Thursday, December 22, 2016

Argentina's tough truths for improving schools - BBC News

Argentina's tough truths for improving schools - BBC News:

Argentina's tough truths for improving schools

"We don't want to accept that we're doing badly at anything," says Argentina's education minister, Esteban Bullrich.
Whether it is admitting to levels of poverty, the inflation rate or weaknesses in the education system, Mr Bullrich says Argentina has been ill-served by a political culture which has not wanted to face up to uncomfortable truths.
Improving the quality of schools is the task facing the minister and he says the first point is to admit to the extent of the difficulties.
This is an education system where most schools are only open for four hours a day and he says that despite previous claims to the contrary - only about half of young people actually successfully complete their secondary education.

Left behind

The results of the latest international Pisa results, published by the OECD this month, seem emblematic of the challenge.


congressImage copyrightISTOCK
Image captionIn the 1970s, Argentina was much better off than South Korea - now the positions are reversed

Argentina was not included in the results after confusion over the sample of schools taking the tests - so it remains uncertain where the country stands in such international rankings.
The problems with the test pre-dated Mr Bullrich's time as education minister, but he is now picking up the pieces.
Another awkward question is why Latin American countries have been left standing by the rising Asian star performers, such as Singapore, South Korea and Vietnam, who are building their economies on investment in education.

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Mr Bullrich says that in the 1970s, Argentina had a GDP per capita that was five times greater than South Korea - now it is three times smaller.
Argentina has failed to keep up and economies such as South Korea and Singapore are reaping the rewards.
Even though South Korea started from a long way behind, the world is watching Samsung televisions rather than any technology built in Argentina.

Long-term planning

The challenge for Mr Bullrich is how to begin to catch up - and he dismisses the self-serving argument that Pisa tests are really for European and Asian systems and not applicable elsewhere.
He says education has to be taken seriously - on an international as well as a national stage.
So when Argentina hosts the G20 summit in 2018, he says an education section will be introduced for the first time.
Mr Bullrich has an ambitious set of reforms - but speaking in London, he says it will mean long-term investment rather than relying on "magic answers" from "messianic leaders".


Bullrich in school
Image captionMr Bullrich wants to import some of the best ideas being used in top education systems

It will take until 2030 to turn around his country's school system, says Mr Bullrich, which will mean any political benefits will come long after his time in office.
He wants to extend the school day to six hours - and for teachers to have an eight-hour day, including time for lesson preparation.
That will mean extra cost - but he says the challenge in Argentina is not about funding, but how efficiently the money is targeted.
At present, he says Argentina spends about the same proportion of GDP on schools as Finland and adds: "But we're not spending it wisely."

Importing ideas

Mr Bullrich wants to take ideas from the most successful education systems.
He wants to learn from the "exemplary" teacher training approach in Finland and is copying some of the recruitment incentives used in Singapore to get the best graduates into teaching.


Argentina cycleImage copyrightISTOCK
Image captionArgentina has been overtaken by international education competitors such as Vietnam

Ideas for improving vocational training and skills are being borrowed from Australia, he says.
There are plans for building 400 to 500 new schools, equipped with up-to-date Argentina's tough truths for improving schools - BBC News:

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