In this episode, we will talk about the global challenge of education and how it is difficult to take a successful method in one part of the world and apply it in another part expecting this will ensure success. We will talk about the school and non-school contexts that are crucial to understand education situations and find the best solutions to make them better.
Disclaimer: I am using an automatic transcript service as it is not possible for me to do it on my own and I cannot afford human transcription at the moment. The service claims to have about 95% accuracy, which means there will still be some mistakes, so my apologies for having a less than perfect transcript, but I hope I can afford human transcription soon and this problem will be solved. However, the service is pretty good and the transcript will prove to be almost perfect.
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[00:01:07] welcome to a new episode from English plus podcast. This episode is about education and to be more specific, it is about the global challenge to educate. Now, of course, the most common question in this area is how can we fix our education system? And everybody seems to be waiting for a magic pill or a magic answer listing four or five steps that if they follow strictly will fix all their education problems.
[00:01:39] But unfortunately that can never be the case because to gain perspective and to know what works and what doesn’t work in a place, it’s not just about having one answer that fits all situations. It never works this way. And when we try to understand and examine how the world learns, we must first understand how cultural, customs and practices outside the classroom influence what goes on the inside.
[00:02:07] Now the key to learning from international comparisons is to understand which school and non-school factors aligned to achieve success in a particular context, knowing how the world learns is a stepping stone to understanding how students acquire skills and knowledge, how teachers teach and how education systems function in the best and worst ways.
[00:02:32] This insight will help parents, educators and policy makers make the best decisions and implement superior education in each unique context and classroom, whether it’s in the United States or anywhere around the world. Now of course, we talk about the United States because usually everybody wants to take the benchmarks using the United States and just implement them anywhere else around the world, which is not always the best solution to your education problems.
[00:03:03] Our research suggests that benchmarking one national education system against another is not necessarily a remedy or even a very useful analytical tool. Identifying what works in one place and implementing it in another has not been a successful approach. Instead, experience and evidence clearly demonstrate that systems focused on internal comparisons across content and cognitive domains are the most effective at achieving solutions.
[00:03:36] Cognitive domains or cognition generally refer to the mental processes of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought experience and the senses. Now, if you think about it, content is what we learned such as math, science, history, literacy, but cognitive domains. On the other hand, refer to how we think when we are learning.
[00:03:59] The most celebrated study of cognitive domains is known as Bloom’s taxonomy. Bloom’s taxonomy is named for the 20th century, American educator and psychologist, Benjamin bloom. Who published a framework for categorizing education goals known as the taxonomy of educational objectives. Bloom’s taxonomy is a way of understanding different levels of thinking, starting with plain knowledge at the most basic level, and moving up to the most complex levels of synthesis and evaluation.
[00:04:31] Now we will compare Japanese and American classrooms. To understand a little bit better, how the school and non-school factors affect what’s happening in the education system. Now consider this example of interaction of school and non-school factors. The Japanese classroom is arranged to value teams and group consensus about actions, knowledge, and social interaction.
[00:04:59] Even junior high school classrooms in Japan are organized this way. Students stay in their classrooms while teachers move from class to class in this system, class is valued as a unit. And within the classroom, the students are divided into smaller groups with desks arranged to emphasize subdivisions into smaller teams, among influential conclusions.
[00:05:23] We can identify the following benefits, the social organization and cultural expectations of young Japanese students are being reinforced by both school and non-school factors to act and react in highly scripted ways. For example, learning is supported by the fixed classroom structure, no roaming the whole, so that distractions and interference with learning minimized, but there is a possible downside as well.
[00:05:52] The downside is that unscripted learning or situations where knowledge and skills needs to be applied, maybe less accessible by Japanese then by American students who learn a different set of norms through more individualized classroom instruction. Here’s the beginning of our understanding that the key to learning from international comparisons is to understand which school and non-school factors aligned to achieve success.
[00:06:19] In any particular context. Now you may be listening to this episode because you’re interested in knowing. How the rest of the world reads, learns, interacts and forms its own culture. And others may want to know how the world learns because they want to remedy something. For example, to fix your failing education system, which is a very bad thing to think about in the first place, because everybody talks about their failing education system.
[00:06:48] And they are always looking for a magic answer or for a magic formula to fix this failing education system. Well, unfortunately there are no simple solutions or easy fixes to complicated issues. And quite frankly, there are many more fundamental and productive questions about why we learn and how we teach that we should be asking rather than simply to determine what’s wrong with our schools.
[00:07:13] Now some factors that influence education are more significant than others. And if we really want to understand not just how the world learns, but what that means for the improvement of education in our own communities and countries. We’re going to have to learn which factors matter the most and focus on them.
[00:07:34] And here we come to the key idea, that context is key, and this is the significant factor in comparing education systems. Context is the environment in which education takes place. And there are two kinds of contexts that we will talk about. School. And non-school now context is multilayered both inside and outside of schools inside schools.
[00:07:58] There are students, teachers, classrooms, departments, administration, central administration, and on and on through the organizational hierarchy, outside the schools, the context gets much larger, very quickly. The first level is the school itself and the social political and economic norms that are unique to that school.
[00:08:19] The next level of context is the local community in the United States. For example, this includes the school district, which means that the school’s norms are nested within the community’s norms. Oh, what about school and non-school factors now, given a specific combination of school and non-school factors or context, there is no formula that works for fixing education.
[00:08:43] Well, at least not yet, but we do know that it is much easier to change or manipulate school factors. Than it is to change or manipulate non-school factors in context. And while this is a great thing to do, of course, it’s sometimes easily deceives policy makers. By thinking that changing the school factors is enough to fix the education system and they completely ignore the non-school factors.
[00:09:10] And that breaks the context because the context always includes both school and non-school factors. Of course, we said that we can change school factors and that can be done easily. And here is the common mistake of just borrowing the system that is implemented successfully in another place or in another community or another country.
[00:09:33] And just take this education system as it is and implemented in your own community. Regardless of the non-school factors and you expected to create, or to achieve the same success that worked for this country or that country, but that doesn’t work all the time. Because remember we said that we can change schools factors, and that is the easiest thing to do because that can be changed nationwide and you expect it to work everywhere just because it’s a great idea.
[00:10:03] It doesn’t work all the time. School factors that we can influence include the curriculum, the official and implemented curriculum, school resources, like funding, textbooks, facilities, the teachers, the preparation of teachers, education of teachers. The experience required from teachers professional development and pedagogy.
[00:10:24] The policy. We can change the requirements for teaching or learning. Discipline policies, resource policies, or decision making processes. We can affect all that. And it’s very easy. But remember there is no one formula that is the successful or the magic formula. And it is understandable why sometimes education leaders tend to work only on the school factors because it’s the thing they can control easily, but non-school factors are not that easy to control.
[00:10:56] They have to be analyzed and understood, and that we’ll have to rely on the teachers themselves. Non-school factors typically reside in the environment or context outside the school or education as an institution, they cannot be changed by education or legislated by administrators or policy makers.
[00:11:17] Non-school factors include the culture of community socioeconomic status of families and students. The religion of the students or families, the inequality of wealth or status, the family relationships and individual characteristics, such as whether a student gets enough sleep at night or not. Research shows that socioeconomic status is the single most significant factor when it comes to predicting student learning and performance outcomes, students from wealthy families and communities consistently outperformed students from poor families and communities.
[00:11:54] And I say that with a broken heart, but unfortunately this is the case, and this is the result of almost all the statistics out there. The reason is that well-to-do families are also more aligned with school expectations and content. Those who do well in life tend to either mimic or reproduce the culture of schooling that persists in national education systems worldwide.
[00:12:20] They also tend to understand the importance of education and manage their children’s education throughout their school years. An important question is how to account for the interaction effects of school and non-school factors such as socioeconomic status research shows that teacher education and experience can have a significant impact on student learning and performance outcomes.
[00:12:44] But we also know that the effect of school factors such as teacher quality is less about how well teachers know a subject area and more about how they met manage the interaction of a student’s socioeconomic status with the school and classroom environment. At any given moment, teachers have to finesse instruction and learning on behalf of their students in order to accommodate the different combinations of school and non-school factors at work.
[00:13:15] And only teachers know that because they are in both. Places at the same time, they’re the only people who can be in both places. They exist both as a very important factor in both school and non-school factors for school. Of course, they are part of education and the educational system and for non-school, they are the direct contact with their students and they know exactly what their student’s status problems and backgrounds are.
[00:13:47] And they have to relate and finesse their instruction to bridge the gap between school factors and non-school factors. And here is the problem with some systems of education when they place a lot of focus on the system itself, and they placed less focus on teachers and they think that teachers are just tools to deliver their perfect education system.
[00:14:12] When teachers are much more important than that, and they are the key factor of success in different communities. And I’ll give you an example for that. If you take a very successful teacher in a high performing elite school to another low performing, struggling school, maybe a public school. Now the same, great teacher may struggle in that school.
[00:14:35] And another less so-called important teacher in that school performs a lot better. If you dig in and try to know the reasons why, you know that this teacher, this obscure teacher, so to speak has put a lot of effort to bridge this gap. Yeah. And find the best way for his or her students. To perform better by bridging this gap between school and non-school factors.
[00:15:00] So it’s not always about the system. I’m not saying the system is not important. Of course, the system that you apply, the curriculum, the textbooks, et cetera. That’s very important. No doubt, but the teacher is a key player in this formula. And if you don’t focus enough on the teacher, and if you try to eliminate the teacher from the equation, There are no guarantees that success is in the horizon.
[00:15:25] Anyway, we said that teachers have to finesse instruction and learning on behalf of their students in order to accommodate the different combinations of school and non-school factors at work. And this means that in communities and schools with low socioeconomic status teachers have to do much more to deliver a positive impact on their students than do teachers in high status schools and communities.
[00:15:50] At the high status school, the teacher will have high performing students and will most likely receive support from parents, school, principals and peers at the low status school, the teacher is likely to have academically struggling and low performing students and is going to be questioned and monitored to find out why she or he is struggling with teaching students to perform at minimum competency levels.
[00:16:17] The major difference between the two communities of both high and low socioeconomic status is not that there is a difference in the school factor that is teacher quality. In fact, the difference is that teacher quality aligns differently with the non-school factor. That is the community social and economic status.
[00:16:38] In other words, the difference is context and context changes in every country and culture in most countries and understanding of socioeconomic status and the implications of socioeconomic status for learning are not part of the public discourse about education. Unfortunately. It is much more common to encounter policy makers who push for across the board teacher reform or for implementing 10 step policy prescriptions.
[00:17:07] That address only school factors without any acknowledgement that non-school factors are at least as important. In the equation. For example, Andrea sleeker a spokesman for the organization for economic cooperation and development or D for short argues that high performing education systems have implemented particular policies and education reforms that low performing education systems have not.
[00:17:35] Now the mission of the OEC D is to promote policies, to improve the economic and social wellbeing of people around the world. By working with member governments, to foster economic growth and financial stability to this end, the OEC D collects and analyzes data that has perceived economic relevance, such as education data that OACD committees discuss policy and make recommendations to member countries.
[00:18:02] Using this process, the OACD has produced a report and video series called strong performance and successful reformers in education. It examined systems in Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Finland, Germany, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, and others. And concludes that some improvements in student learning and performance can be made without any added expense or increase the OACD analysis includes benchmarking performance, increasing teacher quality, emphasizing performance, accountability, and implementing policies that promote equity in access to it.
[00:18:42] Education and opportunities to learn while in school. Now I talked about this example because I wanted to talk about a fatal flaw in the way this prestigious organization looks at education. The OECD is comparison. Formula has a fatal flaw, and that is. Context changes in every country and culture. And you can never find one remedy that will be successful in every country, all around the world, a world, without trying to even include the content X in this formula of success.
[00:19:19] Now that being said, I would like to thank you very much for listening to this episode. I hope you found it useful. I hope it gave you some perspective in the world of education and global education and how it works. We will be talking about more specific topics in education with other topics that have to do with global education. [00:19:38] So stay tuned because there will be more episodes about education. This is your host, Danny. Thank you very much for listening. And I will see you next time.