Friday, November 4, 2011

Pasi Sahlberg on Finland and Alberta

I had the pleasure of listening to Pasi Sahlberg at the Curriculum Design for Informed Transformation Invitational Conference.

One of his messages was:

  • Both Finland and Alberta are education reformers and performers.
  • Both Finland and Alberta have new governments.
Because of this, Finland and Alberta are in a state of crisis. It's not that our test scores aren't high enough. The real problem is far more sophisticated than what high scores on bad tests can solve. Rather, we run the serious risk of falling into the status quo trap. Status quo brings with it an impressive amount of momentum.

Finland has as much to learn from Alberta as Alberta has to learn about Finland. In particular, Finland can learn a lot from how Alberta has so successfully nourished the multi-cultural diversity that makes up their province, and Alberta can learn from how Finland does teacher education.

The reason we should all pay attention to Finland is not because we want to copy or clone Finland, but so that we can begin to imagine how we can be different. School hasn't always been this way, and so it doesn't need to be this way.

We can improve, but that means we have to change.

Yet, when you just copy others, you run the risk of making mindless mistakes because you are busy simply replicating when you should be adapting. Replication can be accomplished mindlessly. Adapting requires an acute awareness.

A problem that is occurring in Finland is that educational tourism is at an all time-high. People from all over the world are now paying attention to Finland. This means that Finland runs the risk of spending all of its time showing the world how good they are when they should be working hard to get better.

Sahlberg talked about how Steve Jobs relentlessly chased improvement. Showed this video of Jobs and a quote:
Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.

We have to love what we do in order to preserve. Are we encouraging this in school? Are we ruining the schools with rigor when we should be inspiring children with vigor?

Sahlberg then shifted gears and asked us what are the problems in Alberta?

Some might say that our 25% drop out rate  The drop out rate in Alberta isn't the problem. Rather, this is a symptom of much larger problems that have been created by certain kinds of reforms:

  • we limit our schools by organizing them with the Industrial model
  • we narrowly define intelligence and success with the academic model
  • we stifle our interactions by investing in the competitive model
Systems that are built around these archaic models are destined to suffer from some very predictable problems including disengagement. 

To conclude, Sahlberg suggests we talk about:
  • Less classroom time. Cut instructional, classroom, sit and get time in half. Replace this sit and get time with get up and go do real project time. Projects that are in a context and for a purpose.
  • More personalized learning. My personalization, he does not mean simply handing out electronic devices. Rather, children should play a collaborative role in developing their learning opportunities.
  • Focus on social capital. Seriously regulate how our children are isolating themselves. An emphasis on social learning is imperative.
  • Help everyone to find their talent. Support each child with the opportunity to find their passion and themselves. Too many children experience school as a place where they go to be told how incompetent they really are. We need more of a strengths based system.
I can't wait to read Pasi Sahlberg's book Finnish Lessons.

For more on Finland, take at my post The Paradoxes of the Finland Phenomenon

1 comment:

  1. I like this as an answer to "Finland won't translate here." Innovate not imitate.


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