Since the PISA-results bomb dropped last December, myriad reports have been released, op-eds written, and dinner conversations had comparing the American education system to high-achieving OECD nations. Some of them have been pretty smart. Others have been reasonably vapid, if well-intentioned. And almost all seem compelled to hail Finland. If only our system could be more Scandinavian, they croon.
Absolutely there are some elements of the Finnish system that should be lauded and emulated (their rigorous teacher training and constant loop of peer-feedback are big ones for me). But turning our schools into a United States of Finland will no sooner skyrocket our children's achievement than adopting whole-hog the policies of South Korea (with its strict, albeit slackening test-based culture) or even Poland or South Africa (which have been marking sharp gains in student achievement since stepping from the shadows of the Soviet Union and apartheid, respectively.
Thing is, there is no perfect system. And touting one in its entirety blinds us from some important points regarding international comparisons and takeaways.
Here is what we should be considering:
The Devil is in the details:
Sweeping comparisons of entire education systems make for explosive headlines and engaging reading (and fun ?what if? or ?if only? games). But when it comes...