Center on International Education Benchmarking

The Study Guide

1. New Zealand Primary Teachers Strike For the First Time in 23 Years

On Wednesday, August 15, thousands of primary teachers across New Zealand left their classrooms, with many gathering on Parliament’s lawn, to protest for better pay and working conditions. At Parliament, they were met by Education Minister Chris Hipkins and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. “Unfortunately, sometimes radical change takes time,” Ardern told the crowd. The current Labour party government was criticized for building up high expectations around pay raises and improved working conditions during their campaign, without delivering. In New Zealand, teachers’ pay currently starts just below the national median wage while 20 years ago it started 15 percent above the median wage. The union is asking for a 16 percent pay raise over two years. Read more at the New Zealand Herald and check out NCEE’s Empowered Educators page for the landmark, international comparative study of teacher and teaching quality in the world’s top-performing education systems.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern

2. The Netherlands Experiments with “Middle Schools” to Ease Primary-Secondary Transition

The Netherlands is opening experimental “middle schools” for students ages 10 to 14 to explore whether they help students transition from primary to secondary education. Dutch Minister for Primary and Secondary Education Arie Slob has recently approved six additional middle schools to open for the 2018-19 school year, bringing the total number of middle schools to a dozen nationwide. These schools add a step to the traditional Dutch school system, in which students attend primary school from ages 5 to 12 and then enroll in one of three secondary school pathways – pre-vocational education (VMBO), general secondary education (HAVO) or pre-university education (VWO) – from ages 12 to at least 16. All three secondary pathways share a common curriculum for the first two years, and students who enroll in middle schools delay entering regular VMBO, HAVO or VWO programs until after they have completed this common curriculum. The goal of the experiment is to serve students who “…need a bit more time” before choosing a pathway in secondary school, according to the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. The government will track education quality and parent and student satisfaction at the experimental middle schools and release a report on the results in 2020. Read more from NLTimes.

3. Finland’s Budget Offers More Daycare Workers and Lower Costs of Learning Materials

Finland’s Ministry of Finance released its budget proposal this week, prioritizing increased investments in education and employment benefits. The budget calls for a €10 million (US$11.36 million) appropriation to hire more daycare workers and reduce class sizes in daycare, with a focus on low-income areas that are overcrowded. It also offers low-income students in upper secondary school a €46 (US$52.29) per month subsidy to help pay for the cost of supplementary learning materials. Some advocates estimate these materials can cost students up to €2,500 (US$2,842) over the course of upper secondary education, increasing dropout risk for lower income students. Finally, the budget adds an additional €10 million (US$11.36 million) to develop regional employment offices for jobseekers to be connected with opportunities and training resources. Read more at YLE.

4. UK Education Secretary Calls on Tech Industry to Lead “Classroom Revolution”

UK Education Secretary Damian Hinds has urged collaboration between government and the technology and education sectors to promote greater use of innovative technologies in the classroom. Following a commitment earlier this year to reduce teacher workload and the recent announcement of an online toolkit of time-saving resources, Hinds called on the technology sector to help scale promising practices in using technology to reduce teacher workload, improve instruction and promote lifelong learning. Hinds identified five key areas in which technology can improve education: instructional practices; assessment processes; innovative delivery methods for teacher professional development; streamlined administrative processes to reduce time spent on non-teaching tasks; and lifelong learning opportunities for those who have left the formal education system. Last year’s budget included more funds for schools to access high-speed Internet, and the Department for Education will work with industry leaders this fall to develop an online portal providing free software trials for schools and hold a series of regional demonstrations for school leaders. Read more from The Guardian.

Damian Hinds, Britian's Secretary of State for Education

5. South Korea Emphasizing Multicultural Education for Its Preservice Teachers

The Ministry of Education in South Korea announced that as schools are becoming more multicultural, it is expanding a national competition for preservice teachers to demonstrate their ability to teach and communicate with a diverse mix of students. This fall, in the “I Am a Global Teacher“ contest, teachers-in-training will compete in project teams to show how they can adapt their teaching methods to integrate students for whom Korean is not their first language. Contest participants are required to do a demonstration lesson in which they create an effective learning environment with students from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. The contest was started in 2014 and is now being made available to all students of all teacher’s colleges and universities of education across the country. Read more in the Ministry’s press release here.

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