Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Can Education Find a Common Global Vision?

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Can Education Find a Common Global Vision?

Article excerpt

The key to better school systems is inclusiveness, of teachers and children, say the man from Pisa and an international union boss

Something remarkable is taking place in New Zealand this weekend. Ministers and teacher union leaders from countries such as the US, Germany, Japan and the UK are meeting to make a unique global effort to raise the status of teaching. The event - called the International Summit on the Teaching Profession - will address education's big questions.

And what are those questions? How equity can be achieved in increasingly devolved education systems, for example, or how high-quality teachers and leaders can be attracted to schools with the greatest needs. Although teachers, parents and young people may consider such matters to be remote from the realities of school life, the summit's mix of delegates enables both policy and practice to come under the spotlight. For instance, many education systems have moved away from top-down administrative control to give schools greater autonomy, largely as a result of policy messages from the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa). However, if autonomy is to benefit schools, teachers and the quality of learning, the system should encourage a culture of collaboration.

Knowledge about effective educational practices tends to stay in the places where it is created; without effective strategies and powerful incentives to share it rarely spreads. We need to think harder about how we transmit innovation.

This year's summit host, the New Zealand government, has one of the world's most devolved school systems. Its institutions are used to autonomy but also benefit from national interventions - fully involving teachers and their unions - that focus on enhancing teaching and learning, and sharing good practice.

Collaborative culture

There is a message here. If the benefits of devolving responsibility to schools are to be realised, the education system itself has to be coherent and effective enough to support the institutions. The evidence from Pisa is that collaborative leadership and partnership between schools are key factors in improving student achievement. A systemic approach to accountability is also vital. That requires a coherent, system-wide approach to the selection and education of teachers, and to their pay structure. It also requires close attention to those who face difficulties in improving the quality of their teaching. …

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