Learn from Global Education

Today I stumbled upon a really interesting TEDtalk. Since it has been a while since I blogged about this topic – and this blog has come to mind regularly since – I figured this TEDtalk by Andreas Schleicher on global education systems was worth pondering, and thus writing. Do note that we are discussing high school education here. Yes; the basics.

The Talk!

First, here is the video in full. It is worth watching simply because it gives you a great idea of the global education playing field. Also, you get a great feel for your experience in comparison to education around the world.

Initial thoughts

Obviously I think: yeah this is cool! Think about it: the team with which this man works took the time and effort to compare, in some way, different global education systems. That is nifty. At the same time I, as any university graduate may agree upon watching the video, have my reservations about the utopia that aggregated data may show. Even though the system you are in may function well in comparison to other countries, it may not be the best education system for you. Or the best education experience for you.

Some highlights 

“We have such a hard time figuring out that learning is not a place, but an activity.”

That, I believe is a brilliant insight into the essence of education. It is something that is done. No matter what country your school is in, how wonderful the facilities are, or how great the teachers – a good education is available anywhere if you do it right.

“We wanted to test whether they can extrapolate from what they learn.”

In other posts I’ve covered how I feel about your ability to reproduce what you’ve learnt. This skill, or trick, should not be a measure of your education – yet it too often is. Rather, what you can create from with what you learn is more important. In life, as is also discussed in the video, the true test is applying what you know to novel situations or ideas. This is the hardest, and most satisfying challenge of learning.

It is not how much you spend, rather how you spend on education.

With similar budgets, according to the measures in this study, results can be very different. By investing differently elements of the system, thusly altering the machinery of learning, what the system produces changes.

“..the believe that all children are capable of success.”

This one really resonates with me. We know now that development of the brain is a continuous process and that what you are capable of today is but a glimpse of what you could accomplish tomorrow. Therefore, to give children the opportunity to develop as much as their potential as possible, seems a logical place to start. And the mindset that any child is capable of success is one of the cornerstones for this philosophy.

“… and nowhere does the quality of an education system exceed the quality of its teachers.”

This makes sense right? And yet, likely, this sentence gave you cause to think of how you perceive the teaching profession. In the Netherlands, it is unlikely that you are urged to pursue a career as a teacher. Not because it is not an honorable profession, because it is. No, likely because you are capable of earning more money elsewhere. This means that people with a gift for education may be pursuing careers where their talents are not being put to the best possible use for themselves or society.

Some afterthoughts

I have no idea what the measures were, how the researchers tested or any of the other requirements to make some sort of academic inference of the quality of their research. Yet,  the main message I believe should not be lost upon you. The quality of education, and thus the capacity for a better future, can be influenced by you today.

Do with it what you will. I know I will!

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