this series. I really get obsessed with the ranking by Newsweek and could not get it out of my head. Even watching The Big Bang Theory did not help. My first topic in this series in which I call Obsession With Ranking (OWR) is about Education. 

I love talking about education this few days probably because of personal reason perhaps. I am a very lazy student, so school failed me. An American President (I forgot which one) that he was a smart student, but education ruined him. The Newsweek ranking made me do a lot of research on our education standard compared to the rest of the world. 

I came across an article in BBC that shows what educationalists learnt from Finland which has the best school system in the world.  Last year more than 100 foreign delegations and governments visited Helsinki, hoping to learn the secret of their schools' success.

Here are things that they found out:

No child is left behind!
  1. The Finnish philosophy with education is that everyone has something to contribute and those who struggle in certain subjects should not be left behind. 

  • Situation: Our education systems meanwhile put much emphasise on Maths, Sciences and Languages and study them academically, not practically. It is nothing wrong with the emphasise, but the exam-focused teaching method has left many behind. Our education systems are bias towards those who have higher cognitive abilities.
  • Solutions: A tactic used in virtually every lesson is the provision of an additional teacher who helps those who struggle in a particular subject. -BBC. Revolutionise education system to cater the needs of all, not just forcing most of us just to become scientists, doctors and accountants. Most of us want to be a fireman as well, so teach us skills; how to think creatively so that we can think of ways to create new technology or ways to prevent fire.

  1. Finnish children spend the fewest number of hours in the classroom in the developed world
  • They say it will help the children to grow normally, and feel enough of playing and will have a deep sense to learn after that. I couldn't agree no more. When we satisfy with something, we move on. In this case, children will feel they have played too much before they are 7 years old. However, in Malaysia, most parents steal their children's playing time and send them to tuitions, abacus classes, piano lessons, dance lessons, English language classes etc. 
  1. Primary and secondary schooling is combined, so the pupils don't have to change schools at age 13.
  • I don't really agree with this because some changes of experience are vital to our development. Change is good. 
  1. Children in Finland only start main school at age seven. The idea is that before then they learn best when they're playing and by the time they finally get to school they are keen to start learning.
  • See, this is what I was suggesting before this.
Parents should put more emphasise on
reading at home
  1. Finnish parents obviously claim some credit for the impressive school results. There is a culture of reading with the kids at home and families have regular contact with their children's teachers.
  • This cannot be far from the truth. Parents are the most important part of this. Here, parents also take credits in education, they send their children to tuitions, extra classes etc. Being doctors or lawyers is everything!
  1. Teaching is a prestigious career in Finland. Teachers are highly valued and teaching standards are high.
  • Regarding that teaching standards are high, I don't really know because I have never experienced other systems yet. However, we really need to put a teacher on the same par with how we regard doctors in society.
  1. Pupils study in a relaxed and informal atmosphere.
  • This is exactly what I want! Relaxed but rigorous! Not 10 subjects but 8 should be enough, without EST of course. A little flexibility should be fine, to change Biology with Economics. There is always a thought that SPM Economics is for the last class only, I don't know why most schools don't offer it to the bright students. We want to study other than Sciences as well!
  1. The system's success is built on the idea of less can be more. There is an emphasis on relaxed schools, free from political prescriptions. 
  • Less subjects, less homework, less extra classes but more quality lessons, more assignments and projects. For example in Sejarah, if we are allowed to choose a topic that we like, for example, communism and ask us to make a detailed research on that particular area. We would be an expert in that and will retain in our memory till death, isn't it? But no way, they want us to know everything and we end up remember nothing because in our mind, we always say 'a lot to remember!'.
  1. High-quality preschooling does more for a child’s chances in school and life than any other educational intervention.
  • I give my highest respect to the Government for realising this and I can see very much focus on pre-schooling education nowadays. It is even part of Government's Transformation Program (GTP).
  1. recognize the value of individualized attention.
  • Globalisation has made everyone becomes more the same. Every country put the same hierarchy in their education system (Maths and Science at the top) until they all produce robots. Personalised attention is very much needed in our education system; less students per school, high teacher to students ratio, individual development. We need to produce unique robots who are like human, not human who are like robots!
Maybe you would think that it is impossible for Finnish to get the best from their people if they relax the education system. Well, these are the facts:
  • Finland's pupils scored the highest average results in science and reading in the whole of the developed world.
  • In the OECD's exams for 15 year-olds, known as PISA, they also came second in maths, beaten only by teenagers in South Korea.
  • in previous PISA tests Finland also came out top.
So, let's work together to achieve these goals. Jom, Malaysia Boleh!- The Chukai Insider

- This article is part of Obsession With Ranking series. Any opinions and suggestions are very much welcomed.

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