BERT MAES

The Future of CNC Manufacturing Education – CNC Manufacturing, Education Reform & Change Management News.

Posts Tagged ‘teaching’

What makes education in Finland that good? 10 reform principles behind the success.

Posted by Bert Maes on February 24, 2010


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Students from Finland outperform peers in 43 other nations – including the United States, Germany and Japan – in mathematics, science and reading skills. Finland is also ranked top in economic competitiveness.

The performance of this small and remote European country springs directly from education policies set in motion 40 years ago, according to the World Bank in its report “Policy Development and Reform Principles of Basic and Secondary Education in Finland since 1968.”

A summary:

Explaining the excellence of the schools in Finland is extremely complex. They have beautiful school buildings, well-trained teachers, state-of-the-art technology any fancy textbooks, but that doesn’t explain everything. I will not present an exhaustive or exclusive explanation for Finland’s success, but 10 CHARACTERISTICS MAY BE HELPFUL TO UNDERSTAND:

  • (1) When Finnish kids turn 7 years old they go into compulsory primary school during nine years. All kids start at the same level, no matter what socio-economic background they have. They learn the basic knowledge, skills and attitudes of lifelong learning, which is consistently paying off with better academic achievement in later grades. These primary schools are places where playing and learning are combined with alternative pedagogic approaches, rather than mere instructional institutions.
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  • (2) All teachers are prepared in academic universities. Teachers are highly respected and appreciated in Finland, partly because all teachers need a master’s degree to qualify for a permanent job. And the selection is tough: only 10% of the 5000 applicants each year are accepted to the faculties of education in Finnish universities. Finland improved its public education system not by privatizing its schools or constantly testing its students, but by strengthening the education profession and investing in teacher preparation and support. Their high level knowledge and skills makes that Finnish teachers
  1. can have considerable independence in the classroom to choose their preferred appropriate pedagogical methods;
  2. are very willing to continuously update their professional skills via post-graduate studies;
  3. are more willing to work on themselves, are open to new ideas and developed broader perspectives (I refer slightly to the article: MBAs Make Better CEOs… But Why?);
  4. are eager to be involved into the school development processes in their own schools as well as in national and international projects.
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  • (3) Since the 1960s political authorities always have seen education as the key to survive and thrive in an increasingly competitive world. All governments, from left to right have respected over the past 4 decades, that economic growth is the primary goal, with education as the critical driver (according to some researchers, education explains 25% of Finland’s growth): “Investment in people is the best investment”.  To be competitive, the governments concluded, Finland has to substantially boost investments in education and research to foster innovation and cutting-edge development.
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  • (4) Because the central government ensured sustainable funding to ensure FREE education for all, i.e. took care of ALL costs of tuition, warm school meals, learning materials, text books, transportation, new equipment, new facilities, student counseling, etc,  the teachers are able to focus on teaching and learning, and bringing new ideas and practices in schools.
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  • (5) There are no mandatory tests or exams; except for the nationwide National Matriculation Examination, in mother tongue, foreign language, mathematics and social/natural sciences, at the end of the upper-secondary school (from 17-19-year-old). Teachers make their own assessment tests, not quoting numeric grades, but using descriptive feedback, no longer comparing students with one another. This helped teachers and students focusing on learning in a fear-free environment, in which creativity and risk-taking are encouraged. Teachers have more real freedom in time planning when they do not need have to focus on annual tests or exams.
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  • (6) Trusting the schools and teachers is a common feature in Finnish schools. Schools receive full autonomy in developing the daily delivery of education services. The ministry of education always believed that teachers, together with principals, parents and their communities know how to provide the best possible education for their children and youth. Except for guidelines for learning goals and assessment criteria, The National Board of Education (taking care of curriculum development, evaluation of education and professional support for teachers) doesn’t dictate lesson plans or standardized tests. School can plan their own curricula to reflect local concerns.
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  • (7) For Manufacturing Education: In higher education, Finland offers university level studies or the polytechnics insitutions.  The polytechnic system was the focal point of education policies in Finland during the 1990s and the top priority for regional development. There is a wide consensus on increasing technology, environmental sciences and entrepreneurship education – all of which seem to contribute positively to economic development and growth. As a result regional support networks are developed to help schools and teachers to adopt new technology in education and incorporate technology into classrooms.
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  • (8) Building upon the expertise of local players, whose experience, opinions and abilities allowed them to indicate the best ways forward. The teacher unions and the educators themselves have always had the opportunity to be heard, to help crafting a blueprint of the reforms.
  1. The key to get their commitment and support was tapping into and welcoming their expertise as professionals in laying the groundwork of reform. Expert committees of teachers, union representatives, university researchers, textbook authors and government officials designed the new frameworks, hashing out their differences and using each other’s valuable and varied expertise.
  2. Another key was reassuring teachers would not lose employment security and salaries. Before the reforms even commenced the teacher trade organization achieved this in negotiating higher teacher compensation for the extra more demanding work.
  3. Also experiments and pilot programs in developing curriculum reforms have helped ease concerns and win the teachers’ professional commitment. All experimental projects, coming from bottom-up as well, were monitored by university researchers, bringing a consistent culture of innovation in the Finnish education system.
  4. Education reform could only have proceeded if it gave the teachers a way to maintain their pedagogical freedom, creativity and sense of professional responsibility, by allowing them to choose textbooks and learning materials, and to determine the best way to cover the curriculum.
  5. The execution of new curricula, learning materials and new instructional methods was always carefully planned, province by province. Provincial Offices approved the plans from every municipality. The switch to a new reform was also guided by in-service training by a network of national level instructors.
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  • (9) Political consensus and the capacity of policy makers to pursue reform: governments, trade unions and employers’ organizations form a tripartite in Finland, closely coordinating, communicating and heading to a common goal. In many countries the opposing-parties usually polarize debates and public opinion. Since the beginning of the 1970s until 1987 the ministry of education had two ministers from the main parties, requiring close political cooperation, resulting in workable solutions as both parties could endorse them. This proved to be the key factor behind the continuity of Finnish education policy. The parties detached from their populist political objectives and strategic maneuvers and began focusing on the subject-matter, on cooperating and acting together.
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    Via the close partnership between the labor organizations and the governments, between the employees and the employers, in both planning and implementation stages, the teacher union changed from external political pressure group into a stakeholder in government decision-making, i.e. into one encompassing labor organization, that looks at the interest of the COMPLETE SOCIETY, just like the government. This key element in good quality of governance and public institutions turned out to be the driving force of education performance and economic competitiveness in Finland.
  • (10) Regional development and networking: Today the most important component of providing good education is the management and leadership skills of local political authorities, experts and school principals (carefully selected for their understanding of education development, their experience in teacher-education and their solid proven management skills). The key in the educational reforms was ‘how to find ways to help schools and teachers come together and share what they have learned about productive teaching techniques and effective schools’. The result was the creation of multi-level, professional learning communities of schools sharing locally tested practices and enriching ideas, and matching the needs for local economic development.

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RELATED POST: Finland Gets Its First Haas Technical Education Center

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Posted in Policy, Solutions | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 95 Comments »

Disorganized classroom leads to unprofessional behavior

Posted by Bert Maes on February 5, 2010


Clutter can actually cripple your performance, according to a recent survey on workspace organization.

According to the survey, clutter can lead to many unprofessional situations, with a large number of respondents reporting

  • lost time (47 percent)
  • meeting tardiness (16 percent)
  • and missed deadlines (14 percent)

Margot Sterns reorganized her office from what she called “chaotic and out of control” to a structured work environment that runs faster and smoother than ever.

As a result of the new system, Sterns says she’s saved more time, which has allowed her to take on more clients. She’s even has increased her profits by more than 20 percent. “I do believe [getting organized] is worth the investment of time and money, because what you get back, I think makes it more than worth it,” Sterns says. “Getting rid of all that stuff really made a huge difference in my life.”

A FEW TIPS FOR YOUR CLASSROOM:

  • Adequate illumination: when a building gives you a ‘bad feeling’, it is often because of the poor lighting quality. Enough daylight & light sources brighten up the space and make the students feel more comfortable. Big window glasses help to make the internal environment as pleasant as possible.
  • Color: The underlying principle for all renovations including painting is KISS, Keep It Simple Stupid. Keep color schemes simple, use neutral, pale, cream colors. Grey and white colors reflect light better and make rooms appear bigger. These colors give the space a clean high-tech appearance. The areas will feel efficient, harmonious and consistent. The colors help to create a setting that is welcoming and inviting.
  • Adequate ventilation: create a healthy environment with as low as possible air pollution.

    A good example of an attractive classroom - Bäckadalsgymnasiet Jönköping SWEDEN

  • Comfort: the building should feel nice to be in – bright and attractive – a contemporary feeling.
  • Clean: eliminate clutter, towards a brighter and clearer environment
  • Stimulating: stimulate the senses – add a few eye-catching features, such as colorful modern accents which stimulate, motivate & impress the students.
  • Impact: A school ideally looks and feels good. It makes a strong, individual impression, a strong character, that it isn’t just bland and boring. Help the student to like to be inside of the building, by giving the space a personal, high-quality and fun touch which distinguishes the school from others. Pay attention to details to inspire young minds!
  • Mood: Every aspect of the room you create must maintain the same sleek, modern, sophisticated look. Mood refers to the general look or feeling you want the room to express. The color schemes, furniture, window treatments, floor treatments and lighting styles etc. must all be consistent. Elements have to work together to form a visually pleasing cohesiveness.

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DEAR READER, How does your classroom look like? Do you have got more tips for motivating, inspiring learning environments for your students?

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Posted in Solutions, Statistics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Robotics draws students to math, science, teamwork

Posted by Bert Maes on November 5, 2009


Kids don’t like maths.

I talked about that in a previous post. I said that we’ll need better marketing, better teaching and better training equipment.

NASA Robot

NASA Robot

A BEST PRACTICE of this vision is ROBOTS in the classroom:

Teaching in robotics is an excellent way to engage students in science and math in a hands-on way.

It’s so empowering to children to build something and program it to do something, and it does it. It’s better than any video game.” (Karlicia Berry, teacher Ponderosa Elementary School in Post Falls)

Kids get engaged and turned on while learning to build and write algorithms and program robots, i.e. while applying serious engineering.

And, believe it or not, Spokesman.com reports that this approach leads to careers in engineering and technology.

The students participating in the robotics project were nearly twice as likely to major in science or engineering and more than twice as likely as students in a comparison group to expect a career in science or technology.

More: Why “Generation Y” Loves Robots

More: Creating a Buzz: Robot Camp

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Robotics draws students to math, science, teamwork
Teaching in robotics is an excellent way to engage students in science and math in a hands-on way

It’s so empowering to children to build something and program it to do something, and it does it. It’s better than any video game.”

Kids get engaged and turned on while learning to build and write algorithms and program robots, while applying serious engineering.

And, believe it or not, this approach leads to careers in engineering and technology. The students participating in the robotics project were nearly twice as likely to major in science or engineering and more than twice as likely as students in a comparison group to expect a career in science or technology.

http://bertmaes.wordpress.com/2009/07/31/best-practices-generation-y-and-robots/

http://bertmaes.wordpress.com/2009/07/06/best-practices-creating-a-buzz/

Posted in Solutions, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Why We’re Failing Math and Science in Engineering

Posted by Bert Maes on November 3, 2009


We will need:

  • Better Marketing
  • Better Teaching
  • Better Training Equipment

Some kids see mathematics as the gateway to engineering, paving the way to creation of new gadgets and technologies.

But most see mathematics as a gatekeeper, a suppression of creativity, denying entry to talented would-be engineers.

school_philosophers_mathematics_39299521 percent of the kids that would like to become an engineer don’t feel competent enough in their mathematics, geometry and science skills. They experience it as too difficult, boring, nerdy and irrelevant to their lives.

Not surprising as the message kids usually get is: maths and science are challenging, but if you work hard you can do it.

Instead we should tell kids (ScienceDaily June 25, 2008) that:

* Engineers make a world of difference.

* Engineers are creative problem-solvers.

* Engineers help shape the future.

* Engineering is essential to our health, happiness, and safety.

* Engineering is a satisfying profession that involves creative ideas and teamwork.

But the QUALITY OF TEACHING should change with it:

  • The Sputnik era came because there were idealists who said we’re in trouble as a country, we have to compete against the Russians. Today, we have to compete against the Chinese and Indians who are graduating tens of thousands more very talented science, math and engineering graduates from their colleges. They’re not doing better than we are at the college and university level, but they’re doing massively better than we are in the numbers. (Amy Gutmann, president of the University of Pennsylvania)
  • => We have to compete at quality. The way that’s going to happen is if we have leadership at the top and a real fear through this society that if we don’t compete better by educating our best students—which means getting the best teachers, which means rewarding them for results—we’re going to fall behind…  (Amy Gutmann, president of the University of Pennsylvania)
  • Kevin Craig, professor of mechanical engineering: “One of the great failures in engineering education has been the inability of graduating students to integrate all they have learned — science, mathematics, engineering fundamentals — in the solution of real-world engineering problems (…) The college professors are teaching very little practical application engineering — but plenty of theory to their students. Which really does nothing to prepare the graduates for applying their skills to solving most of the problems encountered in the real world of Engineering and Design.” (Thomasnet.com)
  • => The same comparison: “Nobody would accept training IT students with computers that are 25 years old, so why is it acceptable to use antiquated machines in the precision engineering industry, where technological developments are at least as fast?” (Kristin Alexandersson, CNC machine tool sales engineer for Haas Factory Outlet (HFO) Edströms Maskin)

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Posted in Solutions | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

 
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