1/3: The best school systems in the world: it's not (all) about the money
It's no secret to those of us who teach, have taught or can remember being taught: the most important element in a child's education is... the teacher. So says the 2007 McKinsey report (pdf) which analysed what made the best education systems in the world, well, the best. Over the next series of posts, allow me to paraphrase for you... (Remember, boys, not my words...)
Between 1980 and 2005 there was a 73% increase in spending in the USA, after allowing for inflation. The teacher-student ratio fell by 18%, class sizes were the smallest they had ever been, tens of thousands of initiatives were launched to improve the quality of education. Yet the outcomes didn't change at all. In other countries where similar cash and policy decisions have been made, flatlining or even deterioration has occurred.
Smaller class sizes actually mean that there is now less money per teacher for resources, for, example, than there was before. Worse still, smaller class sizes have had little impact, or any impact has been evened out by the little amount of money left for resourcing.
Less than 1% of African and Middle Eastern children perform at or above the Singaporian average - to be expected, you might believe, because those Singaporeans must hemorrhage cash into their education system. Wrong. Singapore spends less on Primary education than 27 of the 30 OECD countries.
Could do better...
The lesson here? Across the OECD countries taxpayers could expect 22% improvement for their education investment. "The world is indifferent to past reputations, unforgiving of custom or practice", the report claims, and I'd go with that. Success will go to those which are swift to adapt, slow to complain and open to change. There are three key points to getting this point of success:
- Getting the right people to become teachers
- Developing them into effective instructors
- Ensuring that the system is able to offer the best possible instruction for every child
Improvement is therefore possible in a very short period of time, if the will and brains are there, and adjusting these three areas will have an enormous impact on improving school systems.
Over the next series of blog posts here, I will look at all the areas that, according to the report, make a difference in education, and show how education bloggers could be, if they desired, at the forefront of profound educational change in their own countries, and across the world.
2/3: Finding the best teachers