independent

Saturday 19 April 2014

'Moral mission' is key to top-quality education

A PRESTIGIOUS report ranking Ireland as the 11th most effective education system in the world is welcome indeed.

It confirms that the Irish system has much to commend it, most notably in terms of general literacy levels, and impressive school completion and graduation rates.

Like all such comparisons, it is a useful tool in identifying strengths and weaknesses, and so a platform from which to work.

The Pearson Learning Curve report cautions that comparing educational performance is not a straightforward exercise. Some of the underlying data is not perfect; in Canada, for instance, the measure used for graduates covers only universities.

Pearson sought to open the "black box" of education systems and come up with the secret recipe for the top performers, measured not only in student outcomes but also in benefits for society.

There were no simplistic solutions thrown up, but it does point to some clear and essential lessons for policymakers: education requires a long-term, and coherent vision; good quality teachers are essential and should be treated as valuable professionals; parents must be kept well-informed.

It found too that, while spending matters, it does not matter as much as the wider culture and the level of support it offers education.

Notably, the two top performers, test-driven South Korea and relaxed Finland, are remarkable for the differences in their systems.

Where they share common ground is that they develop high quality teachers, they value accountability and have a "moral mission" that underlies education efforts.

Three good planks on which to build a better system.

Irish Independent

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