IAP NEWS UPDATE October 1st – 14th 2011 Publication: OECD educationtoday Title: Chinese Lessons Author: Andreas Schleicher Website: http://oecdeducationtoday.blogspot.com/2011/10/chineselessons.html
While in China last month for the launch of the first Chinese edition of Education at a Glance, I had the privilege of spending half a day in one of the experimental schools in Shanghai that is developing and piloting the next generation of the provinces educational reforms. Shanghai, among today’s top performers in PISA serves, in turn, as a pilot for China’s educational future.
The previous wave of reforms in Shanghai had focused on professionalising education and disseminating good practice through a system of empowered and networked schools. Those established the capacity of the education system to attracted the most talented teachers to the most challenging classrooms and the most capable school leaders to the most disadvantaged schools. The new reforms are now intended to produce innovative approaches to pedagogy and personalised learning experiences. The aim is to offer a more flexible curriculum while avoiding the pitfalls that are familiar to students and teachers in the West. Students in our countries, for example, can sometimes feel overwhelmed and lost amid a great selection of courses and may opt for courses that either do not make use of or hone their talents or that help them to avoid demanding work.
This includes an intensive process of individual career counselling, where students can express and explore their interests in projects. Teams of teachers then match these student wishlists against professional assessments of students’ strengths. This is all done systematically and is carefully monitored to determine whether and how the process can work on a far larger scale. For example, the experimental school I visited is required to replicate its efforts in seven of its empowered schools.
The Chinese are investing substantial resources in these reforms and are prepared to invest even more later on when they are disseminated more broadly throughout the education system. This investment, and the ways in which students expressed themselves and discussed their ideas about
their education, were very different from what I had seen and heard in Chinese schools before. What is evident now is that the Chinese system is well beyond playing catchup with worldclass standards; quite simply, China is designing its own educational future.
If I had any doubts that China is “going global” at breakneck speed, they were dispelled when, on my way to the municipal office, I encountered a group of preschool children who all wanted to speak with me in English. When I asked my hosts about this later, they said that their vision was to prepare every pupil for a global economy. They seem well on their way to achieving this goal.
Publication: BBC News Title: How China is winning the school race Author: Yojana Sharma Website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business14812822 Survey: PISA
China's education performance at least in cities such as Shanghai and Hong Kong seems to be as spectacular as the country's breakneck economic expansion, outperforming many more advanced countries.
But what is behind this success?
Eyebrows were raised when the results of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's international maths, science and reading tests the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) tests were published.
Shanghai, taking part for the first time, came top in all three subjects.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong which was performing well in the last decade of British rule, has gone from good to great. In this global ranking, it came fourth in reading, second in maths and third in science.
These two Chinese cities there was no national ranking for China had outstripped leading education systems around the world.
The results for Beijing, not yet released, are not quite as spectacular. "But they are still high," says Andreas Schleicher, the OECD's head of education statistics and indicators.
Cheng KaiMing, Professor of Education at Hong Kong University, and closely involved in the Hong Kong and Shanghai tests, puts the results down to "a devotion to education not shared by some other cultures".
More than 80% of Shanghai's older secondary students attend afterschool tutoring. They may spend another three to four hours each day on homework under close parental supervision.
Such diligence also reflects the ferociously competitive university entrance examinations.
"Not all Chinese parents are 'tiger mothers'," insists Prof Cheng. "But certainly they are devoted to their children's education."
Certainly both these open and outwardlooking cities set great store by education, willing to adopt the best educational practices from around the world to ensure success. In Hong Kong, education accounts for more than onefifth of entire government spending every year.
"Shanghai and Hong Kong are small education systems, virtually city states, with a concentration of ideas, manpower and resources for education," says Prof Cheng.
The innovation in these cities is not shared by other parts of China not even Beijing, he says.
Under the banner "First class city, first class education", Shanghai set about systematically re equipping classrooms, upgrading schools and revamping the curriculum in the last decade.
It got rid of the "key schools" system which concentrated resources only on top students and elite schools. Instead staff were trained in more interactive teaching methods and computers were brought in.
The city's schools are now a showcase for the country. About 80% of Shanghai school leavers go to university compared to an overall average of 24% in China.
Meanwhile, dynamic Hong Kong was forced into educational improvements as its industries moved to cheaper mainland Chinese areas in the 1990s. Its survival as a service and management hub for China depended on upgrading knowledge and skills.
In the last decade Hong Kong has concentrated on raising the bar and closing the gap or "lifting the floor" for all students, says a report by McKinsey management consultants.
The report, How the World's Most Improved School Systems Keep Getting Better, rated Hong Kong's education system among the best in the world.
But Hong Kong schools are undergoing another huge reform, lopping off the final year of secondary school and instead moving towards fouryear university degrees from 2012 to align it with China.
Abandoning the old British model is a gamble and noone knows how it will play out in terms of quality.
However, Hong Kong believes it has laid solid, unshakeable foundations.
"In the late 1990s we moved to allgraduate [teachers]. If we want to have high achievement, subject expertise is very important for secondary schools," said Catherine KK Chan, deputy secretary for education in the Hong Kong government.
Hong Kong, like Singapore, now recruits teachers from the top 30% of the graduate cohort. By contrast, according to the OECD, the US recruits from the bottom third.
Shanghai recruits teachers more broadly. But it is already a select group.
Shanghai controls who lives and works in the city through China's notorious "houkou" or permanent residency system, allowing only the best and the brightest to become residents with access to jobs and schools.
"For over 50 years Shanghai has been accumulating talent, the cream of the cream in China. That gives it an incredible advantage," says Ruth Heyhoe, former head of the Hong Kong Institute of Education, now at the University of Toronto.
The OECD's Mr Schleicher believes teacher training has played a part in Shanghai's success, with higherperforming teachers mentoring teachers from lowerperforming schools, to raise standards across the board. "What is striking about Shanghai is that there is quite a large socioeconomic variability in the student population, but it does not play out in terms of its Pisa results," said Mr Schleicher.
"Some people have even suggested we did not include Shanghai's fairly large immigration population. Around 5.1% of the population are migrants from rural areas. Their children are definitely included," he said.
Last year Shanghai claimed to be the first Chinese city to provide free schooling for all migrant children. This year migrants outnumbered Shanghaiborn children for the first time in state primary schools, making up 54% of the intake.
Prof Cheng agrees the Pisa results reflect a broad cross section. However the majority of migrant children are below 15 the age at which the tests for international comparisons are taken. It is also the age of transfer to senior secondaries.
"If they were allowed to attend senior secondary schools in the city, the results would be very different," said Prof Cheng.
Even now "to some extent, where people are born largely determines their chances of educational success", said Gu Jun, a professor of sociology at Shanghai university.
Their societies are changing rapidly and for both Shanghai and Hong Kong, being top might prove to be easier than staying there.
Publication: Education Week Title: International Education Entrepreneurs Look to U.S.Style Models Author: Sarah D. Sparks Website: http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2011/10/14/08india_ep.h31.html
While much of the current policy discussion around international education focuses on how American students stack up against their peers in Europe and Asia and which international models offer lessons for American schools, one Indian educator is visiting the United States in search of models he can import to a slum of his hometown of Mumbai.
Gaurav Singh, a Mumbai teacher who plans to open a free school in a slum more populated than New York City next summer, is among a new group of international education entrepreneurs who suggest there may be value in U.S. schools exporting their own models to developing schools, too.
Mr. Singh is one of three education entrepreneurs spending six months to a year studying American schools as part of a residency program launched this year by the Washingtonbased EdVillage, which aims to help international educators set up networks of free public schools to share best practices. During his own sixmonth stint in the United States, Mr. Singh has been visiting district, charter, and private schools for a few days to several weeks.
Mr. Singh said he has been getting numerous ideas from the 18 schools he’s visited so far, for everything from school finances to teacher training, pedagogy, and supplemental enrichment.
“Where do you go in India to see what’s possible for a kid who comes from a slum? Not at a comparative level of, ‘Let’s give them a few skills to work in a coffee shop,’ but on an absolute level, what’s possible?” he said. “There’s not much we can look at.”
The first visits to American classes full of desks and interactive white boards were a major culture shock, Mr. Singh recalled. As a member of the founding class of Teach for India, a nonprofit modeled after Teach for America, he had started teaching two years ago after five weeks of training with a 2nd grade group of 50 students ranging in age from 6 to 14. Classes took place sometimes in a classroom and sometimes in buildings or sidewalks.
“When you enter a classroom that’s very different from yours in terms of space, in terms of number of kids, … you just say, ‘This is not going to work in our country,’ ” he said. “You have to calm yourself and say, ‘This is useless; excellence is excellence,’ and then figure out how we can transfer these practices. We needed to hunt for the big nuggets; don’t look at the details. Now, I’m actually going back thinking, it’s not that different.”
Mr. Singh’s “321 School” will open with 120 students in kindergarten and 1st grade, adding a grade each year. And unlike most public schools in India, which operate for four hours a day, six days a week, Mr. Singh said his school will operate on something like an American schedule of 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., five days a week. The school will start out with a studentteacher ratio of 30to1, in line with new national rules expected to go into effect in the next three years.
Students will enroll via a lottery, and Mr. Singh is planning for at least a two to fouryear age range in each grade, as well as considerable language diversity. The children, mostly from Mumbai’s slums, speak more than 16 languages. He said he has been choosing U.S. schools to visit based on specific practices—a characterdevelopment program in one, teacher professional development in another.
The educator said his goal is to have 100 percent of students scoring “proficient” on the Assessment of Scholastic Skills through Educational Testing, or ASSET, India’s standardized test, by the time the kindergarten cohort reaches 3rd grade.
There is no formulabased government aid for public schools in India; the government will decide whether to provide funding for the 321 School based on its academic achievement, said Mr. Singh, who has set the ambitious goal of having a network of 100 K12 schools in 15 years.
He has some reason for confidence: During the teaching fellowship with Teach for India, Mr. Singh’s students progressed 2.6 grade levels on average in a school year. “Once we started overlooking the resource constraints that we had, we started finding that learning was happening, and happening on grade level,” he said. “When we started seeing that the kids could learn whether they had a blackboard or not, whether they had a classroom or not, it started teaching us a lot of things about learning and about joy.”
As Mr. Singh toured a Montessori school in New York City last week, a delegation of U.S. Department of Commerce officials and higher education officials were in Mumbai, New Delhi, and Chennai, looking at Indian schools and recruiting students to study at American schools. That education mission focused on colleges and universities, according to Kristian Richardson, a senior international trade specialist for the agency’s International Trade Administration, but he said the department would as readily export K12 school models if American educators were willing to pitch them overseas. For the past eight years, Indian students have been the largest group of international students studying in the United States, and the department believes “this population will continue to grow as demand for education in India outweighs the supply of available institutions.”
The Commerce Department “actively promotes U.S. education as an export” through education missions like this one, and it considers education to be one of the country’s top 10 service exports. International students accounted for more than $18.8 billion in tuition and living expenses while studying in the United States during the 200910 school year.
Yet there are relatively few opportunities for education leaders like Mr. Singh to get a firsthand look at U.S.style learning, according to Robert Spielvogel, the chief technology officer and vice president for research, evaluation, and policy for the Newton, Mass.based Education Development Center, a researchandconsulting organization that works to establish basic education in developing countries. And, while numerous American colleges have created satellite campuses in other countries, the idea
hasn’t caught on yet in the K12 sector besides the international schools which generally cater to children of American diplomats. In Mumbai, Mr. Singh said the American international school is popular with wealthy families but costs $15,000 per year in a country in which the average income is less than $1,000 U.S. dollars per year.
“There’s been surprisingly little of that in the [United States],” Mr. Spielvogel said. “The charter networks in the U.S., for a variety of political and financial reasons, have focused more on states, not spreading themselves internationally.”
Norma A. Evans, an EDC senior research and development associate who builds literacy programs in Africa, said much of the research that forms the foundation of her development work comes from the United States, but “we haven’t tried to transfer a packaged or predefined school model for a number of reasons, the most obvious being the need to recognize and respect the curriculum and instructional setup mandated by the host countries.”
“We try [to] weave our instructional practices and models into existing frameworks. That said, we do hope that over time and as ministries see the impact of the new practices on student learning, they will begin identifying how to mainstream the practices and models,” Ms. Evans said.
Edvillage was founded this year by two former leaders from the Knowledge Is Power Program Foundation: former KIPP business director Mark Medema, current Edvillage president; and former KIPP outreach and institutional advancement director Allison Rouse, the group’s chief executive officer.
“We’d both opened a number of charter schools in the states in the last decade and then spent some time overseas,” Mr. Medema said. “We noticed the huge demand for education reform initiatives in other countries. The stories weren’t much different from the problems we were facing here in the United States, so we came back to the U.S. and thought hey, maybe there’s an opportunity to share the lessons—the good, the bad, and the ugly—that we’ve learned here in the U.S. about education reform with other countries.”
The nonprofit got a twoyear, $700,000 startup grant from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation. Mr. Singh and two South African educators were recruited to be the first program residents, and the group is now recruiting 16 educators from India, South Africa, and Latin America for next year.
The EDC’s Mr. Spielvogel predicts the Internet will accelerate international interest in American educational practices.
“Even in the poorest countries, there is a desire to be up to date and incorporate 21stcentury learning,” he said. Mr. Spielvogel also expects that programs like the International Baccalaureate, which provide international accreditation, and opensource education services like Khan Academy will continue to grow and thrive. “As people get familiar with educational materials,” he added, “they might start to get interested in more of the pedagogy, like projectbased learning or thinking about moving beyond seat time.”
CountrySpecific Education Articles Publication: The Guardian (UK) Title: English pupils' reading ability falls behind Shanghai peers, report finds Website: http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2011/oct/12/englishpupilsreadingability Survey: PISA
English 15yearolds' reading is more than a year behind the standard of teenagers in Shanghai, according to new analysis.
A study by the Department for Education suggests an English pupil who achieved eight Cs at GCSE would have to score 3As and 5Bs to match the attainment of their peers in Shanghai.
The analysis indicates that English pupils are also at least a year behind the reading standard of their counterparts in South Korea and Finland. Fifteenyearolds in England are also at least six months behind those in Hong Kong, Singapore, Canada and New Zealand.
Commenting on the findings, the schools minister, Nick Gibb, said: "The gulf between our 15year olds' reading abilities and those from other countries is stark – a gap that starts to open in the very first few years of a child's education. The government's focus on raising standards of reading in the early years of primary school is key to closing that gap."
From next summer, sixyearolds in England will be given a new reading test, checking their ability to read using phonics, a technique based on sounding out letters and groups of letters.
There will also be a new spelling and punctuation test for 11yearolds, to be introduced in 2013. From next September, pupils taking English language GCSEs will lose marks for poor grammar and spelling.
An endowment fund set up by the government will on Wednesday announce a £50,000 grant to run five summer camps for about 1,000 pupils from disadvantaged homes. The camps will offer classes in literacy and maths as well as music and sport.
The government's findings are drawn from an analysis of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's research.
The OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) involved numeracy, literacy and science tests of about 470,000 15yearolds around the world in 2009.
The latest Pisa study found that the UK performed around the average among OECD countries for reading and maths, and above average for science.
The highest performing region across all the tests was Shanghai, with a mean score of 556. The second highest scoring was Korea with 539, and Finland was third, with 536.
The OECD, a thinktank, says the Chinese education system is focused on passing exams. Students work long days and at weekends to carry out additional exam preparation, while private tutorials are considered a household necessity.
The OECD says: "There is a general belief that [the] emphasis on examinations jeopardises the genuine development of young people and is detrimental ... but few effective solutions have emerged to reduce or minimise examination pressures."
In contrast, children in Finland receive fewer hours of instruction than students in any other OECD country. The Finnish system is based on recruiting talented graduates as teachers and then giving them freedom to decide how they will teach. There is also a political consensus governing education: Finland has an entirely comprehensive system with no private schools and no selection below the age of 16.
Finnish classrooms take a childcentred approach. The OECD says: "Students [in Finland] are expected to take an active role in designing their own learning activities.
"Students are expected to work collaboratively in teams on projects, and there is a substantial focus on projects that cut across traditional subject or disciplinary lines. By the time students enrol in upper secondary school, they are expected to be able to take sufficient charge of their own learning to be able to design their own individual programme.
"Upper secondary schools are now mostly based on individual study plans."
Publication: The Straits Times
Title: 'Poor students can score just as well as those better off' Author: Sandra Davie Website: http://www.straitstimes.com/BreakingNews/Singapore/Story/STIStory_720003.html Survey: PISA
An international test which showed Singapore students excelling in mathematics, science and reading also revealed that poor children here can perform as well as those who are betteroff.
Besides testing maths, science and reading ability, the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) in 2009 also compared the socioeconomic background of students against their test scores.
The results, released at the end of last year, found that across education systems, betteroff students do better academically.
But in some education systems, among them Singapore, China, Korea and Finland, a larger proportion from lower socioeconomic backgrounds performed better than expected.
The study calls them 'resilient' students. These are children from the bottom quarter in terms of socio economic background in their country, but performing in the top quarter across students from all countries. This is after taking into account their predicted scores based on their socioeconomic background.
Almost one in two poor students in Singapore was 'resilient', compared to one in three in the 34 Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development member countries and the Pisa average of one in four among 65 countries.
Singapore was ranked fifth out of 65 countries for its proportion of resilient students.
In his first major interview with The Straits Times since taking up the portfolio, Education Minister Heng Swee Keat cited these figures disclosed in detail for the first time when asked what more could be done to help poor students.
The issue was hotly debated earlier this year after then Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew revealed that at least half the fathers of students in elite schools like Raffles Institution were university graduates, compared to around 10 per cent in neighbourhood schools.
In March, then Education Minister Ng Eng Hen produced more statistics showing that about half the pupils in the bottom third of the socioeconomic bracket scored in the top twothirds of their cohort in the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE).
Mr Heng agreed that education was important for social mobility and said that while his ministry must aim for equality of opportunities, it could not guarantee equality of outcomes.
'No system has been able to do that,' he said. 'I would say that probably because we are a country with no natural resources, we probably try harder than most to develop every child.'
Citing various programmes and schemes introduced over the years to help pupils from disadvantaged homes, he highlighted the Learning Support Programme for Primary 1 and 2 children lagging behind their peers in English and mathematics.
According to the Education Ministry, three cohorts of pupils had gone through the enhanced Learning Support Programme for English started in 2007. The result: 65 per cent could read at their age level and pass their school English language examinations by the end of Primary 2.
The first batch is now in Primary 5. A study showed that 90 per cent of them passed their school English language examinations by the end of Primary 4.
Preliminary results of the enhanced mathematics programme begun in 2009 show that it has also helped pupils.
Mr Heng noted that all ministryrun primary schools are given the same resources.
There are many 'good schools' which may not produce top PSLE results, but which know their pupils and cater to their strengths and needs.
His ministry will continue to help more schools become 'good schools' with innovative programmes to bring out the best in children.
Mr Heng was heartened that these programmes and schemes have helped produce better educational outcomes.
Close to 99 per cent of each cohort completes 10 years of primary and secondary school, with more than nine in 10 moving on to the Institute of Technical Education, junior colleges, polytechnics and universities.
On areas that could be improved upon, he said that schools could do more on career and educational guidance and counselling.
On that perennial preoccupation of whether the system produces enough creative workers, he conceded: 'When it comes to things like creativity and innovative mindset, we can do more because it will be crucial for our future.'
But even detractors, he said, could not deny that the education system creates opportunities for all, allowing children to learn at a pace they are comfortable with and develop and excel in areas they are passionate about.
'The question for us now is, how do we build on this, prepare ourselves for the future and continue to evolve the system.'