Improving the Education: Inspiration from Abroad

Improving the Education: Inspiration from Abroad

If there is ever a topic that everyone has an opinion on (no I am not talking about European Super League) it is school. Everybody has an opinion on their schooldays, be it a teacher they did not like, their favourite subject, their classroom antics, or their grades. Although, the United Kingdom is renowned worldwide for its education system, even scoring the top spot in 2019 in a study by US News and World, this does not mean that it is faultless (Study International, 2019). There are always shocking headlines about it from dissatisfied and overworked teachers to stressed-out students feeling crushed under the weight of exams. To respond to these complaints, the UK Government have made several attempts to reform the school system in England, completely changing the GCSE curriculum and grading 2017 starting with the core three subjects. However, I do not see how this change would address these issues especially as this reform designed to make courses more “challenging, with exams taken after two years of study rather than in modules with exams along the way” (BBC, 2020). For government to implement some impactful changes, I believe they need to look abroad at other well ranked systems across the world and learn from them. So that is what I did, here are some interesting schooling practices that take place around the world. Why has this country implemented them? Do they work? More importantly, would they be successful here?

  • No Standardised Tests

In news that would bring joy to the ears of nearly all students studying in England, there are no mandated standardised tests in Finland, except for one exam taken at the end of the Finnish equivalent of college. As Lynell Hancock explains in an article for the Smithsonian magazine, “there are no rankings, no comparisons or competition between students, schools or regions” (Lynell Hancock, 2011). I can only imagine how stress free these Finnish students must be. Your academic success is no longer reliant how well you can regurgitate facts in a time limit. No exams means that there is no pressure to compare to your classmates who may be faring better at that point. What is more is that this puts an end to the teachers teaching to the test. Actual learning is at the heart of education once more. This sounds fantastic but is it too good to be true. Begrudgingly, there is something to be said for the benefits of standardised testing. Standardised tests do offer the opportunity to assess the quality of the education being taught. Moreover, the comparison element is not always a negative thing as it can highlight certain areas of weakness in the teaching so that no student is left behind. 

So, while no test is an appealing idea, would it really work in our current education system where there is so much inequality already? 

Beards and Books

  • O-soji – Cleaning your school

Can you imagine cleaning your school? For me and many others, this is a frightening prospect that could turn the slobbiest among us into a germaphobe and yet, in Japan, students of all ages are made to tidy their classroom and other areas of the school. This is not because Japanese schools do not hire cleaning staff, rather it relates to a 17th century philosophy that states “clear mind comes from keeping clear and clean surroundings” (hundrED, 2018). Therefore, the practice aims to improve the student’s environment which has a positive impact on their learning. Furthermore, it also aims to instil a sense of responsibility and duty in the students for will you make a mess if you are the one who will clean it up? I am not opposed to this practice in English schools; however, I cannot see it being implemented successfully. Can you imagine a teacher successfully convincing a year 11 pupil to stay behind at the end of the day to clean? I think not.   

  • More Vocational Education

In the UK, there is far too much emphasis on going to university. College and sixth form students across Britain are made to feel like university is the only path to a comfortable career and a good life. However, not everyone wants to go to university and university is not suited to everyone. People who fit into this category are often left out of the equation, abandoned by an underdeveloped system of vocational education. Admittedly, the UK Government have already made moves to improve this aspect of the education system such as promising large sums of money to boost the traineeship scheme. This is a positive step in the right direction, however, much more needs to be done to create a system that works for all like the one in Germany. The German vocational education and training system, also called the dual training system is world renowned and allows for the provision of “training in nationally recognized occupations which is then documented accordingly by means of a certificate issued by a competent body” (Federal Ministry of Education and Research , 2021). This quality of this training eradicates the notion that non-academic studies are somehow lesser than academic ones, providing young people with a credible option to university. Furthermore, the scheme has been credited as one of the reasons why Germany has such low young unemployment (Federal Ministry of Education and Research , 2021). 

Education is a right not a privilege. In fact, GOOD education is a right not a privilege. While our system produces results on the world stage, it is important not to be complacent. We must always be looking for ways to improve. In this case, we need not look outside the box but out neighbours, far and near for inspiration. 

All photos used taken from pexels.com, from various photographers. 

Works Cited

BBC, 2020. GCSEs 2020: The 9-1 grading system explained. [Online]
Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-48993830
[Accessed 20 April 2021].

BBC, 2021. Budget 2021: Rishi Sunak to inject £126m to boost traineeship scheme. [Online]
Available at:https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-56218054
[Accessed 22 April 2021].

Federal Ministry of Education and Research , 2021. The German Vocational Training System. [Online]
Available at: https://www.bmbf.de/en/the-german-vocational-training-system-2129.html
[Accessed 22 April 2021].

hundrED, 2018. Cleaning Tradition. [Online]
Available at: https://hundred.org/en/innovations/cleaning-tradition#d6c96350
[Accessed 13 April 2021].

Lynell Hancock, 2011. Why Are Finland’s Schools Successful?. [Online]
Available at: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/why-are-finlands-schools-successful-49859555/#:~:text=There%20are%20no%20mandated%20standardized,between%20students%2C%20schools%20or%20regions.&text=Every%20school%20has%20the%20same,pool%20of%20university%2Dtrai
[Accessed 19 April 2021].

Menezes, F., 2019. Should children clean their own schools? Japan thinks so.. [Online]
Available at: https://www.good.is/articles/japan-children-clean-schools
[Accessed 22 April 2020].

Study International, 2019. The UK is the best country in the world for education, says study. [Online]
Available at: https://www.studyinternational.com/news/the-uk-is-the-best-country-in-the-world-for-education-says-study/#:~:text=The%20UK%20has%20scooped%20the,one%20spot%20from%20last%20year.
[Accessed 20 April 2021].

Whitby School, n.d. The Pros and Cons of Standardized Testing. [Online]
Available at: https://www.whitbyschool.org/passionforlearning/the-pros-and-cons-of-standardized-testing
[Accessed 20 April 2021].

 

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