Monday, August 29, 2011

How Finland became an education leader

A Radio talk with David sirota about Finnish education.
How has one industrialized country created one of the world's most successful education systems in a way that is completely hostile to testing? That's the question asked -- and answered -- in a new documentary called "The Finland Phenomenon: Inside the World's Most Surprising School System." Examining the nation with one of the most comparatively successful education systems on the planet, the film contradicts the test-obsessed, teacher-demonizing orthodoxy of education "reform" that now dominates America's political debate.
On my KKZN-AM760 radio show, I talked to Harvard researcher Tony Wagner, who narrates the film and who is the author of the 2008 book "The Global Achievement Gap: Why Even Our Best Schools Don't Teach the New Survival Skills Our Children Need -- And What We Can Do About It." The interview became the basis for my recent newspaper column on the subject. Because that column generated so much feedback, I wanted to publish this abridged transcript of our larger discussion. You can listen to the full interview here.
What has Finland achieved, and what's the history behind its improved education system?
In the early 1970s, Finland had an underperforming education system and a pretty poor agrarian economy based on one product -- trees, and they were chopping them down at a rapid rate that wasn't going to get them very far. So they knew they had to completely revamp their education system in order to create a true knowledge-based economy.
What has Finland achieved, and what's the history behind its improved education system?
In the early 1970s, Finland had an underperforming education system and a pretty poor agrarian economy based on one product -- trees, and they were chopping them down at a rapid rate that wasn't going to get them very far. So they knew they had to completely revamp their education system in order to create a true knowledge-based economy.
So they began in the 1970s by completely transforming the preparation and selection of future teachers. That was a very important fundamental reform because it enabled them to have a much higher level of professionalism among teachers. Every teacher got a masters degree, and every teacher got the very same high quality level of preparation.
So what has happened since is that teaching has become the most highly esteemed profession. Not the highest paid, but the most highly esteemed. Only one out of every 10 people who apply to become teachers will ultimately make it to the classroom. The consequence has been that Finland's performance on international assessments, called PISA, have consistently outranked every other western country, and really there are only a handful of eastern countries that are educating with the same results.
So, Finland basically focuses on teachers and not on domestic testing. Those PISA tests that you cite are international assessments.
That's absolutely right. There is no domestic testing except a very quiet auditing program to test demographic samples of kids; not for accountability, not for public consumption, and not for comparison across schools. The fascinating thing is that because they have created such a high level of professionalism, they can trust their teachers. Their motto is "Trust Through Professionalism." The difference between the highest performing school in Finland and the lowest performing school in Finland is less than four percent, and that's without any testing at all.
This is the antithesis of what we're hearing about in the United States in terms of so-called education "reform." When you hear the debate in the United States over education, the idea is that we need to demonize teachers and that the real way to fix our education system is to simply test the hell out of kids. Why do you think there is such a difference between the attitudes of our two countries?
First of all I want to point out that Finland is rated among the highest in the world in innovation, entrepreneurship and creativity. It's not your grandfather's socialist country in any sense of the word.
But beyond that, what I find so striking is that the reforms in [the U.S.] have been driven and led by businesses for the last quarter century. It was David Kearns at Xerox and Lou Gerstner at IBM calling for a national summit on education and they didn't invite any educators. They invited CEOs and governors and senators and congressmen.
Now, I understand and respect business needs for better skills, and I understand a certain mistrust of the education system based on the fact that it's the only profession where you're guaranteed a job for life. But what's different in Finland is that there has been a bipartisan consensus over 30 years about the importance of education and the importance of high-quality teaching as the real solution. It's been a partnership between businesses, policy makers and educators, and that's what we need in this country but don't have.
What would you say to folks who say you can't compare the United States' educational system to Finland's educational system because Finland has a homogenous population and the U.S. is a much more diverse population?
First, Finland is more diverse than people realize. Fifteen percent of the population speaks second languages. There are 45 languages spoken in Helsinki schools today. Point two for a point of comparison, and there are obviously huge differences, but it's not Finland as a country compared to US as a country. Finland has the size and population of about 33 of our states. So let's compare Finland to Minnesota -- very similar demographics, right? But not at all similar results in terms of international comparisons. So while it's true that there are differences, there's a lot we can learn from the Finnish story.
What about the role of economics? New York University professor Diane Ravitch often says that the education system in this country cannot alone solve poverty, and in many cases it will inherently reflect poverty. Finland is a much less economically unequal society. How much does that lack of poverty explain Finland's success as opposed to our own?
There are two answers to that. First of all, yes, race and class matter. You want to know what a test score in a district is, you find out how poor people are. There's no question that race and class, and the economic disparity in this country, go a very long way to understanding our achievement gap.
But having said that, I've been in some of this country's best schools in some of the wealthiest districts, and even some private schools, and I've seen stunningly mediocre teaching there with teachers teaching to the test. And the tests are primarily factual recall, memorization tests where students may pass, but will learn none of the skills that are necessary in the global knowledge economy.
This is what Finland has done that's different -- they've defined what is excellent teaching, not just reasonable teaching, and they have a standard for that. Second, they've defined what is most important to learn, and it's not a memorization-based curriculum, but a thinking-based curriculum. So even in our wealthiest districts we're not approaching that global standard of success and excellence.
If we could somehow wave a wand and implement Finland's education system right now here in America, what do you think the results would look like? Would they be so much better, keeping in mind those economic disparities and that economic inequality?
It's going to take generations and I do believe we're going to have to address these economic disparities. But I've been in schools with high poverty, KIPP schools, which like schools in Finland, have defined what is excellence in teaching and learning. I think you can see from the results that KIPP schools get, how graduates of KIPP schools go to college and succeed in college at higher rates than white, middle class kids. That's because of excellent teaching. So yes, race and class matter. We have to address those issues, and we cannot use that as an excuse for low achievement.
How did Finland manage to elevate the role of teacher in the eyes of the population to something that is not just an honorable profession, but a revered profession, whereas in the United States, teachers are so regularly denigrated?
They really think about teachers as scientists and the classrooms are their laboratories. So, as I mentioned -- every teacher has to have a masters degree, and it's a content degree where they're not just taking silly courses on education theory and history. They're taking content courses that enable them to bring a higher level of intellectual preparation into the classroom. That's the first point.
The second point is that they've defined professionalism as working more collaboratively. They give their teachers time in the school day and in the school week to work with each other, to continuously improve their curriculum and their lessons. We have a 19th century level of professionalism here, or worse, it's medieval. A teacher works alone all day, everyday, and isolation is the enemy of improvement and innovation, which is something the Finns figured out a long time ago. Get the teachers out of their isolated circumstances and give them time to work together.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Meeting degree friends - Dejavu after 16 years.

·       The idea and preparation to meet after 16 years
Three years back myself and Giri met after attending Abhinanadan’s marriage. We discussed about meeting all our degree class mates, at a designated place. But it only remained at the talk level.
After these years our batch mate Shobha (Police) went Veena’s home in US. There in the foreign land, thousands kilometers away they planned to meet all. Thus it was born. They have decided to make us meet. Veena shared the same with Raveendra over the phone. He suggested BRP and date ie today on 28/05/2011. Thus the journey started.
Shobha (Lambu), Veena coordinated much of the work.Veena got help of Anju her child hood friend to book the resort, boarding. Shobha went to Kishen handicraft to order for mementos. Thus the meeting of us began. Thanks to them, they have done lots of work and calls to come and meet here.
·       The day – Morning.
On 28/05/2011 the day began with Shobhas, Veena, and her Hubby Suresh waiting for 30 minutes for all of us in front of Usha nursing home. I went late. There I met 4 of my friends after years. How nice it was to be.Then we went to meet our prof.Gouri Shankar sir. Sir was very happy and received with the same zeal. We thanked our sir for shaping us. Memorable event it was. His home and garden has been so nice to sit up on. It was a shanty at the garden where one will be tender creatures amidst of the green foliage, bending as a blade of grass. After sipping cup of milk at his home, we touched his feet, did our namaskaram, And started to meet our other friends.
As we reached Usha nursing home, our friends Giri, Mosses Manohar, Prasad, Ravi, Shashi, Raveendra and hubby of Shobha (Gandhi nagar), Nanda were waiting. All of us decided to meet Aravinda who has under gone surgery of both of his knees. Met him, wished him good luck, sipped coffee and headed to resort of BRP with hungry stomach.

·       The meeting and Day
Anju arranged many things.We all thanked her for her kind gesture purely out of friendship. Now also we are thankful to her.
By going to the past, chit chatting Finished our breakfast. There joined our more batch mates Sachin, Manoj, Asif, Kumar, Ashok, Abhinandan, Riyaz, Harsha, and our pleasant surprise Aravinda was also brought by Madhu with stretchers. We discussed our journey of 16 years. All of us were so happy to be in a position and proud for our growth.
Alphabetically arranged list below shows the chronicle of our batch mates
Ø 1. Abhinandan : An achiever. When thought he has been late in many dev matters now progressed well. But Abhi please look after your girth, U r the one who has undergone lot of changes. Your friendly gesture and smile remained the same. OK. His friend is also HS teacher like him and well settled. His cell no is 9611327127.
Ø 2 Asif: Asif the down to earth guy still retain the same charm. Now runs a store of Philips electronic goods. Married to Sheeba and has two children. His marriage and life has been an adventures one. Now god opened his eyes and we wish him good luck.
Ø 3. Aravinda as usual ready to give up anything for the cause of others is well settled at Gandhinagar.Shimoga with wife and a child. He runs a shop near Gourav lodge.
Ø 4. Ashok; Ashok now lives in Ajjampura doing agriculture and running fertilizer shop. His zeal, smile, hair style and appreciating good remained the same.
Ø 5. Girish.M.R or our lovely Giri is one of the foundation pillars of MN pickles which his father owns. He is working with brother and father for its expansion. Very very intelligent guy. Strait forward, warm, lovely and friendly guy. Well settled @ Shiralakoppa with wife and two children.
Ø 6. Harsha; An adventures guy. He fought for many things in college. Strait forward, appreciative and frank Harsha again struggled after opening an industry of bio fuel. Also does photography. You are our friend and our wishes are with you to achieve again.
Ø 7. Kumar has become a politician. He is the ZP member of Chickmangalore. It was nice to hear for our closest friend to be the politician. Very concerned and caring guy. His innocent smile still visible in his face.
Ø 8. Madhu has been a very courageous guy during college days. Very friendly and warm. Today he has earned well, proprietor of a cable network.
Ø 9. Manoj: we called him as Manu. Now he is advocate by profession. Though he scored less in degree, he did not give up. Did his LLB and also LLM. Persuaded his education and turned his life as green .Still he is frank and open as he was.
Ø 10. Mosses Manu: Manu retained the same vigor, charm, risk bearing capacity. The smiling charm is still pink in him. Achieved a lot. Purchased farm house, runs poultry, runs bar and restaurants, and also does big contracts of painting.
Ø 11. Nanda: She was and is the same smiling girl with same lethargy (Smile please).Well settled in Bangalore with wel known small screen producer, Artist and Director Lingadevaru. She now looks much prettier and her motherly affection continues to be the same. 
Ø 12. Prasad: Prasad has not at all changed a bit. Very handsome guy with soft speech. He settled at Sirsi with wife and two daughters. Runs his brick factory, ran late rite mines and also looks after his farm at Sirsi.
Ø 13. Raveendra(Bdvt): Raveendra’s commitment to the company has been a note of appreciation. Though he is just degree holder with arts background, he heads a section in COMET.He owns a flat in Bangalore and lives with wife and son.
Ø 14. Raveendra(Basavanagudi): Ravi also works in the same company like Raveendra of BDVT, has completed a course in GTDC.He is also in the same software company called Comet.Good person with lots of commitment. He is married and settled in Bangalore.
Ø 15. Riyaz : Very silent guy. Settled in Ayanur. Not changed much and retained the same charm of the youth.Does Ginger bussines.
Ø 16. Sachin: The cute sachchi now lives Near kuppalli in thirthahalli taluk with wife. He looks after areca garden and well settled.
Ø 17. Shashi; He has settled in Sanda his native in Shikaripura taluk, practices law and taluk court. Still the same enthusiastic guy, with same fun,pun and the best mannerisms. Very friendly but still a bachelor. Wish him a cute and caring wife.
Ø 18. Shobha, fondly called as Lambu shobha is the same as she was in degree. Very warm, kind hearted, encouraging and enthusiastic. She is married to Mr Murali, who is the techy leader.He is as Shobha says a guide, friend and philosopher. They have a son and want to settle in Mysore.
Ø 19. Shobha, fondly called as Police Shobha was very silent during degree days. She is a very affectionate, hearty and warm friend. Though she has a daughter who studies in 10th, she does not look so, and with the proud look she is very pretty. She runs an industry in Bangalore.So good to hear.
Ø 20. Veena was and is with pure heart, frank and initiator. Her growth has been well. She joined comet a software dev company, then married Suresh and now lives in US. Her husband Mr Suresh a soft ware engr is also very frank and friendly. He has photography as hobby. He certainly increases comfort zone.
Ha! Happy to note;
Despite being less opportunistic as we when we were studying we were looked down as arts students. Many thought we join the band wagon of unemployed with BA. Now all of us who joined here are well positioned, achieved and rendered to our country. Made our parents happy. I am very happy to see the progress of my batch mates. The tears of happiness are out my heart. Thank you for becoming worth of being.
                                                  With care – Hariprasad.G.V

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Basic reading in this field plz suggest

Subir shares an imp information as Teaching community hadn't read even 3 academic / professional books among them in the last 1 year. And he has requested for some of the books for basic reading. I have few right know. Thay are 1.Toto chan by Tetsuko koriyanagi, 2.Teacher man. 3. From tution to intution. 4.Tis 5.Diwasapna by Gijubhai badeka 6. The last lecture can be few right now. If you have such list please suggest the titles and authors.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Spring Morning @ home

Spring sun yet to raise, there is enough indication of surety displayed by nature by cocks cackling. The dawn usher kissing grass, leaves with dim reflection. Nightingale sings, Bulbul calls her mate,  Maina chirps, toads croak, and  wagtails, tailor birds, sparrows, cormorants, egrets, tuvves, the other innumerable roosters and resters   call other to come, to go, to be with their side, to mate infusing the listeners a joyous blood to confiscate. The train arrives, stops beside only to start in a few minutes to announce that it’s time to wake, listen around and smell the first light.
These spring mornings bring lush of life thickening the bond with soil. Bring notes of tunes, serene moods, happiness within and taste of tastiest all for free at our door steps. This be falls at every ones feet to immerse as much only to give away wrapped with joy as the nature gives.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Marks and Men

Marks and Men
Two friends went to write the competitive exam for account service for Auditor General Office.One Mr Ramesh got 93% and the other Mr Seenu got 56%. The rank list showed Raju at the top. But reservation norms allowed Seenu as senior and He became Assistant Director and Raju got job of an accountant under Seenu.
Initially he accepted that it was his karma, he got what is due and it’s the fruit his forefathers sew for centuries, it was temporary as he was un employee and got a job. But gradually he could not take it. Seenu knew that he is superior, got more marks than Ramesh. And Ramesh snatched the opportunity from him. He started insulting Seenu publicly; small mistakes of him were shown as very big. The staff of all accountants who usually murmured about the superior was happy with the Ramesh’s comments and sometimes joined the joking parties about Seenu.         
Seenu tolerated all the insults. He knew that he got selected due to reservation. But it grew much he could not control. He wrote a lengthy letter in anger with all the harsh words to Ramesh. He kept it in a corner, allowed it to remain there for two days. After two days he read the letter he wrote and thought it was very harsh. He tore the letter in pieces, wrote another letter to Ramesh. It contained lines as “Mr Ramesh my friend, I knew as you know that I came here because of Govt policy. I do not get hurt with your comments. My community for thousands of years served people even removing their waste. I waited outside of your home for a bit of food many a times in my child hood.If you think that I have snatched it from you I am ready to give it up, But some other fellow will come as it is the backlog post. I am ready to serve under you as I have the experience of serving many people all these years owing to my caste. You will be my friend despite your comments as you helped me during my child hood.”
Ramesh read the letter. Thought that he might have secured more marks but his friend deserved the post as a human being, more human than himself.

Dedicated mom

There lived a dedicated mother who always compared herself with others. She tried her best to look after her home, children and also her profession. But she could find one or the other good in other babies, cleanliness and feel remorse of not keeping herself with the same with her children.
She would cook varieties of food for her children, as she cooked many varieties of food, she got tensed and agitated because of the pressure and her anger got expressed while serving the same. Children scared of her eruptions. The little four year old daughter not knowing anything of consequences easily said “Mom cooks a lot but she hate to eat as her mom is angry. She like Raju uncle to mom as he never scolds”
This made her painful. Though initially she became angry, she controlled as she was a little child. She thought and thought. She realized her mistakes. Now she is not remorseful. She does everything with heart. She realized that it’s not that what she cooks or how many varieties but its how she serves, how she expresses to her children.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Nothin of being nothing

A seren feelinmg of being nothing is a pinnacle to be conquaered. Tell you more about it.