OPINION: Start with the Finnish to fix our schools
AUSTRALIA has been needlessly grappling for some years now about our falling education standards.
It's not so much that we're going backwards but rather that students in other countries are pulling ahead of us.
This is what perplexes me about this week's story promoting the idea of formal school education for children as young as 3.
It's correct that a quality early childhood education is increasingly seen as the most important and fundamental phase of education. So I support any moves to make it better.
But I fear we're not addressing the real problem - the ineffectiveness of our schooling system as a whole.
The Harvard developmental psychologist and cognition expert Howard Gardner once told Americans: "Learn from Finland, which has the most effective schools and which does just about the opposite of what we are doing in the United States.”
Replace "United States” with "Australia” and his advice is just as true and just as appropriate.
In terms of school results, Finland is consistently at the top of the league tables.
It wasn't always so. In fact it was quite the opposite situation that was the genesis for the renaissance of Finnish education in the middle of last century.
We're addressing other aspects of our education system such as funding following the Gonski review and teacher quality. But we're not looking at the vehicle for all of those things.
There are a number of aspects to the Finnish education system we could implement immediately.
School starts at the age of 7; it is learning through play until then.
Finnish children do fewer hours of school, have less structured classes, have more recess and do not do homework. Before and after school care bookends the day for students whose parents work.
Of course, the Finnish system is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Finnish teachers all have masters degrees and there are no private schools.
But it does give us a template to work with and many proven components that we could introduce easily.
Instead of looking inwards at what we should do with education, we should look outwards, and we should start with the Finnish.