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Final thoughts – for now….

March 22, 2010

I promised some comments when drafting  my final post from a hotel room in Stockholm, early  last Wednesday morning.  Since then I have been in Edinburgh, Moffat, Dumfries, Aviemore and then home , and have talked a lot about what I saw and heard.   Some of it has made its way into the media,though as ever the media takes its own tack and chooses its own emphasis.

The Times Educational Supplement Scotland front paged the Swedish free school model in a way that rather over eggs its applicability to  Scotland and to my thinking  and also has further inside comment  ( at ) .  Emma Seith is right about consensus, but I think  less sure in her views on the curriculum – the Swedish changes will swing back from where they were, but will end up pretty close to where we are going to be.   And our move towards much greater teacher autonomy through Curriculum for Excellence is in keeping with the Finish model, though we still have things to learn in that regard.   The biggest difficulties for us would be if, in emulating Finland, we not only managed to achieve consensus and trust but also wanted to move to radically reduced assessment and inspection which we as a nation  would be, I suspect, culturally uncomfortable about.   Those moves just don’t fit with  where we have come from or how we traditionally see education in our view of the functioning of services and society.

And there is the key issue, I think.   There is much in Sweden and Finland (and in other places – Ontario and Alberta for example, as well as elsewhere) which we should think about in Scotland and which we might be able to adapt and alter.   But it is highly unlikely that we could translate, lock stock and curriculum (so to speak) all the details of their systems into Scotland.  Nor should we – we have great things here, which we value and which have arisen out of our circumstances and history and which we should enhance by careful reform, rather than diminish by crude imitation of others.

What we do need is an openness to new thoughts and a constant curiosity (an approach in contrast to the world weary cynicism of at least one BBC report – here – which does not do justice to the enthusiasm of most of the teachers I meet).   I am certainly not advocating perpetual revolution but I am suggesting that we should always think about what we need to do to make our educational outcomes better, and if we can glean some of that from others in places with similar problems and possibilities then we are wise to try and do so.

As it happens I will get a chance to see some schools in the USA and Canada in a few weeks time when I am in both countries for the Scotland Week celebrations.   I hope to be able to report on those in another blog so watch this space !

Last thought on a wet and blowy March afternoon at home here in Scotland – Sweden and Finland were both stunningly  beautiful in the snow and I would love to have seen much more  outside the cities where I am sure it was even more beautiful.   I will be back at some stage, I hope !

Stockholm City Hall beside an icy lake.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Neil Robertson permalink
    March 23, 2010 4:29 pm

    Much food for thought here – as others have noted; and the discussion
    in the TESS (which Newsnight Scotland also flagged up) will hopefully
    also continue the debate …. These blog observations by the Minister
    on the hoof really do bring policymaking right to the chalkface from
    the ice and snow of Scandinavia which is fabulous …. Hopefully too
    your pre-school team will have noted Lesley Riddoch’s documentary and
    recent articles on Norwegian experience with the outdoor kindergarten
    not least because of the underlying Scandinavian assumption that ages
    2-5 are critical in establishing an educational foundation on which to
    build. The same point was made in ‘Den Lille rode bog for skoleelever’
    (published in Denmark in 1969) but as there are 26 pages missing from
    the British version of that educational classic ‘The Little Red School
    Book’ I’m not sure how sound the underlying research for that was …!

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