What exactly are the education practices of top-performing nations?

28 May

In Is it true that the dumbest become teachers? Moi said:

There is a quote attributed to H.L. Mencken:

Those who can — do. Those who can’t — teach.

People often assume that if a person could do anything else, they probably wouldn’t teach. Matthew Di Carlo, senior fellow at the non-profit Albert Shanker Institute, located in Washington, D.C. has an interesting article in the Washington Post.

In Do teachers really come from the ‘bottom third’ of college graduates? Di Carlo writes:

The conventional wisdom among many education commentators is that U.S. public school teachers “come from the bottom third” of their classes. Most recently, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg took this talking point a step further, and asserted at a press conference last week that teachers are drawn from the bottom 20 percent of graduates.

All of this is supposed to imply that the U.S. has a serious problem with the “quality” of applicants to the profession.

Despite the ubiquity of the “bottom third” and similar arguments (which are sometimes phrased as massive generalizations, with no reference to actual proportions), it’s unclear how many of those who offer them know what specifically they refer to (e.g., GPA, SAT/ACT, college rank, etc.). This is especially important since so many of these measurable characteristics are not associated with futuretest-based effectiveness in the classroom, while those that are are only modestly so.  http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/do-teachers-really-come-from-the-bottom-third-of-college-graduates/2011/12/07/gIQAg8HPdO_blog.html

There isn’t really a definitive answer. https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2011/12/09/is-it-true-that-the-dumbest-become-teachers/

Mercedes White of Deseret News has written a fabulous article, Can U.S. schools adopt education practices of top-performing nations?

While different countries have different approaches to and attitudes about education, there are things that all high performing countries do. Two of these are paying teachers well and keeping students in school longer.

Some object to these proposals on the basis of cost: adding more school days and paying teachers more will cost states money they don’t have. Other objections to the idea of borrowing the practices of other countries are more philosophical. Americans have different cultural values from many top performing countries which may limit the transferability of their techniques, according to James Stigler, professor of psychology at UCLA….

Unlike American teachers who come from the bottom 30 percent of their university classes, in Finland admission to education programs is competitive. Successful completion of a teacher training course is no guarantee of a job, however. There is under a 10 percent acceptance rate into the profession. The situation is similar in Korea. Elementary education majors are recruited from the top 5 percent of their high school classes, according to the Center for International Benchmarking in Education. Moreover, only 30 percent of secondary school teaching candidates in Korea are able to find jobs.

Difficulty getting a foot in the door adds to the prestige of the profession, but high pay is what attracts the best candidates. In all these countries teachers are also well compensated. American teachers make 97 percent of per capita GDP, whereas Finnish teachers make 110 percent. In a country with an extensive social services, this means that the average Finnish teachers purchasing power is well above average for discretionary purchases. Canadian teachers make 180 percent of per capital GDP, Japanese teachers 140 percent and Korean teachers a whopping 225 percent, according to data from OCED.

Not only are teachers in other countries better compensated, they work less. American teachers work an average of 1100 hours according to OCED data. By contrast teachers in Finland work about 600 hours, in Korea they average 550 hours. These factors combine to make teaching an attractive profession for high achievers.

Time to learn

Another shared characteristic of top performing nations is the amount of time their students spend in school. American students spend 180 days in school compared to the 243 days Japanese students spend in classes. Korean students aren’t far behind spending 220 days in school while the Finns have 190 instructional days…..

One of the arguments used by opponents of extended time in school, and increased teacher pay for that matter, is that it costs too much. While that may be true it is interesting to note that all of these countries are able to make it work on much less than the United States spends on education. In Canada they spend $7,770 per student. In Finland it is $9,500 per student. Korea spends $7,500 per student and Japan spends $9,800. http://www.deseretnews.com/article/765578482/Can-US-schools-adopt-education-practices-of-top-performing-nations.html

Many have a love affair with by Finnish education system.

Moi wrote about the Finnish education system in The love affair with the Finnish education system:

Many educators around the world have a love affair with the Finnish education system. The question is what if anything which is successful about the Finnish system can be transported to other cultures?

The Pearson Foundation lists some key facts about Finland in their video series,Strong Performers and Successful Reformers in Education Pasi Sahlberg urges a measured analysis in his Washington Post article, What the U.S. can’t learn from Finland about ed reform. See, Are Finnish schools the best in the world? http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/schools/are-finnish-schools-the-best-in-the-world-2289083.html

There are probably some lessons which can be learned from the Finnish experience, and the experiences of other nations, but we shouldn’t be looking through rose colored glasses. https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/04/17/the-love-affair-with-the-finnish-education-system/

Still, it is interesting to note that other nations have better results and spend less than the U.S. per student.


Should summer break be shorter for some children? https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/05/27/should-summer-break-be-shorter-for-some-children/

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

2 Responses to “What exactly are the education practices of top-performing nations?”


  1. Important Harvard report about U.S. student achievement ranking « drwilda - July 23, 2012

    […] What exactly are the education practices of top-performing nations?                                       https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/05/28/what-exactly-are-the-education-practices-of-top-performing-nations/ […]

  2. Study:School reform, like politics is local « drwilda - October 3, 2012

    […] What exactly are the education practices of top-performing nations?                                                          https://drwilda.com/2012/05/28/what-exactly-are-the-education-practices-of-top-performing-nations/ […]

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