How to improve our education system

| 15 Oct 2019

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The Scandinavian education system has long been held by many to be a beacon of positivity that other nations could only envy. 

But ask former director general of Finland's Ministry of Education and you will get a mixed answer. 

Professor Pasi Sahlberg, who has worked in more than 60 countries' education systems and is now with the Gonski Institute in University of NSW, joined Future Schools Alliance founder Peter Hutton on Friday to discuss educational reform with an 80-strong audience of education professionals, at the Blue Sky Thinking forum. 

"When people ask me back home in Helsinki what do I think about Australian education, I say my answer is that this country has probably one of the best education systems in the world - but not for everyone," he said.

Prof Sahlberg said our system had "good and bad news".

"The good news is great schools are here - and to improve them we don't have to go overseas for how to do that. The bad news is there are systemic handicaps, deep-rooted inequality and inequity in our system, and that leads to great schools not being available for everybody."

Mr Hutton said the forum was not about a clean slate in education. 

"We're not planning on doing anything about things that are already working," he said. "We're wanting to change the game for the huge number of kids who are disengaged or think that school is just a waste of time."

One issue the two have very similar views on is the national NAPLAN system. 

Mr Hutton, a member of the 'Say No to NAPLAN' group, said when you look at the error rate, "17 per cent of kids' parents will get a result showing their kid has made no progress when in fact they've made normal progress".

"It never designed to be released to individual families," he said. 

"For a school it's great - you can see where your kids are - but individually, it was never designed to be that way."

Professor Sahlberg said NAPLAN was "a badly outdated system".

"No world-class system has something like NAPLAN," he said. 


Pasi and Peter Hutton

Professor Pasi Sahlberg of the University of NSW and Future School Alliance Peter Hutton at the Blue Sky Thinking forum at CQU's Noosa campus on Friday.