BLOG PAGE: A View from the Bridge
By Mr. Clayton
By Mr. Clayton
The PISA rankings for countries and city states like Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai are always a big deal. The aforementioned places always do well, as a result many politicians and educationalists are despatched to see why. I have been lucky enough to listen to the people responsible for their progress talk about how and why they have done so well. A word of warning! Education is very context dependent and what works in one place may not transfer easily to another. However, having said that I have explained in a previous blog entry how Shanghai did it. They moved from rote learning to constructivist, they insisted on huge professional development for their teachers, they modernised the physical plant and improved technology provision in all these schools amongst other things.
I attended a talk by Ms Indranee Rajah, senior minister of state for education for Singapore. Many of her points tied in very well with the Shanghai experience. Singapore is going through a huge revision of educational provision. They are asking the question, ‘What is education?’ They are consciously moving away from grades and high stakes testing to high value demonstrations of learning. They were finding that many of the products of the system were excellent at taking examinations and not much else. They also found that employers looked beyond grades to the people themselves. They have initiated a radical and ambitious education reform programme summed up as ‘Beyond learning for grades to learning for skills,’ and ‘Beyond learning for work to learning for life.’
The really interesting thing for me is why do they want to implement change when things are going well? Charles Handy postulated the theory of the sigmoid curve. The key point of the sigmoid curve model is that leaders have the responsibility for transformative change while things are apparently going well. To many this may seem counter-intuitive but history is littered with companies, businesses, empires that failed to reform at key moments. The message is simple: Sic transit gloria mundi! Better to try and prevent collapse than try to recover. Finland, so long at the forefront of education is currently undergoing huge transformative change to keep itself at the top, the concept of continuous school and system improvement.
The OECD, who are responsible for the PISA rankings, make some very interesting points about what makes an excellent school. Social and emotional skills help individuals to have fulfilling lives. Excellent schools make sure that students strengthen key skills such as creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and communication. Great schools also develop character aspects such as mindfulness, curiosity, courage, resilience and leadership. Many employers, Google, Ernst and Young and PricewaterhouseCoopers, are scrapping degree scores, GPA scores etc when they come to recruiting. Ernst and Young declare that there is no evidence success at university correlates with achievement later in life. Technology is a big game changer, Dr Anthony Seldon ex-head master of Wellington College, now vice chancellor of Buckingham University said that employers ‘need soft skills ie those that cannot be replicated by computers which are fast taking over not just manual but professional jobs also.’
So we as educators have a massive job of equipping students with all the skills required for the coming decades. However when I look at our FIS personal profile I am heartened by the fact that we stress that we want to develop our students to be inquirers, principled, risk-takers, open-minded, mindful, innovative, smart and empathetic which according to all those that know (Shanghai, Singapore, OECD and Dr Seldon) would confer on our students a massive advantage for the future.