ΤΕΥΧΟΣ 6

ΤΕΥΧΟΣ 6

ΤΕΥΧΟΣ 6

Spring 2006

EDITORIAL

Α. Kazamias, D. Mattheou.

CONTENTS

Following Michael Sadler’s interpretation of education as a complex cultural institution, this paper attempts to offer some thoughts on the success of the Finnish educational system in PISA, but also for its average standing in the IEA examinations. It focuses on the scale of reading comprehension and provides a pedagogical and cultural account for the outstanding performance of Finnish school, while it also examines the role of school autonomy and community support as a factor of achieving better learning outcomes.

In its final section the paper puts forward an overall critique of PISA methodology and rationale from a comparative perspective arguing for its political rather than pedagogical character.

The success of its pupils in PISA has brought the Finnish system of education to the attention of many in Greece, including politicians, academics and teachers. The press is hosting articles about it, conferences are organized and a number of educationists and policy makers actually travel up north to acquire first hand information. Public discourse is characterized, as one could have expected in such occasions, by arbitrary generations and remarks, by piecemeal and selective information and by unsubstantiated recommendations.

The article looks into this discourse from the comparative perspective. In the first place it shows how misleading the explanation of the Finnish pupils’ high level reading skills can be if the historical dimension –Lutheranism and long foreign occupation– and the contemporary socio-economic context are neglected. Secondly, it demonstrates how even the factual data could be misinterpreted and distorted  when the observer is either not aware of the cultural subjectivity of his/her observation and/or selective in collecting them. It concludes by providing and alternative approach to the study of the “Finnish model” of education that would respect the fundamental principles and the conventional wishes of Comparative Education.

The aim of the paper is to present the results of the two rounds of the PISA programme (2000 and 2003) in a critical way, as well as to explore the challenges that these results pose for the educational systems. Initially, the paper presents the structure of the programme including its obejectives, the disciplinary fields on which each round focusses, the samples in the Greek case and the competencies evaluated within each disciplinary field. The presentation proceeds with the results concerning the Greek students’ performance often presented in comparison to the corresponding performance of students from other countries. Furthermore, the influence of factors such as the students’ socio-economic background and the material infrastructures invested in education on the Greek students’ performance is also examined. Finally, the paper closes with a critical evaluation of the implications of the programme as well as of the related dilemmas the educational systems are confronted with.

This article is based on two fundamental assumptions, namely: (a) that schooling/ education is a mechanism of governance, or in Althusser’s phraseology, “an ideological mechanism of the state”, and (b) that in understanding and critically looking at the Finnish Model of Education we might bear in mind Sir Michael Sadler’s, the pioneer comparativist’s famous dictum, that “the things outside the schools, and govern and interpret the things inside”.

Bearing these assumptions in mind, this essay seeks to explain the great success which Finland registered in the PISA project, in part, in term of the politico-ideological neo-conservative and neo-liberal “turn to the right” that characterized the Finnish political – economic and educational restructuring following the rise to power of the National Coalition Party in 1987. Specifically in education, such reform policies included: devolution and parental choice, efficient management, accountability steering by result and school-based management, and frequent teacher assessment and educational evaluation.

In view of the great interest shown by the Greek stakeholders in the Finnish Model, the article in the end comments on what the Greek education and lawmaker should bear in mind in any reform strategists based on the Finnish prototype. First, the Greek lawmaker must note that PISA assessed the effectiveness or quality of national educational systems solely on the basis of student measurable achievements in literacy, mathematics and science, for which it should be added, it has been criticized. Secondly, if indeed the Greek lawmaker wants to raise achievement level of Greek students in literacy, mathematics and science to the Finnish levels, Greece should not only adopt similar educational policies as Finland, but it should also restructure the Greek politico-economic and cultural context.

The article discusses the role of politics in the formulation of educational policy in independent Cyprus. It consists of five parts. The first part presents the parallel course of the legitimation of the Cyprus state and the formulation of educational policy, the second deals with the educational discourse, the third analyses the context, and the fourth gives an account of the educational reforms introduced in Cyprus during the forty five years of Cyprus independence. The fifth part elaborates on the panorama of the relationships between politics and educational policy.

In the Republic of Turkey, founded in 1923, important reforms were made in education during the Atatürk and Inönü eras in the 1920’s and 1930’s. In the early republican period, education policies were “secular” and “national”, however these policies were softened after World War II and religion was also included in education. After the September 12, 1980 Coup and the ascendance to political power of Turgut Özal in 1983, changes were made in the curriculum and the content of the textbooks in the history and geography courses of middle schools within the framework of the Özalist concept of the Turkish – Islamic synthesis. At the same time, the number of the religious Imam-Hatip schools and the students attending them increased rapidly. From 1980 to the present, significant increases have taken place in all areas of the Turkish education system, especially in the pre-school and the higher education levels. Despite these increases, the rates of school attendance continue to be low. In 1998, an important step was taken to improve this state of affairs through the enactment of a law that provides for an 8-year compulsory basic schooling. At the same time, there have been some improvements in higher education, but several serious problems continue at the level of the educational system.