Sharing is caring ...Facebook0Google+0TwitterLinkedinemailDiggYou’ve read the book (well, you will won’t you?) – now see the movie. Just like all movies its not as good as the book but here are some vital statistics to jog your memory. Buy Now Read an Extract
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If you are going to talk about education it’s important to get the facts CORRECT. The flag of Finland does have blue on it but apart from that it is NOT the flag of Norway. Sorry to say that if you slip up on a no-brainer like that how many of your figures are rubbery. I agree with what you are talking about but in order to maintain credibility you need to be accurate. Kids need to learn to ‘think’ more than simply regurgitate facts and figures. This has to begin with teachers being able to present a curriculum that opens minds and excites ALL kids…NOT simply the ones that are selected out for whatever reason as the most clever of whatever. We all know about the ‘clever’ kid who ended up on the heap and the “they’ll never amount to anything’ kids who have gone on to prove a biased teacher wrong. Let’s get the education system relevant…not for right now….but for 5, 10, 20 + years time. Think of the babies being born now who will be forced into these institutions in a few short years…what influence are these places of learning going to be on these young minds which are light years removed from the ‘old heads’ (and I am one so don’t be offended) that are attempting to hold on like clams and run the joints…..don’t get excited about “oh they need a good general knowledge etc etc”…. no..they need to know how to read, write, (I would still say spell), do at least basic maths and above all to THINK. Clearly and vibrantly….how many people go on to uni and study something which deeply interests them but they never learned at school…hence primary and secondary school is not the be all and end all of learning…oh, and we have google right now…goodness know what it will be in another 10 years let alone 20!!!!
Good point about the flag Jennie – getting it fixed ASAP – fortunately the book is not about flags
Just watched the video and I know nothing else as to the points you raise in your book, but I see a couple of issues to add to the mix straight away. As a teacher, I have never quite understood why the intake for university places in Education degrees has outstripped the demand. When I went through Uni in the mid nineties, there was already talk of the big block of Boomer teachers that were about to retire and create demand for all us bright eyed graduates. There is still talk to that effect. In Queensland especially though, the bulk of teacher vacancies seem to be in the remotest areas of the State. I saw it often during my teaching. Students head to the south east of that state to study their teaching courses and by the time they’re done they’ve put down some roots, often met a partner and are reluctant to spend an unknown amount of time in a remote town with little incentive trying to accumulate ‘points’ to gain entrance back into the southeast. Even those from country areas. And there’s the horrible rating interview system there… I’m not sure if other states have these issues but it leaves a lot of teachers I know a bit discouraged.
I also see an issue with the high school vacancies, and particularly the maths science places. These are the most punishing roles! Teaching 14 or 15 year olds maths or running experiments with chemicals is quite a challenge! This is where small class sizes are helpful. Certainly easier to manage fewer students in those situations. So there is a great need to train teachers with strategies to cope with violent and antisocial behaviour and to make the curriculum ‘excite’ students as Jennie pointed out. I’m not meaning to paint all high schoolers with a tarred brush, but I’ve been in many primary schools where the teachers are threatened on a daily basis, have desks thrown etc. It makes it very hard to teach but the problems are larger than in the classroom in those cases.
And also getting a consensus on what is essential as a core body of knowledge might not be as straight forward as was a generation ago. Schools are expected to teach children all manner of things besides the traditional curriculum, maybe as families aren’t passing on some of this knowledge any more? and that eats into class time.
I know that you are arguing maybe about the public vs private divide, but sometimes with the lack of critical thinking that seems to be so prevalent across our community we should go back to Greek logic! Kids to do worse than know the difference between an assertion and an argument.
While I agree with David’s position on public schools outperforming private schools and the impact of SES on student outcomes, the lack of ROI and Value Add by high fee private schools – all validated by years of research nationally and internationally – David’s position on class sizes and the impact on student outcomes is NOT based on respected peer reviewed research evidence.
I am now completing a a meta-review for the ANZSOG Journal Evidence Base on exactly this question. Over 50 years the evidence is crystal clear – continuous smaller class sizes in the first 4 years of education have a huge impact on future results all the way to year 12. This is even greater for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. When coupled with changed teacher pedagogies specifically developed for smaller classes – more whole class instruction, more feedback and greater focus on learning instead of crowd control – these results are even greater.
David actually quotes the evidence from the Los Angeles CSR case of 1996.
Here is a quote from THE IMPACT OF CLASS SIZE REDUCTION ON STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT by Penny Fidler, Ph.D.
September 7, 2001 Program Evaluation and Research Branch Los Angeles Unified School District
Planning, Assessment and Research Division Publication No. 109
Other things being equal, trends in the data support the hypothesis that longer exposure to
CSR results in higher achievement in reading and language. These results were especially
evident for English learners. In mathematics, however, the results were mixed. Third grade
students with greater CSR exposure showed larger gains in math, but this was not true for
There have been several prior studies of the effects of CSR on achievement. Tennessee’s
class size reduction experiment showed that after four years of CSR, student achievement in
reading and mathematics increased by approximately one quarter of a standard deviation.
Rand/AIR’s statewide study in California indicates that there are small (.04 – .10 of a standard
deviation) effects of smaller class sizes on reading, math, language, and spelling achievement,
but not for English language learners. Vital Research conducted a cross-sectional analysis of
LAUSD student achievement data for 3rd grade students in CSR for two years as compared to 3rd grade students who never participated in CSR. They found effect sizes of .19 in reading, .25
in mathematics, and .27 in language, but excluded English language learners from the analysis.
Our research indicates that CSR is benefiting student achievement in
Also in the video you talk about Chinese teachers and schools teaching 14 hours per week to 40 students – in reality we are talking about Shanghai schools – there are so many cultural differences between China and Australia that impact on education to make such comparisions is not comparing apples to apples – for example Shanghai is monocultural and monolingual – students are carefully vetted and come from the middle and bureaucratic classes for the schools studied in the “research evidence” – Confucian culture high;y esteems teachers there is far less if any “school resistance” in Shanghai – especially as this is a totalitarian state where teacher pedagogy is teacher focussed and didactic. Need I go on …. Australia is multicultural and multi lingual – our public schools take over 80% of all disadvantaged students, western students have less respect for authority our teaching methodology is based on constructivist inquiry learning.
Better to compare our education system to Canada.
I’ll be very keen to read your meta-review once it’s complete Dr Zyngier
It might be worth reading what I say about Shanghai in the book Dr Zyngier. I include it because a) it is part of a group of high performing schools and b) it has a very well documented system of teacher effectiveness monitoring and management. It may be that what you say about cultural influences is valid but equally that may have much less to do with their outcomes than the way they manage and train teachers (which they have in common with many countries who don’t have the attributes you list).
Recently read your book, David. Very refreshing to hear from people other than politicians (politicking) and journalists (one-up-manship; media wars) about education in Australia, especially a parent with both private and public experience. Having been involved in public and international schools for 30+ years in Canada, SEAsia and Europe, I have to agree with much of what you speak. I also cringed a bit while you talked about “good teachers” and “bad teachers” – a bit of ‘axe-grinding? Yes, there’s deadwood in every profession and important to have culling mechanisms, even in the public service.
There appears to be a dearth of voices from students, the profession, families and the larger community in the public forum. Would be great to hear more from those who are directly involved [not to suggest that politicians and journalists are not parents themselves or were not students in a past life, but they have other professional (or not) agendas on this subject]. Coming from Canada, I am puzzled at the lack of citizen engagement in education systems here; lots of fundraising and volunteer canteens, but no evidence of local/regional school boards involved in policy, finances, governance, personnel, etc. Who are the ‘bosses’, where are their desks, who do they report to, who are they accountable to? Who supervises my child’s school principal – a faceless bureaucrat, perhaps in Brisbane? I need to ask more questions…
Thanks David for stirring the pot.
To be honest I haven’t read the book & probably won’t, but then there’s a lot of books I won’t read in my life so don’t take that badly. I did see the video and again to be honest, I found these figures a tad selective, with an implied intent to present a rather narrow and preconceived picture rather than a broad analysis of education. In fact the phrase: “Lies, damn lies and statistics” was probably written after seeing a presentation like this. If you select the stats you want, using the criteria you want, select your case studies and benchmarks accordingly, you can present the picture you want. Unfortunately that doesn’t mean the picture is representative of reality though. Reality follows it’s own path and, in my humble experience, few things in real life are as simplistic and unilateral as this presentation might have the viewer believe. Oh if only it was. Solving problems would be sooo easy.
Good luck with the book.
After reading the book I wonder what research you base the fact that ‘the average Finnish student does almost no homework’? I tryed to find that written in the studies you had put on the notes for that section of the book (6 Homework policy doesn’t make a lot of difference) but couldn’t find it.
I have gone through the Finnish school system from primary to grad degree and that fact is not true! Finnish kids have homework almost every day from year 1 and they are tested and get grades from the beginning. There might not be standardised tests for everyone in the primary school but that doesn’t mean that the kids don’t have tests or homework. I find it annoying that almost every time Finnish school system is mentioned in a study or an article here there is always this fact about Finnish students not having to do homework.
I think that Australian school system could learn a few things from the Finnish schools but there are things I find better in the Australian schools (especially public speaking).