Stories + Views

Posted on

05/12/10

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If Gove likes Finland’s schools so much, why doesn’t he imitate them?

The new results from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) are about to be published which compare the achievements of education systems across the globe. The latest Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is expected to show the achievements of UK and Swedish schools falling behind, while Finnish schools are surging ahead. Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, will no doubt seek to make political capital out of this — as he has already done in a rather hypocritical fashion; he wants to hold Finnish schools up as a shining example to us all and a model we should imitate. But the slight problem is that his policies haven’t emulated the Finnish system at all, instead he’s disastrously copied the Swedish system which will be shown to be failing in the PISA.

Gove could do well to imitate Finnish schools but most of his policies have gone in an opposite direction to theirs; they do not have league tables, they do not test their children at 5 years old for reading, they do not encourage a Swedish-style “free” school system where schools compete with each other, they do not allow selection by ability, they do not put huge straight-jackets on the curriculum, and they value vocational education just as much as academic qualifications. They have a properly comprehensive local school system where the whole community attends the same school. Furthermore, their children do not have formal schooling until they are seven years of age. They also have a decent set of qualifications that offer choice and diversity; there’s nothing absurdly reductive like Gove’s English Baccalaureate. If we are going to sort out the mess in our system, we need to start by reforming our admissions’ system as a matter of urgency to bring us in line with the Finnish system; we must end academic selection and other forms of covert selection. It would be a relatively cost-effective thing to do. If Gove is going to bang on about the marvels of the Finnish system, why doesn’t he do something to make our system more like theirs?

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Comments, replies and queries

  1. If it wants this country to emulate Finland, the Coalition should set in train the process of ending ALL academic selection ( or academic rejection as I prefer to call it). Comprehensive Future has set out how it could be done without affecting the education of young people currently in grammar schools. See here for how it could be done.

  2. Yes, I worked in a “secondary modern” school in Lincolnshire and the children were branded as “failed the 11+” or “not even good enough to sit it” at the age of 11 – I do not think that it is hyperbole to call this child abuse.

  3. The latest Daily Mail comprehensive school bashing article http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1336029/As-revealed-60-cent-went-public-school–todays-pop-stars-posh.html

    Apparently the reason so many of the latest pop stars went to public school is because the grammar school educated groups of the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Who and Led Zeppelin have all closed down so well off parents have no choice but to send their kids to public school.

    It should be added that the author of this article is an Old Etonian so he’s speaking with a great depth of experience about the old grammar school virtues.

    Reading the 4th paragraph, it seems he hasn’t had the benefit of meeting Alistair Campbell’s better half on his journalistic travels.

  4. Thanks for alerting us to the Daily Mail’s latest ‘journalistic’ endeavour. Suggestions please for well known public figures, music, sporting, political or others, who went to their local comprehensive schools.

  5. Not enough in politics Fiona, although I have mentioned David Blunkett in the past.

    I would like to pay tribute to Sir Paul McCartney (and his late wife) who despite their wealth sent the children to the local comprehensive school. This was an excellent decision not just because private school fees would have been pocket money to them but he and his wife were on the road a lot travelling to gigs but they didn’t take the soft option.

    So I guess in answer to your question, Stella McCartney.

  6. Suggestions already Robbie Williams, Andrew Flintoff, Ellie Goulding, Ed Miliband, William Hague, Zadie Smith, Yvette Cooper, Jamie Rednapp, Colin Firth…….

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