Considering international trends in education
As the Principal, a key part of my role is to ensure that the school has policies and procedures demonstrating that we are providing a quality education and a safe learning environment.
Every five years all non-government schools are required to submit this documentation to the government organisation BOSTES, who read the documentation and visit the school at a later date to confirm that the school is effectively implementing their policies.
Because we are required to go through this registration and inspection process this year, I have just uploaded several hundred documents to the BOSTES website and am looking forward to working with the appointed inspector to ensure that we are providing a physically and emotionally safe environment for our students and that we are effectively teaching mandatory curriculum requirements.
I would like to thank our staff who spent many hours refining this documentation.
While a part of my role is dealing with the details of running a school, I also try and reserve some time to step back from dealing with specific day-to-day details and look at the bigger picture of how the school is running.
Principals, including myself, enjoy looking to education systems in other parts of the world to see what they have to offer.
Each year the media in Australia publishes a league table of how Australia performs in international Maths and native language, such as English, tests (known as the PISA tests) in comparison to other countries.
Invariably newspapers then publish articles about education systems in the highest performing countries. A country often cited as a model to copy is Finland. I have spent some time reading about Finnish education, and also had the opportunity to visit Helsinki a few years ago.
Some of the key features of their education system include giving younger children opportunities to play and explore for themselves, regular physical activity and a classroom atmosphere of safety and collaboration where children are valued as individuals.
Finland strongly emphasises the importance of tailored assessment tasks to help individual children to learn and improve, rather than highly regulated one size fits all standardised tests.
Contrast this with the model of education in China, which is now outperforming Finland in the PISA tests. Chinese classrooms are highly regulated, the school day is long, students complete many standardised tests and also attend “cram schools” out of school hours.
Clearly Finland and China approach education very differently, yet both countries are among the top 10 countries of the world according to standardised international measures.
Given that Finland and China are culturally very different to our school, it is hard to know what we can adopt from Finnish or Chinese education that would work in our context, although our school has a mixture of both models.
Like Finland, we are committed to recognising children as individuals and creating a classroom climate that is relational and conducive to learning. Our motive for so doing is because we believe that children are uniquely created in God’s image and that God has created us to be relational.
Also like Finland, our school is progressively changing how we assess students so that teachers can be well informed about each student’s individual learning needs, which equips teachers with valuable knowledge about how to help students improve in areas of weakness.
Like China, our school does believe there is a place for regulated, self disciplined learning. For example, students who learn a new mathematical concept need to be given the opportunity to silently work their way through a series of practice questions in a structured environment.
Also like China, some standardised testing is important, because it provides a helpful point of comparison with other students.
Mr Brett Hartley