September 21, 2015
Contact: paulina jakubec

What can we learn from other education systems?

On 15 September 2015, the Young Fabians Education Network hosted a discussion – ‘What can we learn from other education systems?’ – with Lucy Crehan, author of the upcoming book ‘Cleverlands: Inside the World’s Best Classrooms’. The event sought to learn from Lucy her findings from the time she had spent immersed in the education systems of Finland, Canada, Japan, Shanghai and Singapore, countries whose students consistently perform highly in the PISA mathematics, science and reading tests.

On 15 September 2015, the Young Fabians Education Network hosted a discussion – ‘What can we learn from other education systems?’ – with Lucy Crehan, author of the upcoming book ‘Cleverlands: Inside the World’s Best Classrooms’. The event sought to learn from Lucy her findings from the time she had spent immersed in the education systems of Finland, Canada, Japan, Shanghai and Singapore, countries whose students consistently perform highly in the PISA mathematics, science and reading tests.

Chaired by Secretary Jun Bo (Jumbo) Chan, the event was packed with new and old Young Fabians from students to teachers and policy researchers. Anchored by a communicative, open and safe space, the diverse views and experiences apparent in the room informed a highly interactive discussion. Questions ranged from those which focused on classroom practices and student behaviours in different countries, to those about the link between cultural expectations and educational attainment. What was obvious was that there were many differences and overlaps amongst the education systems which Lucy had visited. Some were highly homogenous (Japan) whilst others were much more multicultural (Singapore). Singaporean teachers have a highly structured career ladder whereas Finnish teachers do not. Like their Japanese counterparts, Singaporean students invested a lot of time in extracurricular activities.

 Nevertheless, some common features of these high performing education systems were that of i) lack of high-stakes accountability, ii) supportive rather than punitive assessment of teachers and iii) high-quality teacher training, which included subject-specific pedagogy. Some of these policies were contrasted to those promoted by the 2010 White Paper ‘The Importance of Teaching’, which was unveiled by Michael Gove, the previous Secretary of State for Education. Though hesitant to suggest any particular reforms to the English state education system, Lucy pointed out that other countries had education systems which were more independent of the day-to-day operations of political governments. Combined with evidence-based policies, this led to slower but more efficacious policymaking.

 If you want to know more how you can contribute to our Network – which is completely member-led and bottom-up – please do drop our Secretary Jun Bo (Jumbo) Chan an email via educationnetwork@youngfabians.org.uk.


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