Education reform models: Finnish, Thai or income level?
Re: “Thammasat Secondary School’s giant leap for Thai education”, October 30, and “Education reform: Share classroom best practice nationwide”, March 9. The Nation.
The importance of probing our best-performing schools for the secrets of their success has been underlined by UN Education Commissioner Dr Amel Karboul. In her Ted Talk, Karboul examines the global learning crisis and presents the discovery that, by 2030, half of the world’s children will be failing to learn despite attending school. The bottom line: the world’s focus on schooling must switch to learning, and away from merely counting students in the classroom. But this crisis can be solved “locally” and within a generation, reports Karboul. The solution lies in every country focusing on the 25 per cent of fastest-improving education systems in its own income bracket. Karboul cited research on education in low- , mid- and high-income countries. Researchers discovered that if every country moved at the same rate as the fastest improvers within their own income level, then within just one generation, we every child would be in school AND learning.
Tunisia for example, was advised to follow the example of reform set by Vietnam, rather than trying to reach for standards and practices of high-income frontrunner Finland. Tunisia and Vietnam each spend similar amounts on primary and secondary students as a percentage of their GDP, but Vietnam achieves much better results, outperforming many wealthy economies, including the United States.
The UN Education Commission’s solution is a variant of the “Thai Excellence” concept, which uses similar benchmarks for schools within income brackets. This suggests Thailand is on the right track. The recently announced pilot, in which the private sector will manage public schools from next year, can be seen as an extension of the “Thai Excellence” concept in which the search for key factors of educational excellence is eliminated and replaced by “proven private sector expertise”, enabling direct implementation. Karboul’s Ted Talk is at https://www.ted.com/talks/amel_karboul_the_global_learning_crisis_and_what_to_do_about_it.