I constantly hear/read about how schools in the UK must aspire to be like those in Singapore or Finland who do so well on the PISA and TIMSS/PIRLS tests.
Yes, I’m sure there are things they can learn, but what infuriates me is a paucity of other examples of educational excellence that might be just as, if not more relevant.
In my work I have seen outstanding examples of educational excellence at schools like Northern Beaches Christian School in Sydney, in exceptional US charter school chains like Rocketship and KIPP, Studio Schools in the UK and at Service Children’s Education in Europe.
Ironically, while we are looking for ways to imitate Singapore’s PISA ranking success, their educational bureaucrats are looking well beyond PISA, and one of the main things that they have been focusing on is creativity. Most educators think creativity is a ‘nice idea’ and a fair few have watched Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talks on the subject. But in Singapore it’s not an educational fad or option, their educationalists are trying to put creativity at the heart of their curriculum because they think their continued economic success depends on having a workforce of highly-educated creative problem solvers, not just people who did well on PISA.
Our educational myopia is perhaps best exemplified by the answer I had from a leading Oxbridge academic who had been spruiking the merits of Singapore and Finland at the Spectator education conference a few years ago. I asked if she had ever looked at the success of Services Children’s Education, part of the Ministry of Defence that educates 10,000 students in 38 schools in nine countries outside the UK? ‘No’, she said, ‘I only ever look at centres of educational excellence that I am paid to research’. Doh!
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