- sent to news media in Saskatchewan on March 7, 2013 -
Pasi Sahlberg, an education improvement activist and YouTube sensation from Finland, recently inspired teachers in Saskatoon. Finland, one of the best education systems in the world, has fought against the Global Education Reform Movement (GERM). Emphasizing competitiveness, focusing on core subjects, poor instructional strategies, the use of corporate management techniques, and large-scale, high-stakes, standardized testing, GERM has largely been a failure and many countried and districts are now backtracking on these issues.
Education research has been clear about the kinds of approaches to education that work. Finland has focused on improving education rather than measuring it and demanding accountability. Students start later and go to school less. Primary teachers require a master’s degree and spend years learning the science and craft of educating youth. Every school has a doctor, dentist, and counselor, with special needs students getting supports and improvement strategies that really work. No student writes a test until at least the sixth grade, and after that, only as a means of guiding their own educational improvement. As a result, Finland's education system consistently ranks among the best in the world.
And so does Saskatchewan. Our government has spent millions developing a world-class curriculum base on the most current research available. It emphasizes inquiry learning, formative assessment, and is clear about the indicators of success at each grade level. It allows teachers to have the freedom to teach to their students' strengths, while offering support for the kinds of instructional and assessment techniques that are best suited to the curriculum content.
All education research emphasizes that the only real indicator of a students' success if the quality of the teaching that student receives. Teachers' training and professional development should be the centrepiece to ensuring our students are receiving the best education in the world, not testing. Teachers are struggling to implement new ways of teaching and working with students to develop their abilities to question, communicate, solve problems, work with others, conduct appropriate research, use technology tools, and eventually find work in a 21st Century economy; all while preparing students for tests and meeting the day-to-day needs in our overcrowded, diverse classrooms.
Please, Brad Wall, stop attacking teachings. Longer school years, confrontational negotiation techniques, standardized testing, and forcing our students to compete for an education are not going to help our province. Our students and the future of Saskatchewan deserve much, much more.