Poland is the new black, I reported on Friday
. The country had improved its PISA* results, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said, because ‘all their pupils studied core academic subjects...’
Morgan’s enthusiasm for Poland’s core curriculum might be short-lived. It isn’t, as she claimed, just ‘core academic subjects’. According to the Organisation for Economic Development and Cooperation (OECD
) Poland gave schools freedom ‘to create their own curricula within a pre-determined general framework’.
Our National Curriculum is not just a framework – it’s prescriptive and highly detailed.
The Education Secretary’s enthusiasm for Poland’s core curriculum may fall further when she discovers the framework is designed to balance ‘the three goals of education’: ‘imparting knowledge, developing skills and shaping attitudes.’
But the National Curriculum is knowledge heavy – skills don’t have equal status. In the words of School Reform Minister Nick Gibb
there’s been ‘an obsession with so-called transferable skills’. But Poland rates these skills on a par with knowledge.
Poland’s reforms were designed to encourage innovation. Our Government pays lip service to originality but league tables ensure teachers play safe. Worse, from the Government’s point of view, is that Poland’s reforms expected teachers to work out their own teaching styles and not ‘passively’ follow centrally mandated diktats.
The School Reform Minister, like Morgan, roams the world for education trends but his ability to spot them is shaky
1Sweden’s free schools improved grades, he said. But the higher grades attributed to Sweden’s free schools are extremely modest
2American charter schools have influenced the academies programme, Gibb admitted. But US charter schools show unexceptional improvement
after 20 years of investment and controversy.
3Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) schools in the USA produce excellent results, he claimed. But not in New York
where both charters and KIPP schools did particularly badly in the first Common Core tests.
4He praised Florida’s results – but Florida lowered the pass grade
when its test results fell.
5Shanghai tops PISA tables – but we know 25% of Shanghai’s cohort was missing
from the 2012 PISA tests. This takes the shine of Shanghai's results.
The trends highlighted by Gibb have already waned. And Poland is likely to be sidelined when ministers realise its reforms don’t quite chime with ministerial views.
But which country will be next on the education cat walk? I hear Australia is warm at this time of year.
*Programme for International Student Assessment taken every three years.