Date: 15 Dec. 2013
By: Frank Gue, B.Sc., MBA, P.Eng.,
2252 Joyce St.,
Burlington, ON L7R 2B5
905 634 9538
For: Editors, The Economist, London, UK
Re: Finn-ished, Dec. 7, p. 62 (Also file name)
You correctly identify three of the determinants of high scholastic accomplishment: quality of teachers, a consistent philosophy, and close co-operation between teachers and families.
The official behind the stunning success of Finland in these international PISA tests was Pasi Sahlberg, writer of the award-winning book, Finnish Lessons; What can the world learn from educational change in Finland? He identifies the above factors and others, such as emphasis on reading, science, and math, and requiring teachers to stick to the subjects in which they received their Master’s degrees. Clearly, Mr. Sahlberg was a one-man reform movement of incredible energy and vision. Yet at the end of his book, he writes, “John Dewey dreamed of the teacher as a guide helping children formulate questions and devise solutions. Dewey saw the pupil’s own experience. not information imparted by the teacher, as the critical path to understanding.” These few word reek of the discredited and disastrous “Discovery” or “constructivist” education model, which Finland apparently adopted when Mr. Sahlberg left in 2003. They were an ominous foreshadowing of today’s situation.
Connecting the dots: It took Pasi Sahlberg 35 years to lift Finnish education out of mediocrity to superiority, but only ten years for Constructivism to smash them 22 points back down to below-average, tied with Canada where we are wringing our hands over our loss of seven points in the same ranking.
Note to Canadian and other educators: Beware of and be warned against the popular “Constructivist” mode of teaching.