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sábado, 21 de enero de 2017

67. ESTONIA versus FINLAND

In January 2017 Viivi Lokk, a member of the Education Department of Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, came to Barcelona. In fact she was invited by the School Council of Catalonia during a conference on education in the Cosmocaixa. Viivi explained the educational model of Estonia without details about Finland. So it was not clear why Finland goes down in PISA results and Estonia goes up. In fact the educational model of Estonia was inspired by Finland with families very committed to education, consolidated language teaching in primary school, financial aid to families without resources, didactic basis with equal principles, schools of municipal administration, demanding training to be a teacher, professionally assessed directors, autonomy of centers, detection and therapies in very young students with difficulties, evaluation of centers and teachers, low immigration and bilingualism in their centers. So what is the significant difference? Apparently none. In fact the two educational models are almost clonic. Perhaps the answer would come later during the debate. After the conference came a two-way conversation between Lokk and EFEA President, mister Xavier Chavarria. There was nothing insinuated about it. It was later, when I could have a personal conversation with Viivi Lokk, that I solved the riddle. At first she said that she didn't see significant differences explaining the divergences in PISA between Estonia and Finland, but when I detailed some theories about it he added that others in Estonia thought similarly. And there was the inequality between the two countries: the level of the curriculum. While Finland had been curtailing content for years because its pedagogues thought that teachers teach too much things at schools, Estonia did not. There was more, Estonia's state curriculum was common to all its centers without rebates or exceptions. Each center had autonomy to teach it but in 3rd, 6th and 9th levels there are some state tests to be passed in science, mathematics and languages. This model demands a lot from the centers and their students. So the first and second examinations ensure that all students master one or two languages ​​before secondary. Lenguage is the mental basis for all conceptual teaching. In fact, 25 percent of students in Estonia are Russian-speakers. Significantly they obtain lower marks than the Estonian speakers in the Estonian state tests. Language is the basis of knowledge, thought and reasoning in teaching.

In short, if Estonia has surpassed Finland in PISA it has not done by casual statistical data. On the contrary, it has been by maintaining a common, homogeneous and demanding curriculum for all its centers. The same reason has the best country in PISA, Singapore. All these are not interpretations, they are facts that the numbers tell us. Of course, mathematics is not common knowledge among many education "experts". Perhaps teachers of arithmetic have been hated too much.

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