I'm missing detail here. I'm not spelling out the fudge in detail but am happy to discuss with anyone who has actually read the report.
btw the McKinsey report pdf has the copy feature turned off, proof that it's not intended to be discussed – it's just "experts" dumping their expertise onto us.
The McKinsey report is American (but with extensive comments about different education systems around the world) and the Brian Caldwell article is an attempt to apply some of the McKinsey thinking to Australia
McKinsey report: How the world's best performing school systems come out on top
Are we serious about an education revolution? Brian Caldwell
(many of the comments following the Caldwell blog are worth reading – I try to cover an aspect of the “big picture” here not covered in those comments)
Some stand out, slap in the face ideas / facts from Caldwell (his article is short, worth reading the whole thing):
“The gap between our high and low performing students is amongst the widest in OECD nations. Up to one-half of all teachers plan to leave the profession within 10 years. The number of students in private schools has jumped by 21.5 per cent in the past 10 years compared to 1.2 per cent in government schools ”My context for this is the Kevin Rudd / Julia Gillard promise for an “education revolution” and the inadequacy of what they have delivered (no documents indicating deep thought) so far
“Every teacher in Australia entering the profession from a university should have a master's degree - as in top-performing Finland - with targets for minimum ENTER scores progressively raised to match those for entry to other highly-sought degrees.”
What McKinsey and Caldwell are both saying is that to improve education you have to improve the quality of teachers and the status of the profession.
Teacher quality is the most important factor. "The quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers". The early years are particularly important. The negative impact on students of a series of bad teachers in the early years is severe and irreversible
That is a bit startling because in a way its pretty obvious. How did we get to be where we are today and why hasn't this been tried before?
In Australia up until now the quality issue has been managed largely through elite, expensive Private Schools, which have had the right to hire and fire (teachers and students). Why is this no longer good enough?
With globalisation, the knowledge economy and increased competition, education has become more important. So, these reports are about the stronger possibility of governments being prepared to spend some money strategically in order to move up the ladder of OECD educational performance because that could well be more related to success in the current economy. These ideas have been around for a long time. Barry Jones wrote Sleepers Awake: Technology and the Future of Work, predicting these trends in 1982. Over the years with more globalisation and interconnection the need to work smarter has accelerated. And so it comes to pass that the need to get the best value for dollar in education expenditure has crept up the political ladder in terms of importance.
The detail makes sense if you keep this big picture in mind. It's a globally inspired outcome based cost-benefit analysis devoid of any wider educational vision. The authors are saying we should run schools in a similar way to how you would run a successful business. The vision is higher quality teachers on reasonable (but not high) money working harder in a profession with higher status. Nice trick if you can get it and according to McKinsey you can get it if you try
Where to spend more money:
- On teacher quality and marketing of the profession
- Select teachers before training them not after, the pay them while being trained with a guaranteed job at the end
- Coaches for teachers in schools, including Principals who are coaches. ie. Principals as educational leaders not as bureaucrats who become overwhelmed with the paper work
- Far more classroom based teacher training
- Facilitate more of teachers learning from each other
- Front loading compensation - the recommended wage structure is designed for the gullible: front end loading to suck them in initially but then a relatively flat increase in the ensuing years. I don't see how this is going to change the problem identified by Caldwell, “half of all teachers plan to leave the profession within 10 years”
- Have fewer teachers overall, reverse the trend to smaller class sizes
Some Charter schools have been successful but they have not been successful overall (McKinsey, p. 14). Hence, McKinsey loses interest because they are only interested in whole system change, not more radical but small scale change
Where to fudge:
- On helping Disadvantaged schools, which are the ones that really need smaller class sizes.
SOME OTHER HAPHAZARD CRITICAL THOUGHTS:
Real improvements in literacy, science and maths will ultimately develop internal to those domains and research into how to better communicate those subjects to young people. The outcomes based approach assumes that we already know what we are doing and just have to measure it.
I recall that brilliant books have been written about the search for quality. Zen and the art of motor cycle maintenance. And how much harder it is to find than measuring outcomes.
In view of the limited scope of the study the wider issues to do with literacy are not explored. eg. the impact of multimedia on reading scores, see "Why Johnny And Janey Can't Read, And Why Mr. And Ms. Smith Can't Teach: The challenge of multiple media literacies in a tumultuous time" by Mark Federman
Twilight of the Books: A recent study has shown a steep decline in literary reading among schoolchildren by Caleb Crain
How is teacher quality measured? In systemic cyclical fashion. The right stuff is defined as the top performers within the current education system (which is seen to be failing in many respects). South Korea selects its teachers from the top 5%, Finland from the top 10%, Singapore and Hong Kong from the top 30%. Those who succeed in the current system represent quality and should be the source of who we select to put back into the system.
information about the co-author:
(Michael Barber's) book was The Learning Game:Arguments for an Education Revolution. Its author, Michael Barber, former research officer for England's largest teachers' union and later professor of education, became Tony Blair's chief adviser on education the day after the election. He now works for McKinsey & Company and is co-author of McKinsey's report How the World's BestPerforming School Systems Come Out on Top, which is currently the most widely read study worldwide of what should lie at the heart of an education revolution
McKinsey quote: ... smart countries will succeed by being "swift to adapt, slow to complain and open to change"
“Slow to complain” ... you get it now? Just compete in the global economy – don't ask too many questions