Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Test scores or student Well Being

Michael Enright speaks to Finland's education reform guru, Dr. Pasi Sahlberg, about how the country's egalitarian, low-stress model has helped Finnish students reach for the top.

THE MAIN CONCERN  of schools should be the Well- Being of kids, their happiness, ensuring that they find school and learning meaningful, enriching  and interesting, that they have friends and   relationship with teachers. This comes before academic achievement. The first question parents should ask teachers should be '  is my child happy at school  and not what are her test scores ?

Teachers should be helping kids to understand themselves, their strengths, develop and find an interest and passion, and equip them with thinking and communication skills needed for the outside world. Traditional maths, science and reading won't do the job.


 In Finland kids start school at the age of seven. Dr Sahlberg explains that play teaches kids to cooperate with others, develops their minds and thinking, and they learn that this gives them power etc and in order to be good at play one needs time to practice.


  The focus on testing and especially high stakes  standardized testing leads to ' teaching to test' and the narrowing of curriculum. Focusing on a core curriculum of maths, reading, writing and science fails kids as there is no way that a core curriculum can help a kid understand who they are and what they would like to do in the future. Only a wide curriculum can help kids discover and find their own passions and talents and tackle the high ' drop-out ' rates in school.

Instead of standardized tests schools can do ' sample ' testing and have more trust in teachers and rely on them. Assessment Joe Bower reminds us is a conversation , not a spreadsheet . The real progress of kids can be assessed by  the questions they ask and no test can do that.

A Worrying Study

A  survey of a 100,000 Canadian kids between 7-12 reported that 50% of kids are worried about their futures, 2/3 of them lose sleep over this and 1/3 have cried over this. This is a direct result of high stakes standardized testing and an educational system driven by extrinsic motivators like grades. We no longer use corporal punishment and punitive discipline but kids today are subject to greater pressures and expectations to perform. Love and acceptance is now conditional on how kids behave and their test scores.

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