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Why Some Education Systems Don't Improve


He has been described as a ‘guru’ by Professor John Hattie. No matter what you think of him, Pasi Sahlberg definitely has some helpful insights into education globally. His experience as a teacher and then system leader in Finland, alongside his international work means that people sit up and take notice when he speaks.


Sahlberg was one of the recent speakers at the recent LEAP (Leading Educators Around the Planet) Conference in Sydney. Alongside an analysis of various schooling systems around the world, his task was to present the ‘Finnish Story’ and outline the role of teachers and leaders in that system’s success.


One of the remarkable aspects of his talk was his presentation of the international data of why some school systems improve and others don’t.

Infographic Why some systems do better

The findings show that systems that were marked by ‘Standardisation’ are less successful than systems that rely on ‘Creativity’.


While listening to Sahlberg’s presentation I found myself using the data to measure Australian schools. My mind wandered to the work of Marks and McCulla, who have authored a chapter entitled “Australia: Halfway to Anywhere” in the recently published book Fink, D. (ed) (2016), Trust and Verify: The Real Keys to School Improvement. London: UCL Institute of Education Press. Sitting alongside this was their insightful presentation at a Anglican EdComm Agora in March 2017.


We could all do well to measure our own schools, our personal teaching practice and our education system in general against this list and consider how we are stacking up.


If you would like to engage further with Pasi Sahlberg’s thoughts on system improvement watch the interview with Professor John Hattie from 2012 below.

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