The Grumpy Giraffe

Critiques on social and education issues

Why We Can’t, and Shouldn’t, Copy Finland

A popular infographic praising Finland’s education system and beliefs has been circulating around the Internet and popular social media networks. Many commenters became self-acclaimed education experts and decided to impose the Finnish education system into the States and Canada to improve our graduation rates. Through illustrations and somewhat elaborate explanations, it will be easy to see how we cannot, and should not, adopt Finland’s system.

Let’s say you designed an Android app, but you want to earn some money from the Apple market too. You figure that the Apple market has a bigger fanbase, and that means more users would buy your app, hence you can earn more from Apple. Your Android app isn’t selling very well, but you know for sure that Apple fans would buy it like hot cakes. You press Ctrl C from your Android programming code, and you Ctrl V it into the Apple app’s programming code window. After all, you want your app to do the same function on the iOS as it did on Android systems. If you’re aiming for the same goal, why not use the same plan?

Here, you may say that they are completely different systems. The Android system functions differently from the iOS, and hence, will have different programming for each to function properly, even if it  is towards the same goal. This is the same for any social reforms.

You cannot pluck a social system from one country and Ctrl V it into another country. Social systems are created for the country it is housed in: the system Finland has created, and worked (in the sense that they scored well on PISA), targets the problems that Finland had in their previous education system. Finnish education problems are completely different from problems in Canadian or American education. To copy and paste the Finnish system into a foreign country will only incur more disappointment from the public, and further the image of education as a joke and a failure.

Some problems that North America, as a continent, is facing include: poverty, racism, language barriers, social welfare, abortion and other politics of the body, sexism, health care, and same-sex marriages, just to name a few (although the last part mostly pertains to the States). Scandinavia is very advanced in most of the above mentioned issues. Social welfare systems are elaborate and trust-based. They are very open to talk about sexuality and rights of an individual to their own body. Same-sex marriage was legalized long before it was even an issue in the States.

And what of racism and language barriers?

Finland, like other Scandinavian countries, have little to no language problems. This may sound like a utopia, but it does not come for free. Finland’s population is composed of a people (yes, people) who look alike to each other, and have very similar beliefs and values, especially religion. Many Scandinavian people have similar physical characteristics of the Aryan type. They speak one language as the vernacular: Finnish. They do know English, but Finnish is used the most often, similar to how French is one of the two national languages in Canada, mais il n’y a pas beaucoup de personnes qui parlent en français couramment en Ontario. Finnish and Swedish are the two national languages of Finland, with Finnish being spoken almost everywhere with the exception of Âland.

And what about racism?

Some of you may notice that the picture I have chosen for this post seems to have nothing to do with Finland. He is certainly not Caucasian, nor does he have blonde hair or blue eyes.

Because Finland is ethnically and visually homogeneous for the most part, people of colour, or of any visible difference, are viewed with a more-than-sceptical eye. Although Scandinavia is very progressive in most social aspects, multiculturalism and pluralism of society are not their strong suit. Finland is notoriously known for being xenophobic, particularly the older generations. Younger generations have adopted a more open-minded view on multiple ethnicities, but there are still many under the influence of their elders. The ethnics groups that are most targeted negatively are Black Africans, particularly if they are Somali.

The thumbnail for this post is of a Somali child. This child would not be well-received. However, through my research, I have discovered that the narrow-minded Finns are usually the loudest, while the more open-minded ones are quiet. Openly hostile acts are associated with drunkenness and extremism, so Finns do know how to censor themselves in public.

The treatment of this Somali child in Finland serves as provoking food for thought.

Another implication with this infographic is the statement “Teachers in Finland are all required to have a Master’s degree. Only the top 10% of graduates are accepted into teaching programs”.

The first statement implies that all teachers are made for university and post-grad. However, a teacher who can practice his or her art excellently might only have a B.A., but does this mean that they are substandard? Many excellent, amazing teachers are not doctorates, but they are good teachers because they know the art of communicating effectively so that their audience understands the content. None of this implies that the teacher has an expensive degree in their field. Teaching is about guiding the student so that they can discover the content themselves, and to adopt a way of understanding that benefits them.

What good is a teacher who has a PhD in English, but cannot explain to his or her students their way of thinking? This is the type of system that Americans are currently using: Post-grad students are being prioritized for programs like Teach for America (TFA), but how does that mean that they can teach well? Teaching is about passion, communication, and knowledge, the former two being the most important factors. Teachers do not need to know everything about algebra to teach algebra. Teachers need to use effective communicating strategies that are inclusive to everyone in the classroom.

I am not asserting that a teacher does not need to know anything. Certainly, teachers must have at least basic knowledge in their field for their teachable. However, passion and communication obviously outrank fancy degrees.

Moreover, many people who strive for post-grad do not have teaching in mind. It is difficult to guide someone who is nearly clueless to the field (compared to you and your knowledge) through the basic steps. After all, these basic steps are mundane. Not all post-grads have the personality characteristics to be a teacher either, patience being the biggest one. People who want a post-grad are mostly pursuing the degree for their own benefit to stand out, and not so much to act as a supporter. Teachers are supporters. Teachers need to know when to step back from the action to let the student fall and learn to stand up, and to provide support when the student is unable to do so himself. Post-grad degrees don’t cover this at all.

I have said earlier that we should not copy Finland’s system and put it into Canada and America without tweaking. Each country has their own problems to work out. Canada has a good reputation in the sphere of multiculturalism: our immigration policies are welcoming, and we have many social programs to help immigrants settle and find employment. Finland does not. Many Canadian schools have teachers who promote pluralism and acceptance of other cultures in their classrooms. Finland mostly does not.

Yes, Finland may seem to be nearer the top of the social ladder, but are they? Every country’s education system has flaws, but the difference is how heavily we value these flaws and accomplishments. Canada has multiculturalism to boast of. Finland has high test scores to boast of (although personally, test scores are not the best assessors of student learning at all in my opinion). We need to embrace our achievements and stop seeing ourselves as a country wrought completely with flaws.

We can learn several things from Finland. The infographic states that teachers are as esteemed as their doctors or lawyers. Recognition for one’s work is a powerful motivator, much more than the salary. Reputations of the teaching profession in the UK and US are abysmal: teachers are seen as scum and treated like dirt. The community does not want to partner with the school, and vice versa. Administrations are trying to outdo each other in test scores. Teachers are seen as slaves who should be grateful they have a paycheque at all for teaching 30 kids for 6 hours every weekday. And when they ask for collective bargaining rights, or just their way of handling a classroom? How dare they!

Parents are worried that their child is not receiving the best. And it is true. Their children are not receiving the best because the community and school are not partners in the student’s growth and development. Both parties should sit down and discuss a growth plan that is beneficial for the students as a whole. Treating teachers as partners (rather than as the Devil’s advocates) can only deepen the students’ understanding and further their personal growth.

An interesting point to think about is the reason behind the social face of teachers. Is it because they only accept the top 10% of graduates for teaching programs? We have already discussed these problems earlier. Perhaps we need to figure out another way to boost teacher reputation in society.

Another thing we can learn from Finland, aside from recognizing teachers as partners, is to reduce the emphasis on testing, especially the idea of using tests as assessments of teaching quality. It is ironic at best that a teacher has finally earned his or her B. Ed., they are still being questioned for their capability in the classroom, with society demanding for more testing. Do we question doctors’ abilities to cure our diseases, even knowing that they are recent graduates? Do we question the plumber working on our pipes, or do we trust them that they know what they are doing?

So why are we not trusting the teachers to know what they are doing, even after obtaining their B. Ed.? A B. Ed. is just as difficult to earn as any other degree that has a practical component, like being a M.D.

Copying Finland is not the answer. We can refer to their model, but we need to either tweak their system to the country’s context, or create a system that addresses to our problems.

After all, it seems useless to try and put an Android app on an iOS.

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18 comments on “Why We Can’t, and Shouldn’t, Copy Finland

  1. proyectoerasmus
    October 26, 2014

    Two things that are not correct: Finland is not Scandinavia, is North European and same sex marriages are not legal in Finland. In Spain, two men or women can marry and it is called ‘marriage’, in Finland is ‘cohabiting relationship’.

  2. Decci
    March 25, 2014

    Reblogged this on The Life of Decci and commented:
    first note-to-read on Finland’s education system

  3. Peter
    November 7, 2013

    School is supposed to prepare kids for their adult life.
    In that sense, Finnish school is not doing great.

    Finnish society has the same amount of problems like anywhere else, if not more:

    Alcoholism
    It’s a huge problem, especially in young people. It seems that it is “cool” to be drunk. You have to drink, if you want to have some kind of social life. The state does nothing about this plague that pushes thousands of people to marginalization. Nearly 25% of men and 10% of women exceed the safe-use guidelines.

    Loneliness
    Finnish people are notorious for not expressing their emotions, being extremely introvert, shy and generally feeling awkward in almost any social situation. That makes most people to be socially dysfunctional. No wonder they have special classes in the universities on how to stand up and talk, how to look others in the eye, how to participate in a conversation, etc. A thriving profession here is “Life Coach”. People coaching others on how to live their life. They are not graduate psychologists. Anyone can be a Life Coach.

    Racism
    The extreme right wing and openly racist party “Real Finnish” (Perussuomalaiset) received 19% in the last national elections. The immigrants in Helsinki area account for 3% of the population. In the rural areas and northern parts of Finland is less than 0.5%. That says it all.

    School drop-outs
    35,000 drop-outs every year from the “perfect” school. Finnish school and Finnish universities are the easiest to attend, However, a considerable amount of students quit the compulsory education.

    Idleness
    1,000 permanent early retirements from the labor market every year for various reasons. it is so easy to let the welfare system take care of you. The question is until when?

    Chauvinism
    Finland is the best country in the world. Nowhere else is as good as in Finland. Finnish kids are safe, happy, and well educated. Anywhere else their physical and mental condition is precarious. Finland has the best system in the world. Everywhere else people are stupid not to have the same system as in Finland. Finland has everything a person needs, MONEY and SYSTEM.
    Family, friends, solidarity, empathy, culture, tradition are for the weak and impotent who just can’t have money and a good system. Finnish people are serious, hardworking people, there is no time for such nonsense.

    Suicide rates
    Approximately 1,000 men and 300 women commit suicide every year in Finland. It is in the 19th place in the world ranking, according to the World Health Organization.

    Well, I guess I might sound a bit racist (if not a lot). Been living in Finland quite a long time to know and understand a few things. It is not the worst country to raise a kid, but If I had a choice I would take mine somewhere else. Somewhere warmer with richer culture, friendlier people, more solid social web, deeper values and a more interesting life style. Money, welfare and educational system unfortunately can not save Finnish people from living a boring, dull, flat, almost miserable life.

    The success of their educational system is counted only by numbers, pretty much like everything else in the new order of things. Well, we are talking about kids, not numbers.

    Kids in Finland might become great engineers or IT developers when they grow up. But being a happy and socially functional person is a huge issue.

    Please note that I have met a lot of expats here, It is amazing how similar are our views about Finland! From Mexico to Australia, from Scotland to Syria, from Spain to South Africa, we could not agree more on the obvious faults of the so much marketed and advertised Finnish system.

  4. Will Schmidt
    June 3, 2013

    I find it so unfortunate that you had to explain the singular nature of “people” to the morons of the English speaking world.

  5. 123
    April 1, 2013

    Hello, I happened to stumble upon your blogpost.

    Although I think your premise is correct – you cannot cut and paste a system from a different culture – the points you make after that make little sense.

    You like to stress how xenophobic and racist the Finnish society can be, yet I fail to see how this has anything to do in determining whether the system works or the methods are valid. What does a drunk man shouting profanities to minorities have to do with the teacher recruitment system or the level of pay? Americans flew to the Moon in rockets designed by Nazi scientists – did it make the rocket design somehow flawed?

    “Finland, like other Scandinavian countries, have little to no language problems. This may sound like a utopia, but it does not come for free.”

    So a contry has a language. ‘But it doesn’t come for free.’ What? Why?

    “Many Scandinavian people have similar physical characteristics of the Aryan type.”

    I’m sure this racial profiling is of the utmost importance in the everyday classroom, but maybe you should expand a little.

    Anyway. Your reasoning about how a degree does not imply competence is somewhat correct, if a little naive and off target. Yes, there can be brilliant teachers who have no higher education like there can be brilliant drivers without licences. But if you are building a nationwide system and want to guarantee high quality, you need to have some standards. And Finland has chosen one where everybody needs to have a degree in education. This of course doesn’t automatically mean that everybody can teach well, but at least they have been screened and taught pedagogy. There can be horrible drivers with licences, but at least we have some control over who gets to drive.

    So while I agree that simply having a degree in education does not make you a brilliant teacher – you really didn’t provide your alternative plan of how to make sure all teachers are of sufficent quality.

    As I said, while I agree with your premise, I’m not so sure about your reasoing. There are more interesting and relevant aspects to explore beyond simple cultural finger-pointing: instead of wondering how many people speak certain language, try to mull over how phonetic languages and non-phonetic languages affect learning. And so forth.

    • The Grumpy Giraffe
      April 2, 2013

      The point about xenophobia is to highlight the differences in the culture between say, America (and Canada) and the Scandinavian countries. It’s definitely more difficult to implement a widespread reform effectively when the culture is much more heterogeneous, meaning there are multiple standards from each culture for assessing content learned. The example of a drunk man shouting profanities is one example of extreme xenophobia, whereas the more subtle forms are the more common ways of hindering reforms from being implemented successfully. The cultural context of Finland ultimately poses an entirely different set of problems than that of North America.

      Language is a significant factor in the efficacy of reform implementation, not only in schools, but in how values are communicated throughout. For example, Japan did not have a word for divorce until mid 20th century. What does that say about the concept of divorce and the value judgement in Japanese community? Going back to the use of language in North America and Finland, there will definitely be words that exist in either language, and do not exist in the other. What does that say about the value judgement of those concepts with missing words? I did not want to throw in linguistic determinism, as that itself deserves another post altogether, but perhaps you can ponder about that theory in regards to the importance of language not only in reforms, but even in everyday language.

      The monolingualism comes at the expense of multilingualism. If there is only one recognized (and one dominant language that is used by 90% of the speakers), what does that say about the other languages? How can students of minority languages (and we’re talking about very minority languages) thrive in a society that surrounds them with foreignness? Of course, if the society is diglossic (i.e. languages have roles in society, such as using English for government, but Finnish for education, etc), then there can be stable bilingualism, but otherwise, as seen in Finland, although there are English speakers, they are easily taken over due to the power in numbers and the lack of structure of roles that are not designated to either language. When languages don’t serve a role in society, even as a heritage language, they tend to disappear or be very underground.

      Moreover, I am much more interested in the values languages connote, rather than the phonetics of it. Education is all about value-teaching and socialization. It isn’t about if you can identify a noun in a sentence or memorizing the quadratic formula. What students retain most from school is not the content, but the norms and the experiences associated with learning them. This definitely includes the language: which words are taboo? Which are accepted? What do the alternatives sound like? Why do we use alternatives?

      Another point about languages is to think about how monolingualism affects the minority speaker. For the immigrants who live in Finland and speak a heritage language, think about the one Farsi speaker in a group of 99 Finnish speakers. How do you think they feel about the value of their language and culture in Finnish society? Language definitely communicates a message, and at the base of it, it’s about convergence or divergence. Number of speakers of a language is not a topic to be poo-poo’d at, but should be looked at with a critical eye and a questioning mind: what do the minority speakers experience? Are they acknowledged at all?

      The point about the flaw with only top 10% graduates entering education is that being a teacher does not necessarily mean you require the knowledge of a 4-year university degree in a certain field. Much of the curriculum requires around high school level knowledge to teach elementary, and only first-year level courses to teach high school. I agree that B. Ed. are certainly important: as you said, pedagogy and child development are taught, and students are given the resources to teach the subjects effectively.

      My own solution would be to refer to the Ontario system, where you are required to get a B. Ed. Again, that doesn’t guarantee teaching quality (but what can?), but it certainly seems more efficient and practical than only accepting the top 10% graduates. In my opinion, if experience and qualifications are around the same quality, experience is definitely more important. I would not take a PhD with 2 years of teaching experience over a B.A. with 5 years of experience.

      The reason why I chose to use culture as the pinpoint of my post is because it keeps being overlooked. Too many people think that language is not an issue, and believe that it is merely labels on a different world. It certainly isn’t. Language is the dominant lens through which we see and judge our world. We figure out the social norms and place values on the concepts we name. Culture is the biggest influence in teaching a child about what’s right and wrong in society because it is internalized. How effective is telling a child “and this is how you do algebra” versus letting them explore through an activity? Culture is too often overlooked as a “well that’s what they all say” factor, and should definitely be focused more. Language is often overlooked as well because of its arbitrariness, but that’s exactly the reason why we need to look at it. If it changes so much, what does that say about our society? About the norms we strive to protect and maintain? About taboo? About who is accepted, and who isn’t? About what constitutes as acceptable, and what isn’t?

      Thank you for your comment, though. I’m glad it has given me an opportunity to expand.

      • 123
        April 2, 2013

        Well, you certainly make a lot of points about language, but I’m still not sure how much it affects the system you are using. The Swedish speaking schools in Finland are using the exact same methods as the Finnish ones, and the Swedish speaking people don’t seem to be struggling – whether it be in education, work force or society as a whole.

        But your points about multiculturalism and being the lone Farsi speaker in the crowd are quite strange. So if the Farsi speaker moves to US and in a crowd there are 85 English speakers, 13 Spanish speakers and one Chinese guy – he can get along with his Farsi just fine? He know his Farsi is appreciated because the Chinese guy feels a little out of place too? Finland providese language lessons to immigrants in their own languages if there are enough people to make it worthwile – more than one student – so Somali kids and Russian can study their own language a few hours a week.

        But there has to be a limited number of dominant languages to keep a society running. If I moved Brazil, I would assume that I need to learn some Portugese and somewhat assimilate. Not that the society goes out of its way to make sure I don’t bump into the local culture.

        “When languages don’t serve a role in society, even as a heritage language, they tend to disappear or be very underground.” And so what? And what should a society do? Run the government in 40 different languages to make sure nobody assimilates? Millions of Italian moved to the US and nowadays most Italian Americans can only say a few words in Italian. Has it ruined their lives?

        “For example, Japan did not have a word for divorce until mid 20th century. What does that say about the concept of divorce and the value judgement in Japanese community?”

        And when Toyota revolutionized quality control in car manufacturing, the chaps at Wolksvagen looked over and said: ‘They didn’t use to have a word for divorce, so their production line isn’t worth studying.’

        Again, nobody is suggesting a copy and paste. But what you fail to do is to give specific examples of what exact methods or practices wouldn’t work in North America beacause of cultural or linguistic differences.

        I’m not quite sure if you understand the Finnish recruitment system as it is. It’s not a system where there is a magical top 10% of students and some university headhunters go after those kids. Rather the government sets out limits for how many new teachers are required each year and universities adjust their intake on new stuents accordingly. So if a university takes in a hundred new students and a thousand people apply, of course they are going to take the 10% they feel are the most suitable. If only 500 apply, they are going to take the best 20%. And this is a process which includes both entrance exams and face-to-face interviews, so it’s not like they just randomly take in any smartass who thinks he makes a good teacher.

        It’s not about some arbitrary number, it’s an intersection of the desirability of the profession and government quotas.

        “Education is all about value-teaching and socialization. It isn’t about if you can identify a noun in a sentence or memorizing the quadratic formula. What students retain most from school is not the content, but the norms and the experiences associated with learning them. This definitely includes the language: which words are taboo? Which are accepted? What do the alternatives sound like? Why do we use alternatives? ”

        Well if this is your opinion, your original post should have been “Why PISA scores don’t matter” and then go on to explain how it measures wrong things, not tell us how the ‘Aryan’ features of Finnish people invalidate their teaching methodology.

      • The Grumpy Giraffe
        April 2, 2013

        Even though Sweden and Finland are close, we shouldn’t assume that just because a plan in one country works fine that it works in the other. It works in Sweden; so? This is Finland.

        There is definitely a difference in seeing that you are not the sole minority in a society. Humans are social animals. They need to feel that they can relate and belong to a certain group. So yes, he will feel better, but I never said he will feel perfectly fine.

        I believe you should do some research on diglossic communities. “Roles in society” do not necessarily mean having government offices run in 10 different languages. Toronto itself is a diglossic community, but government offices are run mainly in English and French, and sometimes Chinese. However, because Toronto is so pluralistic, almost every heritage language has a role, such as in cultural events, ethnic enclaves, or talking with other speakers of the same language for solidarity. America also has many different enclaves (think of New York City itself) in which ethnic languages thrive. So no, America and Finland are definitely not facing the same issues. Yes, there may be those Italian speakers who can only speak a few words, but the fact is that the US still has areas where Italian can thrive, and has a high transmission rate between generations. There are cultural events that pride on using Italian, showing that there is purpose. In Finland, there is not.

        I don’t get your example of the Toyota/Volkswagon. My point about Japan was to talk about how language affects the world view, and ultimately, communicates the society’s norms and values. I originally made the question rhetorical, but as it seems to have been lost, I’ll answer it: when the society does not designate a word for a concept, it either means that the concept is taboo, or that it doesn’t exist. In Finland, this matters because the society is so homogenic: there are many cases when immigrants feel excluded by the language used. Finnish is the vernacular in formal and informal domains: there is very little space for immigrants to communicate. In North America, at least heritage languages have the space of ethnic enclaves because the general belief here is to nurture multiculturalism, whereas Finland does not.

        I was assuming when it said “top 10%”, it was based off grades, since interviews are qualitative, and can’t really be associated with an objective score. I didn’t look into the Finland recruitment system, but even if they do interviews, then the “top 10%” would be wrong.

        It was not an opinion. I never said that the Aryan-ness invalidated the teaching methodology, but it has already been shown through studies that the teachers there do not promote pluralism. Most of the community is homongeneous, whether in appearance (which does play a role in how socialization works, for both immigrants and mainlanders), language, or culture, specifically religion. The appearance of Aryan is merely one factor that contributes to the effect that immigrants are feeling, especially if they look the part. I’m talking about how education is a form of socialization in terms of how North America cannot adopt Finland’s system due to multiculturalism. Think about the values communicated through social agents in Finland with respect to the community in which it is situated. My statement about education not about learning what a noun is refers to the too popular notion that “If they’re learning the same thing and are doing well on the tests we do badly on, we must adopt their reform”, when it’s too rare that anyone looks at the cultural context that Finland youth are brought up in.

        The point of the article is to look at the differences in the cultural context of North America and Finland. It was not about PISA scores. Education is the catalyst and, partially, a creator of the cultural context. The reason why culture was examined, and say, not PISA, is because it is one of the most significant factors affecting learning. Students don’t retain what they learned from a certain Grade 3 teacher, but they retain the memories of the experiences with that teacher, whether they were negative or good. In essence, feelings are being left out of the research when studying an education reform.

        I would greatly appreciate if you didn’t straw man my arguments.

        I’m not saying that Finland is inherently bad because they aren’t pluralistic or multicultural. Every country has something good in its right that works for them. Canada prides on multiculturalism and anti-racist education. Finland does not. However, Finland removes the emphasis on testing, and Canada does not, partially because when you live in a myriad of cultures, it’s difficult to find an objective method of assessment if so many people disagree. Finland is much more homogeneous, so it is evidently easier for the public to agree on a certain method. Finland is good in the sense that they do not stress their youth about testing, and about how socially progressive they are, except for multiculturalism. Both sides can learn from each other.

      • gary dubrall
        March 24, 2015

        if you have problems communicating, use Skype translator. kids in Hawaii are brain dead by 9th grade. shut up, sit down, do this, do that, obey, conform is our method and we have a college grad rate of about 20% of kids that started kinder. it doesn’t work, kids are not engaged. I vote for a topic vs subject curriculum.

    • Pete Laberge
      April 2, 2013

      Of course, there are other countries, besides the Nordic ones, with different systems. Look at China, Japan, India. Again, Canada and the USA, could learn from all. But there are also things they could learn from us!

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  8. Pete Laberge
    March 14, 2013

    You make some very good points!

    Every country has to solve their problems with the resources they have. Another thing, is that Finland is very small (Compare to Canada or the USA), and has a very small student base compared to the USA. (The base size compares to Canada’s, but consider Canada’s Base Diversity! Or the USA’s!)

    I saw this topic discussed elsewhere. I hope they read what you wrote. Your arguments are much better than mine were.

    If we really looked into it, there are probably things Canada could learn from either the USA, or Finland… or maybe from some other country….
    Likewise, there are probably things the USA could learn from either Canada, or Finland… or maybe from some other country….
    And also, there are probably things Finland could learn from either the USA, or Canada… or maybe from some other country….

    A few years ago, Japan sent some very high level people to Canada. The Japan Ministry of Revenue wanted to learn how the Canadian Income Tax System worked. I worked at Revenue Canada, as it was called at the time. (Now called the CRA.) The effort was reciprocated: Canada sent some people to Japan. Both sides learned much. But neither Japan’s Tax system is used in Canada, nor Canada’s in Japan.

    The same thing might apply to students, teachers, schools, education, teaching, learning, and even the cafeteria!

    (Just my 2 cents!)

    • The Grumpy Giraffe
      March 14, 2013

      Thanks! I didn’t know you were Canadian too. But yeah, every country can learn from each other, regardless if it is education-related. Copying reforms word for word will only damage the country reformers are trying to help.

      • Pete Laberge
        June 6, 2015

        Yep. I am a fellow Canuck. One other thing from your article: You seem to rank us too closely with the USA. I think we are sufficiently different. One one thing our teachers are much better paid and pampered than in the USA. Overpaid perhaps, look at the she-moggle going on in Ontario at the current time (Late school year, of 2015, say May-June…) Teachers on strike, for no reason that has been explained to the public. NOT that school boards, or indeed the Ont Govt have done a much better job of explaining anything. But Teachers CLAIM they are professional explainers. Surely they could… I know a lot of “lay people” who are quite pissed off at them. To quote one: “It’s all about the kids? You care about your students? So you go on strike at the crucial end of the year and have to be legislated back to work? Bah humbug.” Talk about a PR failure! When you lose the citizens, residents, taxpayers, voters, and parents from your team…! Not a good idea. Previously, some years ago, I think “we outsiders” felt much better about teachers. Lately, we are starting to lose respect, admiration, and tolerance. That is NOT good for students, teachers, schools, society, or the public!

        The other point you made, that did not strike me before, but has tonite, was your talk of making alliances with the community. Teachers have to work on that. More so in the USA than Canada, I think. I have suggested to a number of USA teachers that they could make alliances with parents, local taxpayers, business people, and professionals (Doctors, Lawyers, CA’s, etc.) to benefit themselves AND their “CLIENTS”. I got replies that made me feel like a hanging — mine — was imminent! BAD IDEA! When you have issues like “testing, testing, testing, standardized testing, filling in the boxes, data collection, and yet more testing, THEN teach to the test”…. You need to ally with your community, against “the admin gone mad”. I was told, even by one very reasonable, intelligent, self-aware, bad-asse-teacher guy, that he saw no value in that!

        Cough! Imagine any other business of field of work, where the clients are viewed as part of the sausage, and not the raison d’etre! The “Clients”, are the kids and their parents! The most powerful allies teachers could ask for! Same for the local voter/taxpayer.citizens! “But you know nothing about education!” I was told. COUGH! I may not have a B.Ed. But, laddie, you be the “Pro Explainer” so you claim. So explain, already! And you be the one who needs the ally. Join us young Teacher Walkers! Together, we can do more than merely work at odds! I am NOT saying that YOU, Personally, are like that! But I am merely relaying some things that were said to me.

        I think we can and SHOULD look at other systems. But like you said: “Simple Copy and Paste does not work on a social System Level.” (Ok, I am sorta putting words in your mouth, there, but I meant the idea in general!) We can learn from others. But we have to make the thing we learn, fit into out toolbox of usefulness.

        To take the VW/Toyota quality control issue, someone noted, above:
        We can copy the idea of, say, quality control, from Japan to Germany (or indeed Canada), but we have to make it fit in properly. To make a bad example: Japan might have engine quality issues, while Germany has braking quality issues. And Canada? We have rust!

        Somehow, I wonder if, for us (we are good at that: eg Royal Commisshes), a National Forum with teachers, clients taxpayers, admins (the necessary evil!), politicians (they make the silly rules!), et all, might not be a good idea.

        Would a National Forum work in the USA? I dunno. I would despair at that. Red State, vs Blue State, vs City, vs Country, vs…. You know, for a country that talks about how united they are, the USA, lately, has not been very united! But THAT is ANOTHER issue. And I do not think it fits in the topic at hand!

        One problem I have noticed, that you may want to write about: The commercialization ./ corporate take over of education. More and more corporations with a product to sell, are starting to try and control the system / ideas in it. It seems to be turning education into NOT about education, but about selling some neat, cool, new toy, or system, or idea. Whether it fits in. One crude example: A kid in Hawaii needs to learn about 3 volcanoes. A kid in Georgia, not so much. But corporations assume plug and play. This worked in Idaho. Great! So shove it into Rhode Island, or PEI! It’ll be fine! But do Toyota brakes, work on Volkswagons? I will leave you to chew over that one….. Thanks.

      • The Grumpy Giraffe
        June 15, 2015

        Being officially part of the labour action right now, I can see why teachers don’t really tell the public about what’s going on. So far, it’s just teachers against admin; parents have been pretty on board with us so far (if you exclude the whole sex ed thing before the labour action). The reason we can’t talk about the politics to parents or students is because that would be directly bringing politics into the classroom, which would affect the dynamics between students and groups within the community, and even teachers within the school. So that’s why we’re told, by our unions (not by our own will), that we cannot speak of what’s going on in the labour action. We can’t even post the union memos within the school even though all the teachers are part of the same union.

      • Pete Laberge
        June 15, 2015

        Sure! We’ll leave out the silly sex ed thing!

        But when WE (the people) do not know, what is going on, WE assume the worst. We know the government are idjits.
        We do not trust the unions.
        The admins everywhere are enemies to all. (I think that is Biblical!)
        This leaves the teachers, who are now seen as lazy, greedy, secretive, and self-serving. Lose us “civilians” as allies, either here up North, or in the USA…. And it is at your peril. Some have gone to favouring private schools!

        And I have (retired) teachers in the family. And you know what they say?

        “Today they know nothing and teach nothing, Back in my day, we walked uphill to school, both ways, 50 below, in 3 ft of snow! We cleaned our own blackboards! We had to write and re-write everything down! Papers were checked by hand! No spell or grammar check! And they were all hand written, no neato computer files to study. AND YOUR HANDWRITING WAS THE WORST. IT STILL IS!”

        Well, OK. For that last sentence, maybe they are right. But I am a leftie. And the DURNED TEACHIES CRITIQUED THAT, TOO!

        WORSE: I am 59. And 2 of them still use the BLASTED TEACHER VOICE ON ME! And YOU thought Ben Kenobi was mean to the Storm Troopers! Force, shmorse. One was an ENGLISH TEACHER. “Ye’ll nay find a more dreadful thing, in all the monsters of the Galaxy!”

        But if you lose the retired teachers, something in your communications strategy is off. Just saying!

        By the way, why are Giraffes Grumpy?
        (You will hate me for this…)
        I thought they stood heads and shoulders above all that!

        Hey! I hear Forest Gump calling me! ” Run, Pete… Run! “

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This entry was posted on March 14, 2013 by in education, politics, society, teaching and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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