Sunday, August 5, 2012

Worrying trend...

As you know a National School Syllabus is being implemented. This is great because now we can travel between states and know the same content is being taught each year.

As each syllabus subject is published it is accompanied (eventually) by a set of lessons which are optional for use in the classroom. The distance education schools have also published their version of these lessons and because it is so comprehensible the Bundaberg schools have decided to use this as their teaching manual for every day.  I find these lessons all disappointingly "vanilla flavoured" (where as I like to include LOTS of nuts) but if that suits them, so be it.

Today I was talking with my friend, Sam, who teaches grade 4. This effort to teach exactly the same thing in exactly the same way to all the kids in each grade has been very successful.  When a child comes from another school she can check the their notebooks and find THAT lesson on THAT day (give or take a day I suppose). And it has been great for those kids who are suited for school - they are rising to the challenge and their English & maths levels have markedly improved (don't ask what happens to the unsuited kids).

So what is the worry?  In order to keep up with the demands of the syllabus subjects they have sacrificed art. Luckily a few teachers, like Sam, are kindly doing art before school because it is one of the truly pleasurable subjects.

In Gin Gin primary the obsession with outcomes has intensified. They have not chosen to implement the model class programs but instead have removed music from targeted grades so the kids can take practice NAPLAN tests. Music teachers are directed to administer a test to their students every week.

This IS a temporary situation because by 2014 both of those subjects will be mandatory...but it still worries me because we have assessment driven education pulling one way and the imperative to deliver a high standard comprehensive education pulling the other.

 I give you two countries' education systems to ponder; Korea and Finland. These diametrically opposed systems are competing for top place in the OECD. They both turn out excellent students but one is competitive and the other cooperative. One exam-based, in the other kids don't even see a standardised exam paper until they hit 15.  Korea has some of the longest study hours in the world - Finland the shortest.

"Education in South Korea Overview
It's hard to find any article with a positive viewpoint about how Korea manages to be on top, much like Japan was until 10 years ago "Hypercompetitive Education SystemAlthough Obama seems to like it..."Obama says S. Korea's education, Internet outperforming US"

"Education in Finland"  Overview.
"Finland's Education System is Top; Here's Why"
"Why do Finland's  Schools Get the Best Results?"

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