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Features of the best education systems

Saturday 15 May 2021

Which ideas should we take forward?

I am grateful to Pasi Sahlberg for his informative webinar on International lessons from successful education systems which he delivered in the Inquiry Education Summit 2021, organised by Toddle on 15 May 2021.

He provided some helpful thoughts for us to reflect on within our school context.

Education is facing a global crisis

International organisations draw attention to a global learning crisis:

“There is a global learning crisis that amplifies educational inequalities that severely hobbles the disadvantaged youth who must need the boost that a good education can offer.” (World Bank Human Development Report 2018)

“The performance differences across the OECD countries between the most socio-economically advantaged and disadvantaged students is equivalent to over 3 years of schooling.” (OECD, PISA 2018)

“260 million children, adolescents and youth are not at school and only three quarters of 15-year-olds in middle income countries attend school, and just half of them achieve the basic level of proficiency required.” (UNESCO, Global Education Monitoring Report 2020)

Key drivers of successful education systems

At Toddle's Inquiry Education Summit 2021, Pasi Sahlberg, International lessons from successful education systems,

  • Determination to make every school a good school.
  • Cooperation between and within schools as a vehicle for school improvement
  • Networking across schools to improve schools.
  • Customizing of curriculum based on needs of community and school – this is also linked to the idea of personalised learning.
  • Trust-based professionalism
  • Investment in social capital – learning and change happens through collaborative processes.
  • Equity is a key driver – ensuring that differences in educational outcomes are not the result of differences in wealth, income, power of possessions. The highest performing education systems are those that combine quality with equity simultaneously.

Systems that are more equitable are:

  • Funding fairly.
  • Inclusive and comprehensive – including a whole range of learning difficulties as part of SEN policy – and all teachers need to be trained within SEN policy.
  • Holistic – the education system has moved towards a whole child approach and health and wellbeing is systematically embedded.

What have we learnt through the COVID pandemic?

Education systems that have performed better have demonstrated many of the features we have highlighted:

  • Systems flexibility
  • Professional autonomy
  • Public confidence
  • Creativity
  • Trust-based accountability
  • Integrated wellbeing

“Education systems that have systematically invested in equity, social capital, teacher professionalism and educating self-directed learners are likely to find more creative and sustainable solutions to navigate through the disruption. Student agency and engagement in their education combined with inquiry-based pedagogies can play an essential role in helping them to keep up learning.” (Pasi Sahlberg, International lessons from successful education systems, The Inquiry Education Summit 2021, Toddle)


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