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Jason Wolfe

Speaker Curator / Teacher, TEDxTokyo

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In education, Finland is usually at the top & the USA near the bottom, but what is the middle or upper middle doing?

Like many other situations we like to focus on the extremes, and although learning from the best is not a bad idea, I would like to learn a little from the pretty darn good.

What are all those countries located in the upper middle area doing to get themselves where they are? Something tells me they aren't just avoiding wat the USA is doing and emulating Finland.

If you can, please share some of your stories and knowledge on what is working for you that other teachers and educators could mull over.


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    Apr 25 2013: What is the middle or upper middle doing? Maybe not as much as Finland ;) Or Japan, obviously.

    Here are some thoughts in response to your question, based on personal experience. What might be beneficial:
    (a) giving teachers time, possibility to constantly expand their knowledge and share their experience with other teachers while not strangling them with too much bureaucracy. The latter should and has to be there to keep track of what is happening, but if it becomes so time-consuming that teaching itself becomes job no.2, it might get risky
    (b) gentle, subtle controll of the teachers with regard to results, method, input and, last but not least, feedback from students
    (c) Q&A sessions during lessons (the teacher should be able to provide A's to the Q's, see point a ;))
    (d) variety within a structure, relevance, balance between quality and quantity (a good reference for what quality is http://www.unesco.org/education/gmr_download/chapter1.pdf)
    (e) reminding both the students and the teachers why they are doing what they're doing
    (f) no-nonsense policy (zero tolerance for violence or harmful, uncivil behaviour. Must work both ways on a student-teacher-student axis and on student-student axis)
    (g) not all teachers are mentors, not all mentors become teachers, but education still needs both.
    A good but heartbreaking story here (rewind to 01.00)
    • Apr 25 2013: Expecting teachers to come up to par with their hands tied behind their backs by their--haha--leadership and then punishing them for the stupidity of the--haha--leadership is downright American. What more can teachers want? Sarcasm off.
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        Apr 26 2013: Hm. I wasn't thinking of America but of education in a broader sense. Education system is never a desert island among other political issues, all of them are interconnected. If a student is hungry and/or threatened by an armed, aggressive community there's very little a teacher can do. Other social problems in the system are not the teacher's fault either. In other words - first things first.
    • Apr 26 2013: You didn't speak of armed or aggressive to begin with. You wish for things and when engaged, you change the subject completely. Your teachers sure teach funny things.
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        Apr 26 2013: No, I didn't, because that wasn't the topic of the conversation. The topic is in the question in bold at the top of this page. In my reply to your post I went from speaking in broader sense to speaking of details, exemplifying and reacting to what you brought up i.e. America.
        Could you elaborate on the first reply, please? I'm getting confused here.

        Sorry for the "delete"-line in this thread, I forgot to push the reply button, my reply got misplaced.
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      Apr 26 2013: Thanks for your elaborate reply Anna. You make some great points.

      I am at a conference now about language learning and just learned a lot about the New Zealand education system that is totally decentralized and the parents of the kids at the school take an active role, i.e., form a board of directors that dictates most of the school's policy, including hiring and firing as well as parts of the curriculum. Sounds like education utopia and I am excited to learn more.

      My Ryan appears to jump to conclusions...at least two time in this post anyways. I am also confused by his first reply.

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