The father of educational democracy holding court in the ‘mother’ of all democracies – the UK parliament
Today [I must stop starting posts with that - it was Thursday 17th May] I attended a talk by the renowned Finnish and global educator Dr Pasi Sahlberg in the House of Commons, London. How did I get to be invited? Well I picked up a good deal of information about Finnish education and Dr Sahlberg and other Finnish educators via the sometimes much maligned social networking platform Twitter. Not only that but the Finnish Embassy in London sent me a copy of Dr Sahlberg’s book as the result of a couple of tweets. It’s Twitter’s fault… The Finns, a people generous with its ideas and keen to share. Somewhere along the way I asked when Dr Sahlberg was going to visit the UK and I soon got a reply via Twitter and then pretty soon an invitation to the talk. It’s Twitter’s fault…
I could not keep this to my self so I tweeted that the talk was open to others and very soon my innovative colleague from Casllwchwr, Simon Pridham, expressed and interest and he duly received an invitation from the Finnish Embassy. We planned our visit with some precision but Simon’s was more exciting as he was in Twitter dialogue with learners back in school & they were asking him to tweet pictures of famous London landmarks! Now that is an innovative educator enhancing children’s learning with technology! It’s Twitter’s fault…
Having negotiated the underground at rush hour Simon and I met up outside Parliament. Following the security checks and the we made our way to Committee Room 14 – all a bit of a surreal experience in a way. This is where some of the most important decisions about how our lives are lived are made. It is an exceptional building. Grammar needs some attention though as there was something missing from the sign above the door of Committee Room 14 ‘Members Entrance’ – any guesses?
Simon and I waited patiently outside and chatted about the trials, tribulations and indeed joys of being a headteacher. A sizable crowd was gathering. It seemed like a pretty diverse bunch. On entering we found two seats close to the front next to two academics from Leicester University who deliver a MEd international education studies.
Dr Sahlberg & MacBook Pro…no surprise there then…
Dr Sahlberg arrived in a very unassuming way and set about setting up his MacBook Pro – he just would be a Mac user wouldn’t he! His presentation was very focused and he emphasized a few key tenets. One key one is that Finnish education is based on equity and educators recognize the need to undertake their work with a clear moral purpose of ensuring social justice. Seems like common sense to me.
GERM is the acronym for the Global Education Reform Movement which is the anti-thesis of the Finnish model and is the system that is pursued by several other countries including the UK and the USA. Systems that have fared worse in the PISA tables although Dr Sahlberg was quick to stress that Finland never set out to become the world’s ‘best’ education system. Reform started in the 1970s when all schools were made equal with the goal of putting equity at the heart of the system.
In Finland ‘setting’ or ‘streaming’ are illegal – wow! What are your thoughts on that one? Dr Sahlberg’s five tips for the UK were – in the form of tweets [mine]:
#finnishlessons @pasi_sahlberg 5 lessons: more collaboration & less competition
#finnishlessons @pasi_sahlberg 2 more personalisation & less standardisation
#finnishlessons @pasi_sahlberg more trust based responsibility less test based accountability
#finnishlessons @pasi_sahlberg more pedagogy less technology. Technology as an enabler. Give children time away from technology.
#finnishlessons @pasi_sahlberg more professionalism & less bureaucracy. Teaching is high professional occupation.
Some very sound advice there. As an enthusiast about technology I also agree about the idea of ‘children having time away from technology’. We can’t ignore technology though. Socrates was against the written word – we have to accept change & work with it. Learning is a blended activity and that includes technology as well as oracy, reading, writing and postulating and drawing and just about everything else!
Melissa Benn asked the first question after Dr Sahlberg had finished his talk and hers was very apt – what happened in Finland at the start of the 1970s that led to this move to ‘comprehensivise’ education? A sea change? And [ironically] was anyone murdered? Her point, I guess, would it ever happen in the UK? This is the rub for me – do we have the courage to introduce a truly equitable education system that will enable real social mobility or are there too many vested interests here and would there be ‘murder’?
One questioner asked which aspect of Finnish Education should we look to adopt? Dr Sahlberg suggested waiting until 7 for children to enter the formal education system. Far be it from me to disagree with such a learned, and indeed, humble man – for me it is equity as, if we want a better society with more community cohesion then ‘equity’ is required – I believe it but please don’t murder me! … it’s Twitter’s fault…