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Aja Bogdanoff

Online Community Manager, TED


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For non-US TEDizens: Can you tell us about your country's education system?

This week's special on American TV, "TED Talks Education," focuses on problems in US schools.

So here's the place for non-Americans to share: What's an issue in your country's education system that you'd like to see a TED Talk about? Who would you ask to speak? Do you have any success stories to share?


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  • May 13 2013: I'm from Italy. There are a lot of problems concerning education. As far as I can tell, the most compelling ones are:
    1)Teachers. Their status is getting lower and lower. They receive one of the lowest salaries among developed countries, and they are often called "slackers" by a big part of the general population (often small entrepreneurs) and sometimes even by members of the governing body. If we want our professors to be motivated, this attitude must change.
    -Complete lack of feedback. One of the things that emerged from Bill Gates and Ken Robinson's talk, is the fact that the best students come from countries where a feedback system has been implemented. Teachers watch each other's lessons, and then they suggest their colleagues what they should do to improve their performances with their students. Nothing of that sort exists here.
    2)Study programmes. One day a Canadian friend of mine came over to visit me and he was just baffled to the amount of homework I have to endure. Italian school system makes its students spend much more time in school than other OCSE members, and the results are anyway poor, and they have gotten increasingly worse over the years according to PISA tests http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Programme_for_International_Student_Assessment. That is also because the students cannot really focus on important things to learn, so the often end up studying bad, or not studying at all.
    3)Private schools. This is a real scourge. There are a lot of rich and incredibly lazy students who attend those schools, the only thing they have to do to pass is to pay their dues. This is incredibly unfair. Since you can also catch up with the years you have lost when you fail to pass in public school. In just one year you can catch up 3 years, and then you are back in your old classroom, with your old mates and the teachers who once flunked you.
    4)Disastrous cutback. Billion of euros have been cut back in recent years. This has led to make everything even worse
    • May 14 2013: it's annoying how much pisa tests skew actual education. ok so you know and understand a lot, but can you do anything with that? comprehension is only the first step to something meaningful. ask a high scoring pisa test student something new and you get "sorry i don't know, i haven't learned that yet."
      • May 14 2013: I think you are wrong.
        You say that comprehension is the only first step to something meaningful. Comprehension of what? The FIRST thing to do something meaningful is to acquire the proper tools to comprehend something. And school gives (better still, it should give) these tools. For instance, if you are not capable of understanding the mechanism of maths equations, you cannot solve problems. If you cannot even write the data, then you cannot even set the problem correctly. Let's make it even simpler. If you do not speak English, you will not understand what I am writing. You need skills to understand the message I am posting, and PISA tests measure these skills in different subjects. The more you get those skills the more it's likely you will do something meaningful (I wrote "likely" not "sure"). In fact, there is a strong correlation between Global Competitiveness ranking and PISA test chart.



        I also suggest you should watch this astounding documentary on Finnish education. Among other things, It also examines the correlation between economic competitivness and PISA test scores.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=70AlyhEGWf4 (you'll find on youtube the other 3 parts)
        • May 14 2013: Dear Ben and Mike, excuse me for interference. Skill, competence, capacity of
          comprehension, but what does this word mean?
          Nella didattica tradizionale della conoscenza si ammetterà che quei contenuti assunti come entità intuite rimangano inserite in un alone magico suscitando l'impressione di trascendere le capacità del discente. Ne sorgerebbero imbarazzo, frustrazione, dalle quali si fuggirebbe con l'aggressività, la paura di toccare ciò che resta affidato alla pura ripetizione letterale (mnemonica). Si comprende pure come un 'Non ho capito, non capisco, non capirò' blocchi emotivamente il giovane, e che da questo blocco possano discendere l'apatia, l'ozio, l'ipocrisia, la furbizia.Si dispone di una strada nuova? Ritengo che la risposta possa essere affermativa. L a strada c'è anche se non ancora messa completamente a punto: si tratta di una didattica che si avvalga dei risultati ottenuti nello studio della vita mentale -la logonica o terza cibernetica o metodologia operativa- svolti da S.Ceccato e si precisa in un programma anche di minima. Nell'intento di individuare un oggetto, di definirne il nome, le domande che si pongono tradizionalmente sono nella forma di 'Che cosa è?' Si consiglia di sostituirle, se l'oggetto non è fisico, cioè da definire con analisi e sintesi fisiche, con una domanda della forma 'Che cosa fai? quando usi quella parola, prima di pronunciarla, quando la capisci. Che cosa fai con la tua testa, nella tua testa?' La risposta può venire trovata, essere corretta o sbagliata o anche non venire trovata e quindi la domanda restare sospesa. In ogni caso tuttavia la svolta è stata compiuta, nel senso che il COSA E' ci vuole pronti a partecipare, a fare nostro quanto segue; sì, sì...ma occorre chiamare a partecipare, a sentirsi attore in seguito ad un operare in proprio, ricco e adattabile alla propria originalità di frammentazione attenzionale. La scoperta di una propria testa che lavora è il regalo più bello per il giovane ...
        • May 15 2013: and what's meaningful about the tools? once you have the tools and comprehend, then what? so what if you can solve problems? if you can write in english does that mean you have something meaningful to say or an intelligent idea?

          it should be no surprise that the biggest drivers of the economy contribute little to improved lifestyles. life isn't about profit, and competitiveness is meaningless big-business baloney. it's innovation that pushes society and quality of life forward. the application of skills is important, not possession of them.
      • May 15 2013: Only if you have tools, you can solve problems, and only if you can speak the likelihoood of saying something meaningful enhances. (If you can't even speak, you just won't say anything, let alone say something meaningful).

        And, most of all, only if you work hard with the proper tools, you can innovate and improve the world. Competitivness is not meaningless, if you mingle it with collaboration. It is possible. In Finland teachers were able to create an exercise aimed at making students collaborate and be competitive at the same time (again, watch that documentary to understand what I am talking about).

        "the application of skills is important, not possession of them" I agree with this statement, in fact, this is what I have been trying to say.
        • May 16 2013: nope having the tools is only the first step. you have to be competent in the application of those tools. being able to work out what tools, where and how to use them are necessary.

          if you work hard with the proper tools you'll achieve as much as anyone else has before and no more. innovation necessarily means that there are no tools because it's new.

          if that's what you've been trying to say, then do you mean that you agree the pisa test is of limited value because it doesn't test the goals of education?

          i agree that finnish education is great, but the pisa test is not an accurate measure of that. you'll notice that countries that focus on rote learning such as japan, korea, and china recently scored higher than finland on the pisa test. give a finnish student a problem they've never seen before and they'll probably be able to work it out, give the same problem to someone here in japan and you'll get "i'm sorry i don't know, i haven't been taught this."
      • May 16 2013: “nope having the tools is only the first step. you have to be competent in the application of those tools.” PISA tests are meant to measure how competent students are in the application of those tools.

        “if you work hard with the proper tools you'll achieve as much as anyone else has before and no more.” This statement is false. You never develop new things from scratch, you always need some form of acquired knowledge or instrument.

        PISA tests are not perfect, but they give the government a clue about what to improve. You know much more than me about Japan, and if people over there do memorize all the results without understanding anything, then their score at PISA test is invalid, because Japanese students are basically cheating. Although be aware that 40 percent of the Italian population do not know that the sun is a star. Are you really sure you are more incompetent than that? A population with no basic knowledge of this kind is bound never to produce enough scientists, and this is what has been happening.
    • May 14 2013: Gent.mo signor Mike, il Suo intervento si presta a qualche riflessione critica I)E' proprio sicuro che per migliorare lo stile scolastico corrente sia sufficiente pagare di più gli insegnanti? II) Per fortuna i problemi non dipendono dagli allievi che, in generale, sono curiosi, plastici e disponibili, ma dal MODO di porgere le materie (Ceccato docet!). III) E' il pregiudizio classista o quello anticlericale a condizionare il Suo giudizio sulla scuola privata?IV) Se i tagli del bilancio della pubblica istruzione in Italia riguardassero la burocrazia della scuola -incluso certo personale di manovalanza come ad esempio i bidelli...- che siano i benvenuti!
      For all other, I am sorry if I Speak Italian, but... Thank you.
      • May 14 2013: Carlo,
        È per questo che hanno inventato Google Translate!
        • May 14 2013: Dear Lizanne, I want to thank you heartily for your work.
      • May 14 2013: Gent.mo signor Carlo, La ringrazio per il Suo commento, è utile per precisare il mio punto di vista sull'argomento. Poiché Ha letto e risposto al mio intervento precedente, desumo che Comprenda l'inglese. Per questo cambierò lingua affinché tutti possano capire. Se ci sono problemi tradurrò in italiano.
        1.I have never said that raising teachers' wages is the only sufficient measure in order to improve education in Italy. I mentioned that issue along with other five, so it goes without saying that that measure alone is not sufficient. But it is something that is to be done. Why? Because our teachers' status is extremely low, and if we want to motivate them, we must treat them better. Raising their salaries according to European standards is one of those things. But above all some Italians must change their frame of mind: teachers are not slackers, they are future makers. In countries where education works, teachers are much more paid, respected, and well treated http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=70AlyhEGWf4 (I recommend you watch this documentary about education in Finland).

        2. I agree with you.

        3. My personal experiences have shaped my outlook on private schools. When I attended high school, I had few classmates flunked. One of them enrolled at a private school, and in just one year course she caught up two years, getting right back with her former mates, whereas other students couldn't afford this school and they were forced to get the degree a year later. The student I am mentioning didn't get smarter in one year, since when she came back she was as incompetent as before. That is simply unfair. Others go as far as to take the final high school exam in private schools, and they get extremely high marks, which, most of the time, they don't deserve. There's also a new regulation concerning entrance exams, basically students who get a good high school final mark will easily overcome those who don't when taking e.g. medicine entrance exams.
      • May 14 2013: 4) I tend to agree with you, although the money the government cut back was not to reduce the number of janitors, but the number of essential services. E.g. in my university there are not enough chairs, chalks, microphones, and a lot of other essential items and there is a lack of floor and toilet cleaning. (It was like that before too, now it got worse).
        • May 15 2013: that's terrible. how do you feel about that when billions of dollars worth of subsidies go to well-established and very profitable multi-national corporations?
      • May 15 2013: Bad would be an appropriate answer.

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