Center on International Education Benchmarking

The Study Guide

1. OECD Report Identifies Common Teacher Policies in High-Performing Nations

High-performing countries provide extended clinical practice for pre-service teachers, a variety of customized opportunities for professional development, and appraisal methods that focus on continuous improvement, according to a new report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The report, based on a teacher survey that accompanied the 2015 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), also found that increases in school autonomy in hiring teachers was associated with high performance, and that, in a third of participating countries—including the United States—teachers in the most disadvantaged schools were less experienced and less qualified than those in more advantaged schools. More information is available from the OECD.

2. Finnish Finance Minister Calls for Apprenticeship System Modeled on Germany

Finnish Minister of Employment Jari Lindström announced his support for a new model of apprenticeship training in Finland this week. Currently, Finland’s system of vocational education and training (VET) relies on well-trained teachers who are experts in their respective fields to deliver instruction in school-based settings and polytechnics. However, unlike top VET systems, Finland’s VET system does not feature an extensive work-based learning component. Lindström proposes partnering with business and industry to expand apprenticeship slots for young workers, without sacrificing school-based learning opportunities or the role of vocational teachers. Other politicians, including Juhana Vartiaien of the National Coalition Party, have voiced support of the proposal, and of policies such as allow lower starting wages for apprentices that would help to facilitate its adoption. Read more at Helsinki Times.

3. New Conservative Government in Ontario to Roll Back Math Curriculum

Ontario held provincial elections last week and ousted the Liberal government of Kathleen Wynne and gave the Progressive Conservatives a majority. The Liberals had controlled the Ontario government for 15 years. The Conservatives have promised to eliminate the province’s new sex education program, ban cellphones in schools, scrap the province’s “discovery” math curriculum, and “fix” the standardized testing system. Ontario’s provincial math scores have been falling or stagnating for several years but many are concerned that a “back to basics” approach is not the answer. Mary Reid, an assistant professor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto, said she thinks the answer is for students to learn “both operational skills and problem-solving.” For more see The Globe and Mail.

Ontario Premier-designate Doug Ford

4. Apprenticeships Surge in Australia’s Capital

Although apprenticeships are declining across Australia, the number of Canberrans—Australians residing the capital territory (ACT)— has surged by almost 50 percent in two years. Aside from having the highest growth in apprenticeship participation of any territory, ACT is also seeing increases apprenticeship participation by Indigenous populations and those with disabilities. ACT Minister of Higher Education, Meegan Fitzharris, attributes part of the success to targeting support to apprentices throughout their study with a special focus on women and older workers looking to re-skill. Last week the ACT became one of five jurisdictions to sign onto the federal government’s new AUS$1.5 billion (USD$1.13 billion) Skilling Australian Fund which aims to create an extra 300,000 apprenticeships and traineeships across Australia. Read more at the Sydney Morning Herald.

5. China Experiments with AI in the Classroom

China’s efforts to expand the use of artificial intelligence in the everyday lives of its citizens, including experiments with a social credit system that rewards behavior deemed desirable by the government, has been met with no small degree of suspicion and criticism from many in the West.  Now China’s use of AI in the classroom is now also turning heads.  One high school in Hangzhou is testing a new AI system that scans students faces during instruction and monitors for six behaviors: reading, writing, hand raising, standing up, listening to instruction, and leaning against their desk. The goal of this technology is to help teachers improve their instruction by giving them objective feedback on their students’ levels of attentiveness, but some students have equated it to a “pair of mystery eyes” watching them.  More broadly, education officials in the country are experimenting with the use of AI to score student essays. Already in use by some 60,000 schools, the system can reportedly produce the same grade as a human grader 92 percent of the time. Read more at New Atlas.

6. Agreement Reached for Primary School Teacher Pay Raise in the Netherlands

Teachers’ unions and employers have reached a deal to raise primary school teachers’ salaries in the Netherlands by 2.5 percent beginning this fall. The deal is now awaiting approval by teachers. In addition to the salary increase, teachers would receive a one-time payment of 42 percent of their monthly salary and a bonus of up to €750 (US$877), depending on working hours. The pay raise comes in response to pressure to improve salaries and working conditions for primary school teachers, who are paid much lower than Dutch secondary school teachers. Several rounds of teacher strikes have taken place between October of 2017 and May of this year. In February, Minister of Primary and Secondary Education Arie Slob agreed to dedicate €237 million (US$276 million) next year to hiring more primary teachers. This was in addition to the €500 million (US$583 million) allocated for reducing teacher workload and €270 million (US$315 million) for increasing teachers’ salaries in the government coalition agreement for 2017-2021. Read more from DutchNews.

Minister for Primary and Secondary Education Arie Slob

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