Given Australia's appalling results in the recent Progress in International Reading Literacy Study test, where our students are ranked 27th in terms of literacy and the fact that universities now have to conduct remedial classes in essay writing and syntax, something needs to be done.
The solution favoured by cultural-left educationalists is to copy Finland - a nation whose students are ranked among the top performers in the Program for International Student Assessment Tests. Leftists argue that in Finland, there are no non-government schools, teachers are respected and well paid and - unlike the traditional pedagogy in places like Shanghai and Singapore - education is child-centred and new-age.
Actually, while it is true that teaching is a highly sought after career and state schools predominate there is much that those touting Finland ignore. For example, the education union is a key player in Australia, consistently opposing funding to non-government schools and advocating an extreme Left curriculum agenda. Yet Finnish academic Hannu Simola says a key reason Finnish schools do so well is that "radical labour-union politics, and the extreme Left, have been virtually non-existent in the Finnish teaching profession".
Similarly, European researcher Ludger Woessmann argues that "a larger influence of teacher unions in the education process leads to inferior performance levels"
In Australia, teacher training institutes, subject associations and professional groups like the Deans of Education have enforced a dumbed-down approach to teaching and learning, which is best illustrated by the new national curriculum.
Finland, on the contrary, is conservative in its curriculum and in what happens in the classroom. Simola says Finnish classroom pedagogy is "very traditional, mainly involving frontal teaching of the whole group of students" and "teachers in Finnish schools also appear to be pedagogically conservative and somewhat reserved or remote in their relations with pupils and their families".