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July 1, 2008

Education Reform: How to learn the right lessons from other countries' schools

The Economist:

THE children at Kulosaari primary school, in a suburb of Helsinki, seem unfazed by the stream of foreign visitors wandering through their classrooms. The head teacher and her staff find it commonplace too—and no wonder. The world is beating a path to Finland to find out what made this unostentatious Nordic country top of international education league tables. Finland’s education ministry has three full-time staff handling school visits by foreign politicians, officials and journalists. The schools in the shop window rotate each year; currently, Kulosaari is on call, along with around 15 others. Pirkko Kotilainen, one of the three officials, says her busiest period was during Finland’s European Union presidency, when she had to arrange school visits for 300 foreign journalists in just six months of 2006.

Finland’s status as an education-tourism hot spot is a result of the hot fashion in education policy: to look abroad for lessons in schooling. Some destinations appeal to niche markets: Sweden’s “voucher” system draws school choice aficionados; New Zealand’s skinny education bureaucracy appeals to decentralisers. Policymakers who regard the stick as mightier than the carrot admire the hard-hitting schools inspectorate and high-stakes mandatory tests in England (other bits of Britain have different systems).

Posted by Jim Zellmer at July 1, 2008 4:33 AM
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