I've been following with interest the reactions to the release of the 2009 PISA scores last week. Secretary Duncan called them a wake-up call, a challenge to the US to improve. Others have pointed out that those 15-year-old students who were tested are really our first group of kids who have been exposed to the high-stakes testing curriculum for their entire academic experience, and suggest that such an approach may very well be flawed.
Two of the most successful groups were students from Shanghai, China and students from Finland. According to many sources, these two countries have diametrically opposite methods of educating their students. Chinese students have 10-12 hours of formal education, 6 days a week, in addition to homework. Their curriculum is focused on test preparation, and most schools have removed the arts and physical education from their schedules in order to devote more time to tested disciplines.
In Finland, teachers are recruited from the top 10% of college graduates and paid commensurately. One Finnish official is quoted as saying that in their language their is no word for accountability. "We put well-prepared teachers in the classroom, give them maximum autonomy, and we trust them to be responsible" He added: "We don't believe in competition among students, teachers, or schools. We believe in collaboration, trust, responsibility, and autonomy."
I want to move to Finland.