Saturday, March 22, 2014

PISA and Education Reform.

PISA and Education Reform.

This is an excellent discussion, as it covers the purpose of change and the strategic processes employed to gain achievement. The discussion also highlights the need of countries to make reform. PISA is a reflective tool which countries can validate against and use to make reform.
Australia is different to Finland and as this discussion implicitly identifies – as the world changes nations need to reform their approach to education. It could be that Finland got it right for an era the Industrial era (which the PISA testing methods are tied). It may not be suitable for the incoming era.
I am more focussed on the relevance of PISA to a country and the influences of standardized testing - than whether Finland’s education system is better than Australia’s.
Australia and Finland are significantly different countries. Australia is growing faster than Finland in gross domestic product, population, and the % of foreign-born residents. Australia spends less on education and has a significantly lower suicide and unemployment rate.
My observation is that the demographics of Australia is more complex (GDP, population, size of country and distance between cities), is more optimistic (unemployment and suicide rates) however is spending less on (percent of GDP) education. The relationship of education and societal needs are different but it does require both countries to identify the reform required to advance and improve quality of living. Australia has responded to the falling PISA rankings through the Digital Education Revolution reform. Finland found discovered that the PISA rankings validated their reforms back in the 1970s.
Reference data
Some differentiating differences - (World bank data 2014)
Australia, Gross domestic product: 1980 $149.8 billion, 2012 $1.5 trillion
Finland, Gross domestic product: 1980 $53 billion, 2012 $250 billion
Population
Australia: 1980 14.6 million, 2012 million
Finland: 1980 4.9 million, 2012 5.4 million
% of foreign-born 2013 (wikipedia)
Australian: 2013 foreign-born residents 27%
Finland 2013 foreign-born residents 5.4%
Public spending on education, total (% of GDP)
Australia 5.9%
Finland 6.8%
Unemployment (Google live data)
Australia (2014) 6%
Finland (2014) 8.5%
Suicides per 100,000 people per year (wikipedia)
Australia 10 (2011) ranked 50th
Finland 16 (2012) ranked 21st
Reform
Up to the 1970's Finland's Education service was not suitable to the needs of a transitioning society (agrarian to industrial) – few students were taking higher education or vocational eduction paths.Finnish parliament voted to reform education and by 1971, the new comprehensive school system was being rolled out across Finland (Quince). There was significant resistance to the reform which contested the movement to a more decentralised system, flexible personalised learning and no standardised exit testing. The criticism lasted right up until the first PISA results, in 2001(Quince). The PISA rankings validated the 30 years of reform (1971 to 2001).
The Rudd Gillard Digital Education Revolution (DER) reform (2007) was partially a reaction based on the PISA rankings (literacy, numeracy and science) and the demands of what was described the arrival of the global knowledge era. The reform spending budget $2.4 billion initiated the Australian Curriculum, a significant laptop rollout, $40 million into online curriculum resources, the creation of National Professional Standards – Teacher and Principal, NAP LAN, My School and the starting point for high levels of school autonomy.

Going by Finland's story, the Australian Digital Education Revolution reform will face considerable criticism. The outcomes of the reform may take 10 to 20 years to show against the Pisa rankings. The risk Australia faces are 10 to 20 years of counter reforms. What I get out of the Finnish story is that Australia needs to be brave enough to maintain reform and resist counter reform based on PISA score rankings. PISA could become a dynamic and reactive decision making tool.