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Play is a foundational element of a child’s life. Yet, how much is play embraced inside schools? My guests today, Pasi Sahlberg and William Doyle, argue play is the fundamental energy of learning. And schools need to embrace play much more than they currently do to support child development.

For Pasi and William, screen time and the educational reform movement that emphasizes standardized tests have reduced the amount of time children are allowed to play in school.

Pasi Sahlberg is a professor of education policy at the Gonski Institute for Education of the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. He is a globally renowned educator, author, speaker, and scholar, and one of the world’s most respected authorities on educational improvement.

William Doyle is New York Times bestselling author and TV producer.  Since 2015 he has served as a Fulbright Scholar, a Scholar in Residence and lecturer on media and education at the University of Eastern Finland, and as advisor to the Ministry of Education and Culture of Finland

Their new co-written book is called Let the Children Play, which was published by Oxford University Press earlier this year.

 

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Ted Dintersmith is not your normal Silicon Valley venture capitalist trying to save the world through technology. He’s much more complex.

After producing the film Most Likely to Succeed, which premiered at Sundance in 2015, Ted embarked on a trip across America. For nine months he visited school after school, meeting teachers in ordinary settings doing extraordinary things.

Today Ted joins FreshEd to talk about his new book What School Could Be: Insights and inspiration from teachers across America.

Ted is currently a Partner Emeritus with Charles River Ventures. He was ranked by Business 2.0 as the top-performing venture capitalist in the U.S. for the years 1995-1999.  In 2012, he was appointed by President Obama to represent the U.S. at the United Nations General Assembly, where he focused on education.

Citation: Dintersmith, Ted, interview with Will Brehm, FreshEd, 108, podcast audio, March 19, 2018. https://www.freshedpodcast.com/dintersmith/

Will Brehm:  2:03
Ted Dintersmith, welcome to Fresh Ed.

Ted Dintersmith:  2:05
Great to be here.

Will Brehm:  2:06
So in the fall of 2015, you literally went back to school for an entire school year, not just one school that you went to, but hundreds of schools across every state in America, what on earth made you decide to embark on this journey to go back to school?

Ted Dintersmith:  2:26
A lot of people ask me that, particularly my friends and my family members, because it is a little ambitious to go to all 50 states in a nine month period. And the trip really didn’t take entirely the shape I expected. So initially, I felt this, and I still feel I mean, every single day, I feel the urgency of anticipating what the future is going to be like for our young adults, and having schools adapt and modify and transform themselves to keep pace, which I think very few schools actually are doing for good reasons, because the innovation economy’s sprinting ahead. So I sort of said why didn’t I go on this really ambitious trip to make sure people understand there’s urgency here. But as I traveled and I took it very seriously, I heard the, believe it or not, the advance campaign planning team who did all the work for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign. So it’s like, every day from morning, you know, breakfast till the end of the day, which would, the end of the day was typically 10, 10:30 at night with a community forum, I’m just meeting all these people, I’m going to all these schools. And yeah, boy, I just learned so much. I talked to so many interesting people, I saw so many interesting things. And so I thought, it’s like the classic thing, I thought I had something to say to America. And instead they had a lot more to say to me. And then that ultimately led to my writing a book about it.

Will Brehm:  3:50
So okay, so you went across the country speaking with thousands of people, what did you hear? What were people telling you about the state of education in America?

Ted Dintersmith:  4:01
Whether there’s just a million different perspectives on this, and you realize how incredibly complicated and intertwined our education system is, with schools, subject to all sorts of external forces, you know, state legislators, school boards, college admissions, parents, real estate agents, on and on, there are million different things that come into play, when it comes to the decisions that get made in schools. I’d say, if there’s one major takeaway is that in education, we largely have a system that is run by non-educators telling educators what to do, it’s sort of a few things in American society where that takes place. And you find that a lot of the people who project their views on the school really are thinking about the school they went to 30, 40, 50 years ago. And they’re not able to step outside of that kind of dated perspective on what’s to be accomplished in schools, or maybe more importantly, how to assess whether schools are doing a great job. And so you realize that, and this is similar, I think, to one of my perspectives from business is I generally learned a lot more about a business when I talked to the people actually kind of in the trenches doing the work than when I talked to senior managers, and I worked with some very good senior managers. But if you really want to understand what’s going on, talk to the people doing the work. And that’s what I was able to do. And I think it’s unusual because you know, I recognize I’m humble about the fact that I’m a person with a business background interested in education. And when I say that, as soon as you say those words, I have a business background now, and you’re interested in education, a lot of people in the classroom, you know, like the blood drains from their face, because they’ve seen that movie before. And it’s not a particularly good movie. But I found what I really put the time into, listen to them to hear about what they were experiencing. And in particular, to see some of the amazing things they were doing. It was really energizing.

Will Brehm:  6:05
So why is there a disconnect between the people running education and the people basically doing education, right? Like, why are the upper level managers so disconnected?

Ted Dintersmith:  6:17
In my book I talked about this, and the common denominator, and it’s not 100%, nothing ever in life is 100%, but a lot of the people that make their way to the top of these bureaucracies, you know, states, federal, you know, two things. One is they generally have very strong academic credentials. So school work for them, they expect it should work for everybody, they have no beef for the fact that they, you know, got into an elite undergraduate school and then went on to get their PhD from Harvard in the Graduate School of Education. So they are fundamentally aligned with the process of school. And they are also people that were able to work their way through and up to the top of large bureaucracies. So they know how to work a system, they have a mindset around policies and procedures and metrics, and they do what I think they’re inclined to do, what they’ve succeeded within their own personal life. And then they take that and apply it to schools across America. The problem is, a lot of kids have incredible gifts that go beyond the realm of the academic. And when you start to standardize education, so you can measure the progress of kids, I think you largely destroy the learning.

Will Brehm:  7:33
So on this trip of yours, was there anything in particular that you changed your mind about after meeting all of the educators and students and parents and principals? Like, what was the biggest thing that you came away saying, Wow, I really think differently about that now?

Ted Dintersmith:  7:50
Well, I clearly shifted not dramatically, but whatever respect I had for teachers going into the trip, which was a reasonably high level of respect only got higher. I mean, the number of teachers that would share with me, you know, in tears, you know, a variant along these lines, which is, every morning, I have to decide, do I do what’s best for my students, or what the state tells me to do? There are a lot of teachers in that category. You know, an incredibly moving day for me, is going to the national teachers Hall of Fame in Emporia, Kansas, and you see this knoll where they have these plaques and monuments and, you know, not massive monuments, but commemorating the teachers who gave their lives in classrooms for their students. And it just hit me, you know, like, we trust these teachers with the lives of our kids, but we don’t trust them with their own lesson plans. I mean there’s something really wrong there. And so that was one of my biggest things was just sort of an increase in respect and appreciation. As well, you hear all the time people say, you know, well, our teaching forces are innovative or one that really troubles me is why our public schools can’t innovate. And, you know, you realize, you put public schools and No Child Left Behind straight jackets for 20 decade, in 20 years. You tell them what they can’t do day in and day out, and then you criticize them for not being innovative. I mean, that is not fair. Despite it all I met a lot of teachers doing incredible things in public schools that I write about that just blew me away when they were able to think differently about how they want to engage and inspire their kids.

Will Brehm:  9:32
I want to ask you a list of terms basically that are sort of these I don’t know popular faddish policy terms in education today that we hear a lot in the media and a lot of politicians and big education reformers, quote unquote, reformers talk about and I want to hear your perspective of these terms, but from the perspective of all the people you’ve met. And so the first one is 21st century skills. We hear this a lot these days, what is your opinion on 21st century skills?

Ted Dintersmith:  10:05
Would people listen to me? I don’t hear a lot that’s different from what happened back in the days of Plato. And so I think in some ways, thinking that you have to be a creative problem solver, a communicator, whatever. And putting that in the context of the 21st century is a bit of a misnomer.

Will Brehm:  10:23
What about college ready?

Ted Dintersmith:  10:25
You know, this one to me is, and I pointed this in my book as one of the biggest factors impeding innovation in our K through 12 schools, and disengaging so many students. And honestly, lots of the college ready content is not of intrinsic interest to kids, is not terribly relevant to adults, and is largely baked into a system because it’s easy to test. And so I feel like we need to step back and say, we have gone dramatically overboard and pushing college ready onto the agendas of our particular middle school and high school kids.

Will Brehm:  11:03
Stem, STEM education?

Ted Dintersmith:  11:06
Another trendy thing you’ll read all the time, every kid you know, you are not going to do well in the 21st century without a STEM background, which is I think pure baloney. I actually think liberal arts is really important, you know, because they do teach these fundamental things that are important. You know that just as Plato and Socrates took on very challenging issues, kids are immersed in some of these complex ideas you find in literature, or history or philosophy, or any one of a long set of disciplines can be great vehicles for developing skills that are really important. STEM, first of all, and this is in my book as well, as I talked about the fact that, you know, for instance, MIT students on graduation day, somebody had the great idea which I think it actually is a really great idea to videotape these students on graduation day taking on this incredibly difficult challenge, which is they give the students a light bulb, a wire and a battery and say, can you light up the light bulb and kid after kid after kid, you know, cap and gown, you know, degree from the most prestigious Engineering Institute in the world, five on AP Calculus BC, five on AP Physics, 800 on the SAT and MIT blah blah blah, I mean, like, these are the best of the best, they can’t light up a light bulb. What you know, with a wire and a battery, they can’t do it. And, you know, right up the river, I talked about Eric, Missouri at Harvard in what he learned in his physics courses at Harvard. And so I’m actually deeply skeptical that when we say kids are really getting great at STEM, that in a lot of cases, I don’t know that it really goes much beyond memorizing formulas, memorizing definitions would be facile with being able to spend them back on an exam and slightly varied forms. And so, you know, like, I feel like if a kid’s passion is STEM, it can be a great path forward. But I think we need to start blending the academic with a lot more the applied, you know, that kids that are interested in physics need to be shadowing a master electrician and wiring things up and actually making circuits work instead of just memorizing Coulomb’s law and Kirchoff’s law, because I think we’re fooling ourselves when we think we’re producing great scientists and engineers in our colleges, the employers often tell me, they get here, they don’t really understand much of anything, we got to teach it to them as if they’ve never taken these courses.

Will Brehm:  13:29
It reminds me of that one part in your book, where you talk about this presidential summit that you attended when Obama was president. And there was all sorts of discussion all the way up to the Secretary of Education about calculus. You know, calculus is the thing we need to put back into the curriculum and get more kids taking calculus. And, you know, so why is that sort of this narrative that reaches all the way up to the highest levels of policymakers?

Ted Dintersmith:  13:58
Well, I put it back on the policymakers, the people that say things like that, and don’t know what they’re talking about. And they really don’t. I mean, you know, if you can google my background, I mean, I published papers written back before computational resources were really much of anything. When I had to do clothes for medicals by hand, you know, so I’m not without a fair amount of perspective on when calculus actually was useful, and how it’s a lot less used today. I mean, you know, and kids will get done with AP calculus, and you ask them when would you ever use this? Their answer is, I have no idea, you know, but they might be able to, if they’re particularly good at it to a hyperbolic cosine transformation. But Photomath or WolframAlpha does that instantly on your smartphone so we have these kids spend nine months replicating what a smartphone can readily do without ever making a mistake and they never quite get to how to apply it and actually calculus is something that has very limited applicability. You know but if you’re one of these bureaucrats, it just sounds good. You know, oh, well, kids, you know, isn’t it a tragedy that half the kids in America in high schools they don’t offer calculus. And college admissions officers, oh, we really look for kids that have taken on the rigor of calculus. You know, it’s just mind numbing, because most of the kids that take calculus are not taking statistics. You can get great jobs with statistics, it’s important for career, it’s important for citizenship, it comes into a lot of your personal decisions that are consequential and yet, we’re telling kids take something that almost no adult in America uses and don’t take something that’s indispensable across the three most important things in your life, work, citizenship and personal decisions. You know, it’s like and we just owe our kids better than that, we owe our kids a more informed perspective on the things we advocate as being important.

Will Brehm:  15:55
Okay, so going back to this list of buzzwords and ideas and policies. What about charter schools? What did you find about charter schools as you were crossing America?

Ted Dintersmith:  16:05
Well, I think that charter schools, public schools, private schools, take the category, I don’t care which one it is, you can find some great examples of schools, some okay examples and some bad examples. And I actually don’t think those percentages across the type of school that is are all that different. Yet, you know, you read in the newspapers, you look at where a lot of philanthropists direct their money. And so charter schools are dramatically superior to public schools, despite the data that says there’s really not an appreciable difference in performance. And those are performances measured by standardized tests. And there’s a lot of evidence that charter schools are doing, you know, two things. One is they’re trying to somehow dot the kids that are going to test as well, I think you see some of that. And also they are relentless about test prep. And so I think there’s nuance to these things. But we often just try to simplify it. And so there are charter schools out there, my film Most Likely to Succeed is about High Tech High in San Diego, a really spectacular school. It’s a charter school, it was started back in the days when there was a small number of charter schools formed to really prove out bold in different types of innovations. And I think most people would say there’s a role for that. That’s an important thing to have in our education system. Today, though, most charter schools are co-opted by people who are just going to try to grind out better test scores from their students and hold that up as a measure of success. And I think it’s such a shallow view of things that, you know, we just, again, we need to think harder when millions of kids lives around the lines with the policies and decisions and the massive amounts of funding we direct to schools, you know, are tied to things that just don’t reflect careful plot.

Will Brehm:  17:54
So on your trip, when I read your book, it is very, it’s much more optimistic than I actually imagine that would be before I started reading, and I want to get into some of that optimism about you know, there are many schools and systems in America that are basically doing everything different than what you’re just talking about before, you know, I mean, they’re not trapped in this old way of thinking. And there are many educators trying their hardest to innovate within the constraints of the system that exists. So can you tell me a little bit about, you know, the inspirational features of some of these schooling systems? And, you know, what do these really innovative schools look like that you visited and met the teachers and students who attended?

Ted Dintersmith:  18:43
Yeah, it’s so interesting because one of the challenges I faced in writing the book and I hope I met it is that the specifics of the things that blew me away, you know, when you looked at exactly what these kids were doing, there was no rhyme reason they were really quite different. But there were general principles that undergirded them that really made the difference between, you know, a kind of same old same old classroom where kids, you know, just kind of go through the motions and the occasional question is, will this be on the test, versus these classrooms, these schools, these even out of school settings, where kids are just racing ahead, you know, the learning is deep and retained and joyful, and you just sort of say, man, they have got this and which is why I found the whole trip so inspiring, and why I think and remain deeply hopeful that we’re going to make enormous progress in, you know, a relatively short period of time, because we don’t need to invent what works, I mean, it’s being done, you can find something really great in any school in the country, certainly, any community has its great proof points. And so we don’t need to travel to Finland to see better education, you know, we don’t need to travel to Shanghai, you know, I mean, it’s like it’s being done in the US, it is being done in lots and lots of places. And I think one of the things we need to do a better job of celebrating those successes, which is a goal of my book, and encouraging other people not to copy it, but to in their own way, embrace things that help their kids, you know, have better learning outcomes and be better prepared for a world that’s going to be full of opportunity for the people that are creative and bold and, you know, think outside of the box and curious and a bunch of other things that often get left behind in the process of school. But that world for somebody that’s just conditioned to jump through hoops for somebody that’s just good at memorizing content, replicating low level procedures that kid’s going to be in a world of hurt point forward. And so I think it’s that pattern. And that’s why intentionally wrote the book picking things from every state in the country to really reinforce the point that it’s not just in, you know, actually I found Palo Alto I found California to be not that innovative you know, but you can find these great things in places that many people don’t think of its innovative you know, that North Dakota is, you know, the country that Kentucky’s, you know, these there these really great people fighting in every single day to advance learning for their kids.

Will Brehm:  21:22
And do you think all of the different models and systems that you’ve seen that were inspiring? Are they scalable? I mean, you said don’t copy it, right. But how then can it be scaled even a whole school district or a whole state, you know, maybe not think about the national level?

Ted Dintersmith:  21:40
Yeah, and I write about districts. So, you know, I’ve got a great chapter, a great profile of what’s going on in Charlottesville, Virginia, great district level innovation, the state level New Hampshire, so not only can it I mean, it is being scaled but it’s being scaled at a meta level instead of at a prescriptive level. And so what the people that are really thinking carefully about this are doing is scaling a set of conditions instead of scaling, you know, a cookie cutter model of a particular classroom or school. And I think that’s really the difference between, you know, two decades or more of US education policy, which is decided on behalf of everybody across the country, you need to do X and so now we’re going to make you do it. And we will hold, you know, Title One funding out to sort of bribe you to make sure you, you know, march to the right tune on this versus the really informative, thoughtful leaders like, you know, Jenny Barry in New Hampshire who are looking at how do you put in place the conditions that led superintendents and principals and classroom teachers do the things they entered the profession to do? And how do you trust the teachers to lead the way in far more informed assessments. And so to me, that’s really incredibly encouraging, you know, where you look at a model that is not being scaled, as I say with you, Will, on October 17, study x in class y, which, I mean, who the heck wants to live in a world like that students don’t want to, teachers don’t want to, I mean, when we micromanage a curriculum, and say that all kids need to study the exact same thing for the exact same high stakes test, we really are undercutting any real chance of learning and proficiency development among kids, as opposed to putting in place a condition. So let people run with things, set their goals, really just knock it out of the park in terms of accomplishment.

Will Brehm:  23:44
So what are some of these conditions, right? Like, there must be some sort of, I don’t know, more abstract conditions that that might be able to be scaled to the middle level, like you said?

Ted Dintersmith:  23:55
I put it at the top of the list where it works. There’s a high degree of trust, you know, and if you, you know, it’s one of the things that happens, the bigger the bureaucracy, the more the machine moves away from trusting people to implementing policies and procedures to keep something bad from happening. Once you take trust out of the system, once you, you know, look at what we did our brilliance of holding teachers accountable to standardized test they didn’t believe in and I think, shouldn’t have believed in. You know, we’ve really, you know, cut the legs out from under, you know, what our schools are capable of doing, you know, so that’s the first thing I’d say trust. Second thing is having clarity about where you want to get with kids. And, you know, I talked about, you know, schools, districts, even states that are thinking very carefully about what are the, what are the competencies, what are the skill sets and mindsets you want your students to be developing and be clear at that level. And then working back from that, to understand what school experiences will lead to that. And for sure, the competencies that are going to matter going forward are not memorizing content, replicating low level procedures, following instructions. Machine intelligence is already far better at that than any person could ever be. But it is things like, you know, creative problem solving or aspects of citizenship or aspects of character like never giving up. And so the question is, then how do you embed those in the school experience but not fall prey to this cockamamie thing, like, we’re going to have standardized test of grid, you know, like, you know, like we would someday be here, we’re going to have standardized test of creativity, which honestly, kind of falls in the category of a profoundly bad idea. But, you know, and then really tying the student work to authentic accountability, are they producing things they’re proud of that beat some level of some standard, you know, if a kid is really going to be held accountable to their ability to do great work in language arts? How do you test that? Well, you know, it turns out, you know, and this is another thing that I think is so interesting is that, that if you don’t feel the need to roll all these things up into a particular number, it turns out there are easy ways to, you know, make sure the kids are held accountable. I mean, I often share the story that in 25 years in venture capital, I never want to ask somebody what their SAT scores were, what their grade point average was, but I always ask them to send me three or four writing samples of work that they’re proud of. I’ve learned so much, it didn’t take me five hours to read three or four writing samples. And I actually think that that approach said a lot about my successes as a venture guy is I can read their best examples in, you know, a few minutes, 5, 6, 7 minutes, I can read them. And if they were interesting, I could pick up the phone and talk to them and say, you know, of the things you sent me the third one really struck by interest. Tell me more about it, ask him some questions. If it was really their work. If they really mastered it, they had great answers. And so you think about something like the SAT essay question, right? I think this is so telling is that for 12 years, the College Board gave essay questions on the SAT, it’s actually something really useful to do, you know, kid has no prep, you know, no help from any adult, they can’t anticipate the topic, there’s a proctor you really get to see the kids on writing.

If they had just said for all applications, admissions officers, if you want to see an authentic example of the kids work without coaches, without parents, without tutors, click on this and you’ll see their essay. They didn’t do that. No, they said, we got to put a number on it. And so they ran these essays through these, you know, out of work people they’d hire off of Craigslist, who in interviews will say, I didn’t even read the work I just scan it, people have debunked it by taking great writers and having right sheer nonsense and getting a 750 to 800. If they just were, you know, five paragraphs, four to five sentences per paragraph, invert the sentence structure, introduce some vocabulary words that you know, that are unusual or challenging. Bingo 750 to 800.

And you realize like we obsess about rolling it up and do a few numbers when we’re really letting the easy measurement tail wag the learning dog. And so like New Hampshire, there are digital portfolios with these students, teachers lead the way in authentic assessments but they can be audited. So if your school board and your school is saying most of our kids are doing anywhere from well to outstanding in these areas, you can say I want to look at 10 at random portfolios, see for yourself, teachers cross check each other. To me, that’s far better in terms of getting kids to work on authentic, you know, projects and essays and you know, they value creativity, they really do align with developing skills that matter with a thoughtful assessment system or assessment framework as opposed to boom, high stakes test. They’re generating multiple choice or formulaic essays, somebody somehow turns them into a number. And then when they go up 0.7%, everybody says, great, when they go down 0.3%, everybody says the bottom is falling out. I mean, it really makes no sense.

Will Brehm:  29:26
America is sort of known maybe in a more negative way for having very different funding levels between schools based on these property taxes, and then also deeply segregated schools even after Brown versus the Board of Education. How do you think America is going to be? Or do you think America is going to be able to overcome some of these race and class divisions that we find in schooling?

Ted Dintersmith:  29:56
Yeah, it’s a huge issue. And I talked about being, you know, two different schools 10 miles apart, in Mississippi and, you know, it’s just night and day. One is in a building that anybody would probably say should be condemned. And the other one had, you know, just football fields, fields, plural, you know, practice fields, the main stadium I mean, it’s just most beautiful place in the world you can imagine and you find that all over America. I’m not picking on Mississippi is that it’s almost anywhere you go, you can, in 10, 15 miles you can find two school particular here, urban, suburban area, you can find two schools in close proximity with dramatically different amounts of budget, you know, funding is really this, you know, Rodriguez versus the San Antonio decision more than Brown versus the board that drove all that because local property taxes tell the story. And that’s a very difficult gap to get people to face up to, because the ones with the cloud, the ones with the power, you know, are the ones that you know, have their kids going to the better resource schools. And so it’s a huge issue. But then we take something that’s an enormous challenge. And we make it that much worse. Because if you look at the data on how much time kids in the under resourced schools spend doing worksheets. I mean that’s their day, they’re doing worksheets around the clock. They’re giving material that they have no interest in, material that we can’t really explain how it will ever matter them in life, you know, we block them from getting a high school degree because they can’t pass Algebra Two. I mean, you know, like, I got a PhD in math modeling from Stanford. And I’m not sure in my career I ever used anything from Algebra Two. I mean, you know, like, it’s just really astounding the things we pile up block kids from getting a high school degree, because nobody ever steps back and thinks about it. And so what I found, which gave me encouragement, actually, quite a bit of encouragement is when the heart and soul of school was far more aligned with challenges that were messy and ambiguous and connected with the real world where it wasn’t clear what you needed to do to get an A where you knew you were going to fail multiple times and had to just keep coming at it where you know, where it required real out of the box, you know, out of the box thinking that you know, again and again, people would tell me oh my gosh, you know, these underperforming kids, the at risk kids, the kids that we’ve sort of viewed as being not on the right side of the bell curve, they actually blow us away when they’re doing something they care about. And oftentimes a really rich, you know, micromanaged kids fall apart when they’re given that kind of ambiguity. I mean, they paralyzed, they’re paralyzed when they think they might fail. And so it suggests this view that we could better prepare all kids by connecting more of their school experience with taking on, you know, creating and carrying out initiatives that one way, shape or form make the world better that do have lots of ambiguity and lots of messiness, and lots of challenge with them, that’s actually better preparation for them later in life, and starts to make real progress and reversing that achievement gap.

Will Brehm:  33:14
So when I was finished reading your book, I kind of I was left feeling to be honest, that a lot of what you’re saying is about education is really for getting children prepared to enter a workforce that is going to look radically different in the future than it does now. And I just wanted to ask on your journey, did you experience or witness in a sense civics or citizenship, or the ability to learn how to be in the world? Right, like, so how does citizenship education fit within public schooling? I mean, is education only about jobs? Or is there more?

Ted Dintersmith:  33:52
Yeah, and you know, I do write a lot about school experiences, where kids are connected to the world and in different ways, making their world better. And in some of those ways, it’s directly aligned with the career path. And that’s important to me, I mean, I feel like we have given a kid an enormous gift if they come out of high school with the skill set to directly get a job that pays well above the minimum wage. And by the way, I think that’s doable for most kids in school in America today, and their K through 12 years.

And you know, so as opposed to spending the entirety of K through 12 on college ready, which means that the kid leaving high school really has to choose between a crap, a lousy minimum wage job or college, they pick college. You know, the math on that is pretty dreadful with, you know, only half finishing in six years or less. And then of those that finish, only half of those get any kind of a job we normally associate with a college degree. So it’s sort of like you start down the four year path, four-year degree path. And it’s one chance in four in a reasonable time frame, at least the kind of job everybody thinks a guarantees, and of those kids, no matter who they are, you know, 70% are taking on substantial amounts of student loan debt. And trying to pay off student loan debt, if you don’t have a very good job is a nightmare. And so, you know, I look at that. And so I feel like in a ruthless economy, and people need to try, I mean, if they google me, you know, like, I know a lot about innovation. People need to really recognize the fact that machine intelligence is just advancing at a blistering pace. And you know, I tell this story about the team that got funding at Google for the driverless car, which is now I want to say, maybe eight years ago and so they put their careers on hold, they made this big bet on driverless cars, you would think that they would be by and large really optimistic about being able to pull it off and the most optimistic person in the founding groups said that it would take at least 20 years before we’d have driverless cars. So you know, three years ago, driverless cars were three times safer than human driven cars. So if it’s been talked about today, it will be real in 10 years. I mean, it’s just will be real.

So that’s why I push so hard for making sure kids have an ability to plug in to the economy and make their way forward. I don’t think by the way, it’s either or, I don’t think it’s just and actually really celebrate and focus on schools that blend the academics with the career that learn about electricity by shadowing a master electrician instead of studying Coulomb’s law that captured documentaries, you know, the right docu.., produced documentaries to capture aspects of their local history. I think there’s a way to blend.

Experiences are really give kids a career lift with experiences that get them thinking about intellectual ideas. And that’s one of the great roles these teachers play is to say, oh, you’re interested in this, What about this, is sort of move that initial interest to something broader and to really get at the core thing of citizenship you know, I mean, what is it mean to be a citizen i mean, is it you know, AP US history, right? But everybody says that the gold standard for history classes in high school in America is AP US history. You know, it’s like less than a class period on the Constitution. I mean, the number of adults that can explain to you anything about the Constitution is, you know, like you’re lucky if it’s one in 50. And so we give lip service to preparing kids for citizenship, but I don’t think it’s happening. And yet if kids suddenly start proactively identifying opportunities, challenge problems in their community and learn that they can take their own talents and their ability to learn and their ability to just keep going at it with support from their community and they can make a positive difference in their world. That to me is the most important citizenship lesson we can deliver to our kids.

Will Brehm:  37:54
Well, Ted Dintersmith, thank you so much for joining Fresh Ed and best of luck promoting the book.

Ted Dintersmith:  37:58
Well, thank you, thanks for having me and I really love what you’re doing so I hope we get a chance to meet in Tokyo and I’m just cheering you on from afar.

Will Brehm:  38:06
Thank you so much

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Finland is known to have an excellent education system. Its high scores on the Programme for International Student Assessment have convinced people around the world that Finland is a country worth copying. In 2011, Pasi Sahlberg detailed Finland’s educational reforms that helped achieve these world-class results in his book Finnish Lessons.

As Pasi traveled the world talking about his award-winning book to academics, policy makers, and educators, he was always asked if it is a good idea to copy the Finnish education system.

Today, Pasi Sahlberg – a regular on FreshEd — sits down with me to talk about his latest book, FinnishEd Leadership: Four Big, inexpensive ideas to transform education. FinnishEd Leadership is, in some sense, a sequel to his earlier book, Finnish Lessons. FinnishEd Leadership offers ideas to make a difference in other schools inspired by Finnish practice. In other words, he provides an answer to those people asking if their country should copy Finland’s education system.

Citation: Sahlberg, Pasi, interview with Will Brehm, FreshEd, 97, podcast audio, November 27, 2017. https://www.freshedpodcast.com/sahlberg/

Will Brehm:  1:47
Pasi Sahlberg, welcome back to FreshEd.

Pasi Sahlberg:  1:49
Thank you very much, Will. It’s good to be with you.

Will Brehm:  1:51
So you travel all around the world to give keynote addresses at various conferences and workshops to different ministries of education all over the world. And in your newest book, you write that at one conference, you found yourself sitting next to George Pataki, who is the former governor of New York and you were eating lunch together. What did the two of you end up talking about?

Pasi Sahlberg:  2:16
Yeah, that’s true. And actually, this is one of the motivations to write a book, I was a speaker in a conference like him a few years ago. And obviously, because I’m not American, I didn’t know him that well, obviously, I heard a name and you know, the whole story study, I’m not the kind of a guy who does a lot of small talk. So I but you know, if you have a lunch with American, you have to kind of exercise a little small talk. So my kickoff for the small talk was to simply ask him that so “what do you think about American education right now, George?”, and I knew that he has an opinion, because he’s in top politics, and he was just about to run to be the next president of the United States through his party. And so, you know, I was kind of curious to hear what he says. And, but what he said, actually, his view of American education wasn’t surprising, but it was a very negative, very, kind of pessimistic view of that there’s no hope in, you know, doing any of those things that people often, you know, offering the United States like improving schools or teachers, you know, his view was much more about just that distract everything and destroy the, you know, the public system and, and bring all these alternative options, like, you know, private control of schools and teach for America and all those things. So it was kind of a shocking beginning for our conversation.

Will Brehm:  2:57
So the idea of like disruption, right? I mean, that’s a very common term we hear these days, we want to disrupt schools, like we want to disrupt the taxi economy with Uber.

Pasi Sahlberg:  3:53
Yeah, exactly, exactly. This and but, you know, the thing was, that I had spent enough time in the US, in different parts of America. And, you know, I hear this type of story in many places that people think that, you know, they kind of believe that public education is dead, that there’s nothing we can do that during the last hundred years, we have tried everything and nothing worked. So, you know, in a way, I understand those people who don’t really understand education, say that exactly like in taxi, transportation business, or something else that lets us do this whole thing away and build this whole new public private partnership idea that will be more dynamic and effective, and, you know, based on the, you know, if you if you cannot deliver, then you’re dead and an out of business and somebody else will come. But, you know, as soon as, you know a little bit more about history of education and how education systems elsewhere work, then, of course, you have a different view.

Will Brehm:  4:43
So, did George end up asking you about your opinions on, you know, American education for his own sort of, for his education, I guess?

Pasi Sahlberg:  4:52
Absolutely. And I, you know, afterwards I took it as a kind of a sign of small talk that I’m not sure that he was really interested in what I was about to say, but, you know, because my introduction to him was that I’m a Finnish citizen, a Finnish educator, and I was teaching at Harvard University that time and obviously, I was speaking in the same conference. So he kind of a felt that he wants to hear, of course, he had heard about Finnish education. So but, you know, this was a question I really didn’t want him to ask me after you know, hearing what he had to say about education, because my answer to his question was almost the opposite that I was, you know, my view was so it was like a black and white compared to what he was saying, and in front of his authority, just the two plates of lunch between us I was a little bit like, afraid that how he would react and actually my response to him was that as I write in my book, that you know, I would rather not talk about American education because there are so many things that I don’t understand and that’s a kind of a way how the conversation with him evolved. It was a very interesting conversation afterwards because he got back to me saying that so what you don’t understand because for him the whole solution and strategy of American so you know, fixing American schools was so clear that just you know, do away these old you know, fire all the teachers and close down the underperforming schools, and, you know, just let’s make this thing look more like a business. And so he didn’t understand quite why I didn’t understand some of these things in American education. But that’s where the real conversation then really started.

Will Brehm:  6:27
Did you actually tell him more how you see it differently? And if so, what were you actually describing to George that made him maybe rethink his own thinking of American education?

Pasi Sahlberg:  6:40
Yeah, well, you know, the main thing I wanted him to really stop and think more that was built into my response to him, when his question was at “what are those things that I don’t understand in American education”, and that the main thing I said to him that I still firmly believe is important was that I don’t, I really don’t understand why in the United States of America, those create ideas and innovations in education, really, throughout the last hundred years, starting from John Dewey, and many others, ever since, that have made other education systems great, like Finland, and Canada, and Hong Kong, and China, and Singapore, and you name it that, you know, if you hunt down those key ideas in Finland, for example, that have been critically important in improving how the education system works, they are, most of them are from the US and I said to him, that, you know, if I look at American education efforts to improve schools, I don’t really see any systematic proper use of those same ideas in the US that the US works much more with the ideas that many of these higher performing education systems deliberately tried to avoid, like this market-based thinking, and de-professionalization, standardization of system. So I gave him I think, three or so ideas examples after him asking concretely, what do I mean like, for example, cooperative learning that has been a critically important for the Finnish schools performance as the whole system performance, and Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences or peer coaching that I also mentioned in the book as one way how teachers can learn effectively to teach differently, and none of those things that they’re all known in America and in many parts of America, but they never been part of the kind of systematic effort of improving the system. Like, if you look at the No Child Left Behind, or Race to the Top, or any recent reforms, there’s no sign of these things. So this was my response to him saying, look, you know, George, I really don’t understand why you don’t do these things that the world has proven that works, that can be much more effective than any of those things that you were mentioning.

Will Brehm:  8:56
So, okay, let me get this straight. So George Pataki is basically asking you for your advice. And you basically respond by saying, what makes Finnish education so great, because it has that sort of international reputation and all of these other schools want to be like Finnish schools, and you are saying, look, George, a lot of the ideas that Finland uses actually derived from American scholars. And it’s strange that American schools don’t pick up these ideas that are actually born and raised in the American Academy. That’s what was happening.

Pasi Sahlberg:  9:32
Yeah, the only thing I would probably put a little bit differently in your summary is that I am not sure as I said whether he really was interested in my advice, I think goes I was probably much too junior and unknown person there to be anybody to give advice. But I think that George was in a kind of a very sensitive moment and mood in any ways, because he was obviously running into this very important race to be the next president of the United States. So I think it would be silly for him to say that, you know, I don’t really care what you’ve done there, because I have my own solution. But he was very intrigued about this fact. And I saw again, as I described in my book, that he was really disturbed by the fact by understanding that, hey, wait a minute. So the other countries like Finland that they have been using our research that we have our taxpayers have paid the research that the Finns then take seriously and put into the education reforms and make the system work, what’s going on here? You know, this is what I saw him thinking every now and then that is this really real or am I dreaming something?

Will Brehm:  10:37
But some of the ideas that he was sort of advocating as you were saying that sort of de-professionalization of teachers and the marketization of schools and schooling those also presumably have a research base, right?

Pasi Sahlberg:  10:51
And absolutely, and there’s no question about it, you know, if you don’t need to spend too much time with any American researcher or research conference, when you hear what Americans really know about those things. And that’s, of course, a kind of an interesting thing. And, you know, this research, in many cases, is much more closely read and heard by policymakers and educators outside of the United States. And this is one of those things that I really don’t understand. It’s actually built into this my kind of a confusion and inability to understand American education world is that why people are not really taking their own research seriously, how can it be that in the United States, day in and day out people, you know, come across great books and research reports, and others? And they said, No, this is not, this is not how it goes. But when, when you cross the border, just north of the US, go to Canada, and you see how differently policymakers, politicians, and everybody takes the global international research nowadays, and they consider their findings and, you know, look at the findings of the research compared to their own practice and policies. And if they find a kind of inconsistencies there, just like Finland that they are, they are willing and able to change the course but not in the US.

Will Brehm:  12:04
So why is America so unusual in that sense like, is it simply ideology?

Pasi Sahlberg:  12:09
Well, it may be, you know, if you know, Will, tell me, you probably know this better than I do. But this is a kind of a sustained confusion in my head that how can it be that the country that, you know, produce this, you know, my kind of a rough estimate is that probably about three quarters of the educational significant educational research and innovation work still comes from the US that why it is not taken more seriously. Why it’s so much ignored, why the canyon between those who know who do the research and, you know, so called experts in America and those who are more ideological politicians or other ways, pundits in this field. Why this canyon is so huge, why people cannot really sit down and said, Okay, let’s see what we know. So I but I really don’t know.

Will Brehm:  12:59
And so I mean, as you travel the world, giving these different lectures and running into people like George and maybe making small talk, but also maybe giving some advice and some tips, I would imagine a lot of people do ask you like, what should our school system do? And so how do you actually respond to that sort of very direct question that so sort of practical and in many ways, kind of erases context, right? Like they’re just looking for these very practical technical solutions, when we know, education is much more complex than that. So how do you actually like manage those sort of conversations as you see different education systems around the world?

Pasi Sahlberg:  13:37
Yeah, it’s a great question in the beginning. And by beginning I mean, really about 10 years ago when the Finland story really started to evolve around the world, I think myself and many of my colleagues and others were kind of, in a situation where they were answering in a kind of a typical way that there’re five, you know, there are five things that makes Finland great or five things that you know, Canadians do. And then, you know, I spoke about the public system and great teachers and purposeful leadership, you know, those common things and, you know, all of them are true.

But now, when people and you’re right, that, you know, people ask me all the time these questions that, you know, what should we do, based on what you have seen around the world, but my answers have turned into be much more kind of a, you know, emphasizing the complexity and difficulty of this whole question, and the nature of context, the places where you are looking at these things like China or Japan, Tokyo, and Finland, that they’re very different in many, many ways. And, you know, some of those things that work well in Finland or in other place may not necessarily work at all in some other places. So, I think my answer has really turned to be much more like, you know, looking at the general things like don’t rush the reform that this is one of those things that I have used a lot that to rush an education reform is to ruin it, this is really one of those things that is behind Finland’s success. And, of course, their leadership overall, the sustainable nature of leadership is one of those important things rather than trying to identify some other things.

But then, you know, thirdly, my kind of emerging thing I’m working on more and more now is that I also try to, if I, about to give any advice to anybody, I said, please try to understand that, you know, big part of those things that really make education system work, or children learning within the systems, are probably those things that we find outside of the school, that they are not about curriculum, or pedagogy or educational leader, any of those things, so like in Finland, for example, that they, they are things that are related to what the families do, the other social policies and healthcare, youth policies, and sports and arts and many other things, that library network, you know, all those things. And, you know, that the children are exposed to when are not in school are important, and this is something that we know very little about, I know that there are some other other scholars and others people who are also kind of stressing the importance of, you know, out of school factors, all those things that kids have, or don’t have, when they are not, not in school. But, you know, I’m putting briefly this, this question of yours is that, you know, I have kind of shifted away from giving a kind of a concrete answer of five or seven things that, you know, make education systems work, too much more complex things, but still trying to, you know, emphasize the fact that, you know, teachers and people who work in schools, they have to be professionals, they have to be, you know, properly trained the curriculum in the school, you know, must be designed in a way that teachers and students increasingly have a voice on that education policies have to have equal emphasis on equity, and, you know, excellence or quality of, you know, those types of things. But I’m not in a position anymore, where I could give, say, to any country that, you know, if you do what Finland has done, or Canadians, others that everything will be fine, that’s not going to work.

Will Brehm:  17:06
Yeah, it’s interesting to think about this notion of this school is kind of within this larger social ecology. Because, I mean, in many ways, it almost feels like often people in the field of education, narrow education down to school, and, you know, education happens in so many other parts, and is impacted by so many other parts outside of school, that we, you know, we need to broaden that definition away from that narrowness of school.

Pasi Sahlberg:  17:35
Absolutely, Will. And now, you know, what I see emerging that is also part of this book that we’re talking about here is the more important role of well-being and health of children, then that’s, of course, something that is, you know, schools can do something in order to improve well-being, and health and happiness of children. But, you know, in most education systems probably, the big part of that comes from homes and societies and communities and you know, other things. And that’s where we really begin to understand, you know, how important the surrounding world around the school is. It’s much more easier to kind of argue that, you know, what children learn in physics, or what they learn in mathematics probably mostly happens in school, that very few kids actually study mathematics by themselves. So, you know, if you’re measuring what the kids, how they advance or progress in mathematics, or physics, or history, or foreign languages, it’s easy to argue that, you know, this impact is pretty much by teachers and schools, and, you know, all those things, but, you know, health and well-being and happiness and engagement, you know, those things are much more complicated and complex, complex things. And that’s why I think we are just entering this phase when we are more and more often asking this question, but you know, how important the world around the school is, when we are educating our kids.

Will Brehm:  18:58
And it seems like implied in that answer, you just gave it that what we measure and how is really going to have to change away from just looking at how students are doing on content knowledge on certain subjects?

Pasi Sahlberg:  19:10
Absolutely. And that’s going to happen within the next five years, I guess.

Will Brehm:  19:13
So another idea I hear you talking about a lot and that you’ve written about in this new book is small data, can you just tell me what you mean by small data?

Pasi Sahlberg:  19:22
Yeah, small data, you know, it’s interesting, because I’ve been talking about that a lot during the last year. And I often hear when I ask people this question from people always, if I have a chance that, you know, my question goes like this, that, how would you explain what small data is to a nine year old. And then I asked people to raise their hands if they feel comfortable, you know, doing that in next 30 seconds. And normally, I don’t see any hands that people are kind of confused by this concept. And when I push them a little bit and say that, so what is in your mind when you think about small data? Some people say that maybe it’s just a little bit less of big data. And of course, that’s not the case. But, you know, it brings me to this. The answer of your question is that, you know, what I’ve seen with many of my colleagues working in the same field is that we are having more and more responses now, to educational challenges and issues through the solutions that says, one way or the other include using the big data, like, in some ways, you know, you can take a look at the OECD PISA system as a big data solution for education systems. But then there are many other things like learning analytics, and, you know, all these algorithms and smart machines, and, you know, assessment procedures that are done by, you know, based on machine, you know, group grading, and many other things. And at some point, we kind of, stopped with my colleagues and said, and so, how should the educators respond to all this, you know, this emergence of big data in the world, and in the classrooms, really, this is what you can see, now, if you go to any Edu Tech conference, you see all these fancy solutions that promise everything, you know, enhancing achievement, and, you know, closing the achievement gap, and reducing dropouts, and you name it. So, we came up with this idea that, you know, maybe better way than to say the big data is a bad idea and big data should stay away from schools, because we don’t like it, is to come up with the idea that would be kind of more like a complimentary to big data. Because I do think that there are some things that we can certainly do much better with big data, and, you know, these solutions that come with it. But if it goes too far, you know, if we are beginning to judge the destiny, the future of children, based on the big data and algorithm in the school, that is now the case, some cases that you, the machines can predict what the 10 year old will be in the future based on what they do in a school, that’s where we say, you know, this is not probably how education works, that, you know, our response to this is that, you know, small data is important, the small data is about, you know, all these tiny little clues that you can find in the situation, my classroom or school, for example, through observing, you know, when you sit down in a classroom, and you look around that, what’s going on here, and why the kids and these, why these people are doing these things, and why this classroom is organized this way, and you know, what’s going on here, that no machine, that machines are much worse to do that.

And that’s why you know, this small data is, it’s about observing, and collecting information and evidence through professional wisdom and experience of educators, when it comes to education. So the same thing, you know, small data is now emerging, also in health, health care, that there are research institutions, like in Sydney, Australia, they said, their first research institute on health that is based on small data, that is the same thing that the doctors, the medical experts are kind of looking for these tiny little clues in the way the patients live and, you know, what they do in order to understand what would be good for them to live healthier lives. And so the small data is, really is like a response to this emerging wave of big data that is coming, you know, knocking on the doors of the schools, and we believe that it’s a better response than simply, you know, raise your hands up and say, that don’t come here, this is a school and there’s no room for big data here, because Big Data is going to do that anyway, you know, if we don’t have a good narrative, if we are not able to, you know, say, why do we need a professional that, you know, the evidence, evidence and decisions based on professional wisdom and experience that only teachers and leaders educators can have. And then, of course, we will be also very quickly replaced by machines.

Will Brehm:  23:49
I mean, as a researcher, it’s just so straightforward to me, right? I’m a qualitative researcher, and this idea that you can get rich, sort of qualitative findings through, you know, in a sense, small sample sizes, right? We don’t need that many people, we don’t need big data, we don’t need big statistical quantitative methods to answer some very important questions that we have about social life, including school. And, and in many ways, you know, even through one individual, observing one individuals’ behaviors and social relations and interactions, we can actually theorize a lot of what’s going on, right? So for me, it’s kind of like a no brainer.

Pasi Sahlberg:  24:34
Yeah, it is. But, you know, I have done this experiment, again, in my talks and workshops, I have a little video clip, that is about two minutes, it’s a one solution that promises improved achievement and reduced dropout in the system. If you rely on this, it’s a kind of a smart machine algorithm that is looking at how children answer the kind of a multiple-choice questions. And the price of this one will probably be few hundreds of thousands dollars, or something like this. But you know, if the promise is this, and what they can show now, is that when this has been used in some of the states or districts, what has happened, that, you know, everything, all the curves go up, then, of course, the, you know, even if it’s a no brainer for you or me, then you will have somebody there who is held accountable, I’m talking about the authorities in the system, and he or she has promised to, you know, do all these miracle improvements in the system, and this person knows that, it’s probably very difficult to do that by, you know, just, you know, talk to people, teachers, and try a little bit harder. So it’s a very, very likely thing that this will happen, you know, globally worldwide, that the people will end up, you know, stepping into the solutions that promise you a lot, and, and probably will, you know, probably will, you know, see improvement in the results, but has nothing to do, or very little to do with the learning, actually, you know, how the kids, what type of children do we get out of the system, just like you said, that, you know, education is much, it’s much more about relationship, it’s much more about, you know, understanding who we are, and, you know, how we learn, or what we’re going to do. And again, that’s where the machines are much more worse than humans. And the big data is limited, you know, big data has a limited power in doing these things that we can do. And that’s, again, where the huge opportunity for small data is.

Will Brehm:  26:26
So I want to ask a little bit about this, I guess, this idea that Finland is sort of one of the countries that other countries should be looking towards, to fix their, you know, supposedly failing education systems, like, where did this myth of Finland come from? And do you actually think it’s true? Or is there truth in it? Or is, you know, is it just a myth?

Pasi Sahlberg:  26:49
No, I think that as I write in my book, there are some very dangerous myths about Finland that, you know, everybody should avoid. And that’s why I use it as a kind of a fourth big idea for any education system to to try to get better is to stay away from this myths that they often hear about Finland. Some of those very dangerous things are things like, there’s no homework in Finland, that people have seen in documentary films, and read in the newspapers around the world. You know, I’ve met education system leaders, personally asking me whether it would be a good idea in their own system to do what Finland has done, and, you know, make homework illegal, and that will be extremely harmful, crazy, crazy thing to do. Then, of course, the other thing, the very common myth about Finland is that the country’s doing away teaching subjects that in the future, there will be just kind of themes or topics, kind of projects that we do. And that’s again, as I described in the book is not true at all. So there’s a kind of a set of this misunderstanding, some myths of, you know, what Finland is doing is often simply because of the poor journalism that, you know, sometimes people write these stories without visiting the country, or really talking to anybody, sometimes, you know what, to put forward these crazy ideas to make the headlines.

But what I’ve learned through, you know, working on this book, and actually several of my books is that it’s very difficult to understand, really understand any education system, whether it’s a Japanese system or Finnish or American to the point that you would be able to really have a good conversation about, you know, why this system works in a way it does. And that’s why it’s a very easy to come up with this myth of, you know, this and that, saying that, you know, that, you know, that’s what the system is doing, but I think, you know, this is sad. I think that they are also some very useful and interesting things in Finland’s education system, as in many other, probably most education systems have something interesting that they do, that others are not really doing. But, of course, because everybody has been paying so much attention to Finland, you know, this, the work to identify these things here in Finland has been much more active than in the systems, for example, when nobody’s interested in, you know, asking these things. And, you know, that’s why, you know, that’s why I think that we have to be very careful in, you know, identifying those things that are can be helpful. And, and this book “FinnishED Leadership” is actually I wrote it, because there were people asking that, so if this is not true, what I read in the news or see in the films or documentaries, is there anything I can do if I’m inspired by what Finland has been doing. And obviously, it’s not possible that you could have a world performing system, education system by accident that they are, they’re always, you know, it’s the same with Japan, and Canada, and Finland and other countries have it, there’s always something there that the system has done to get there, it cannot be explained by just be being good by accident, it’s not possible.

Will Brehm:  29:54
So in your conversation with George Pataki at this conference a few years ago, this small talk that you’re having, and so maybe George didn’t necessarily learn anything from you, right? This was just small talk, but did you learn anything from George?

Pasi Sahlberg:  30:09
Well, I’m kind of an optimistic person, I always tried to learn everything from the occasions and you know, of course, you know, I spent a good part of my life also in, not in politics, but policy world and policy work is always very closely linked to politics. And I guess what I learned from George, again, is that, you know, how easy it is to, you know, hide behind your kind of a political power and political influence and political experience when it comes to education. But you can find this rhetoric very easily. And I kind of admire him when I listened to his keynote at the conference, how an experienced politician you know, even after this 45 minutes that we had, when he heard something that when almost 180 degrees against what he was thinking and believing, but he can still walk to the podium and, you know, speak about these things exactly, as he spoke to me that, you know, what is the problem in America, and, you know, it’s all about bad teachers, and, you know, we have to fire them and America deserves much better and, you know, all these things that you must have some skills to be able to do that I would be also probably much better in my own work, if I had some of these skills of you know, how to communicate and, you know, talk about these things. But of course, he didn’t say much about, you know, what I hadn’t heard before. So, that’s not, I didn’t leave the conversation by saying that, Oh, I didn’t know that I didn’t, you know, I didn’t think about that. It was all about more like a convincing that you know, how important for us all it is to find a kind of a good story, a good conversation and something that you know, can stop people for a while and make them think. You know, this is a mystery to me, whether George really whether he remembers this conversation, and if he remembers the conversation, whether he remembers it’s in the same way than I do. He probably tells the same story to his colleagues saying that, you know, this Finnish guy was exactly in the same wavelength with me. And, you know, he spoke about these things in the same way, I don’t know. But anyway, I think the conversation is, it’s good to have that and it’s great that we have a conversation. Without having this lunch with George, I probably would never have written this book as it is right now.

Will Brehm:  32:28
Well, Pasi Sahlberg, thanks so much for joining FreshEd and again it’s always a pleasure to talk.

Pasi Sahlberg:  32:33
Thank you, Will. Thank you so much.

ويل بريهم: باسي ساهلبرج اهلًا بك مرة تانية فيبرنامجنا فريش أيد

باسي ساهلبرج:شكرًا جزيلًا يا ويل. أنا مبسوط أني أكون معاك

ويل بريهم:حضرتكبتسافركل أنحاء العالم وتتكلم عن بعض المواضيع الرئيسية في مؤتمرات متنوعة، وفي العديد من ورش العمل التابعة لوزارات التعليم حول العالم. وكمان فيأحدث كتاب ليك قلت إنه فيأحد المؤتمرات وجدت نفسك جالس بجوار “جورج باتاكى” المحافظ السابق لنيويورك وكنتم بتتغدوا مع بعض. ياترى حديثكم انتهى على إيه؟

باسي ساهلبرج: نعم هذا صحيح، فيالحقيقة يعتبر هذا من الأمور المحفزة للكتابة. أنا وهو كنا متحدثين فيمؤتمر من كام سنة. وبصراحة، لأني غير أمريكي ما كنتش أعرفه كويس، وبصراحة، أنا سمعت الأسم لكني مش من النوع اللي يحب يدخل في دردشات صغيرة.ولكن كما تعلم إنك لما تحظى بتناول الغداء مع شخص أمريكي بيكون عليك نوعًا ما إنك تدخل فيمحادثة أودردشة صغيرة. كانت نقطة انطلاق الدردشة هي أن أسأله ببساطة “ما رأيك فيالتعليم الآن فيأمريكايا جورج؟” وعرفت أن له رأى فيهذا الموضوع باعتباره فيمركز سياسي عالي وكان على وشك أنه يكون رئيسًا للولايات المتحدة من خلال حزبه، فكان عندي فضول نوعا ما لمعرفة رأيه. لكن اللي قاله أورأيه فيالتعليم الأمريكي لم يكن مفاجئ لكنه كان سلبي، نوعا. كانت له نظرة تشاؤمية تعطي شعور بانعدام الأمل من عمل أي شيء من الأمور اللي تتعرض على الولايات المتحدة مثل تطوير المدارس والمعلمين. رأيه فيالواقع كان أكتر أنه “أنسى كل حاجة ودمر النظام العام، وهات الخيارات البديلة مثل خصخصة المدارس، ومنظمة التعليم لأجل أمريكا، وكل هذه الخيارات”. علشان كدا كان الأمر نوعًا ما بداية صادمة لحديثنا.

ويل بريهم: فالفكرة هي وقف هذه المدارس، صح؟  أقصد أن هذا أصبح أمر شائع جدًاهذه الأيام، أننا نريد وقف المدارس، تمامًا كما نريد نوقف اقتصاد التاكسي بـاستخدام أوبر.

باسي ساهلبرج:نعم بالضبط. أنا قضيت وقت كافي فيالولايات المتحدة فيأجزاء مختلفة من أمريكا، وسمعت هذا النوع من القصص في أماكن كثيرة أن الناس يعتقدوا أن التعليم العام انتهى، وأننا جربنا كل شيء خلال السنين اللي فاتت ومافيش حاجة نفعت. أنا نوعًا ما شايف إن الناس اللي مش فاهمة التعليم زي بالضبط موضوع التاكسي وبيزنس المواصلات أوأي حاجة تانية بيكون رأيهم فيها “خلونا نتخلص منها بالكامل ونعمل فكرة الشراكة الخاصة الجديدة، هذا سيكون حيوي أكتر وفعّال أكتر. فإذا كنت مش قادر تعمل المفروض، فأنت انتهيت وأصبحت خارج المنافسة وسيأتي أحد مكانك”. لكن في رأيي أن الناس دول بمجرد ما يكونوا على دراية أكثر بتاريخ التعليم وكيفية عمل الأنظمة التعليمية فيأماكن تانية، عندها أكيد سيغيروا رأيهم.

ويل بريهم: هل جورج أنهى الحديث بسؤالك عن أرائك عن التعليم الأمريكي؟

باسي ساهلبرج:بالتأكيد، أنا اعتبرت سؤاله كإشارة منه على أنه يحب يدردش في الموضوع. وأنا مكنتش متأكد أنه سيعجب باللي أنا كنت على وشك أقوله. هو سألني لأني قدمت نفسي له كمواطن فنلندي وكمعلم فنلندي وكنت اقوم بالتدريس فيجامعة هارفارد فيذلك الوقت وكمان كنت متكلم في نفس المؤتمر اللي هو هيتكلم فيه. هو شعر نوعًا ما بالرغبة فيأنه يسمعني، طبعًا هو أكيد سمع عن التعليم الفنلندي من قبل. لكن أنا ماكنتش حابب أنه يسألني عن هذا الموضوع وخصوصًا بعد اللي قاله عن التعليم لأن إجابتي ستكون غالبًاعكس ما قاله.  كانت وجهة نظري أشبه بالأبيض والأسود مقارنة باللي كان بيقوله. طبعًا شخص بهذه المكانة وبيني وبينه طبقين على مائدة الغدا، كنت قلقان شوية من رد فعله. لكن فيالواقع ردي عليه كان كالتالى “أنا أفضل أني لا أتكلم عن التعليم الأمريكيلأن فيه جوانب كتير لا أفهمها”. كانت هذه هي الطريقة اللي جاوبت عليه بيها واللي منها اتطور الحوار وأصبح حديث شيق جدًابعد ذلك لأنه سألني بعدها عن اللي مش فاهمه، لأن بالنسبة له كان يرى أن الحل والاستراتيجية لإصلاح التعليم الأمريكي هي ببساطة ووضوح أنك تطرد كل المعلمين وتغلق المدارس ضعيفة الأداء ونتعامل معها بطريقة البيزنس. وبالتالي هو لم يفهم أنا ليه غير فاهم بعض هذه الأمور في التعليم الأمريكي. لكن كانت هذه نقطة بداية حديثنا.

ويل بريهم: لكن هل قلت له كيف يرى الأمر بطريقة مختلفة؟ وإن كنت فعلًا قلت هذا، أيه اللي شرحته لجورج واللي يمكنيخليه يعيد تفكيره عن التعليم الأمريكي؟

باسي ساهلبرج: تمام، الحاجة الرئيسية اللى كنت حابب يقف عندها ويفكر فيها أكتر هي ردي عليه لما سألني “ما هي الأمور اللي أنت مش فاهمها في التعليم الأمريكي؟” وكانت النقطة الأساسية في ردي عليه هي أنى مازلت مقتنع بقوة إني مش فاهم ليه فيالولايات المتحدة الأمريكية بيبتكروا كثير من الأفكاروالابداعات فيالتعليم خلال المئات من السنين اللي فاتت بداية من “جون ديوى”، وناس كتير آخرين واللي خلوا أنظمة التعليم في دول تانية هايلة، زي فنلندا وكندا وهونج كونج والصين وسنغافورة.  لو دورت في الأساس على الأفكارالمفتاحية اللي ساهمتبقوةفي تطوير التعليم في فنلندا على سبيل المثال فإن معظم هذه الأفكارنابعة من الولايات المتحدة. وقلت له أننا لو نظرنا لجهود التعليم الأمريكيلتطوير المدارس مش هنلاقي أي استخدام منهجي مناسب لنفس هذه الأفكارفي الولايات المتحدة، بل على العكس، الولايات المتحدة تنفذ الأفكاراللى هذه الانظمة التعليمية المتطورة تتجنب استخدامها. مثل التفكير المعتمد على التسويق وعدم استخدام التعليم الاحترافي وتوحيد النظام. علشان كدا أنا أعطيته على ما اعتقد، 3 أفكار كأمثلة ملموسة وواقعية بعد ما سألني ماذا أقصد. التعليم التعاوني أصبح مهم جدًافيأداء المدارس الفنلندية وفي النظام التعليمي ككل. وكمان نظرية “هاورد جاردنير” للذكاءات المتعددة. أوالتدريب المقارن اللى ذكرته فيكتابي كطريقة واحدة من خلالها يقدر المعلمين انهم يتعلموا بطريقة أكثر فاعلية كيف يقوموا بالتدريس بطريقة مختلفة. كل هذه الأفكارمعروفه في أمريكا، لكنها مش مستخدمه خالص كجزء من المجهود المنهجي المبذول لتحسين النظام. مثلًا لو بصيت على قانون “عدم ترك أي طفل” “No Child Left Behind” أو”لنتسابق نحو القمة” “Race to the Top”أوأى اصلاحات تمت مؤخرًا، لن تجد أي مؤشرات على تطبيقها. كان ردى عليه “جورج، أنا فعلًا مش فاهم لماذا لا تقومون بتنفيذ هذه الأفكاراللي العالم أثبت أنها ناجحة وأكثر فاعلية من كل الأمور اللي ذكرتها.

ويل بريهم: كدة ممكن أفهم إن جورج طلب منك النصيحة. وكان ردك عليه عبارة عن شرحك عن الطرق اللى جعلت التعليم الفنلندي عظيم لأن له سمعة عالمية وكل المدارس الأخرى ترغب أن تكون مثل المدارس الفنلندية. وقلت له إن معظم الأفكاراللى بينفذوها فيفنلندا أخدوها أصلًا من علماء أمريكيين، وأن من الغريب أن المدارس الأمريكية لا تنفذ هذه الأفكاراللي ولدت ونشأت في أمريكا. هل هذا ما حدث؟

باسي ساهلبرج:نعم، بس الشيء الوحيد اللي حابب أوضحه بشكل مختلف عن الملخص اللي أنت قلته هو أنى غير متأكد من أنه كان فعلًا مهتم برأييأونصيحتي، يمكن لأني كنت صغير وغير معروف لدرجة إن حد يأخذ بنصيحتي. لكن على أي حال جورج كان وقتها في مرحلة حساسة جدًا، لأنه كان يسعى لأن يكون رئيس الولايات المتحدة فيذلك الوقت فكان سيكون شيء سخيف جدًالو رد على كلامي بأنه غير مهتم بما أقوم به في هذا المجال لأن عنده حلوله الخاصة. فهو كان حريص جدًالهذا السبب. لاحظت كمان زي ما كتبت فيكتابي إن جورج كان مشوش جدًامن فكرة إنهم في أمريكاانتظروا حتى استخدمت دولة أخرى مثل فنلندا نتائج تلك الأبحاثاللي توصلوا ليها وموّلوا البحث فيها من فلوس الضرائب علشان بعد كدا الفنلنديين ياخدوا هذهالأبحاثويضعوها فيبرنامج إصلاح التعليم عندهم وتنجح بشكل عظيم. أنا لاحظت أنه بيفكر في هذا الموضوع كل شوية، وكأنه كان يسأل نفسه “إيه اللي بيحصل؟ هل هذا حقيقي واللا أنا بحلم؟

ويل بريهم: لكن الأفكاراللى بيدعوا ليها جورج مثل تدريب المدرسين بصورة احترافية، وتسويق المدارس، والتدريس على أساس من البحث، صحيح؟

باسي ساهلبرج: بالتأكيد وبدون شك. لكن لو تناقشت مع أي باحث أمريكي أوحضرت مؤتمر أمريكي للبحث العلمي ستفاجأ لما تعرف أن الأمريكان نفسهم ميعرفوش الكثير عن هذه الأبحاث. وهذا أمر مثير للاهتمام في حد ذاته. هذه الأبحاثيقرأها ويسمعها بتركيز أكثر السياسيين والتربويين خارج الولايات المتحدة وهذا من الأمور اللي غير قادر على فهمها. فأنا مشوش وغير قادر على فهم عالم التعليم الأمريكي في كيف إن الأمريكان لا يأخذون الأبحاثالخاصة بيهم واللي عملوها بنفسهم على محمل الجد؟ كيف يحدث هذا في الولايات المتحدة أن الناس لما يقرأوا هذه الكتب والأبحاثالمهمة يقولوا أن هذا لا يحدث في الولايات المتحدة؟ فيالمقابل لو نظرنا على كندا على سبيل المثال سنجد إن رجال السياسة والتعليم فيها يتعاملوا مع الأبحاثالعالمية ونتائجها بطريقة مختلفة وأكثر جدية ويقارنوها بنتائج مجهوداتهم الذاتية وإذا وجدوا تعارض كما حصل فيفنلندا يقوموا بالتعديلات المناسبة على عكس أمريكا.

ويل بريهم:لكن ليه أمريكامش طبيعية في هذا الموضوع؟ هل هذه ببساطة أيدولوجية تفكير؟

باسي ساهلبرج: ربما، ولو أنت عارف السبب قولي يا ويل لأن ربما تكون معلوماتك عن ه1ا الأمر أفضل مني. هذا الشيء يسبب لي نوع من الحيرة المستمرة. كيف تكون دولة مثل أمريكاتنتج هذه الأبحاث، واللي بحسب تقديري تكون حوالي ثلاث أرباع الأبحاثالتعليمية المهمة والابتكارات الناجحة، كيف لا تأخذ هذه الأبحاثبأكثر جدية؟ ولماذا يتم تجاهلها بدرجة كبيرة؟، والمسافة أوالفاصل بين العارفين اللي أجروا هذه الأبحاثأومن نسميهم الخبراء فيأمريكاوبين السياسيين الأيديولوجيينأوالخبراء في هذا المجال لماذا هي بهذه الضخامة؟!! ليه لا يجتمعوا مع بعض ويراجعوا معلوماتهم والأمور اللي تحتاج لمعرفة؟

ويل بريهم: إذًا أثناء سفرك حول العالم وأنت بتقدم هذه المحاضرات المختلفة وتتقابل مع ناس كتير مثل جورج، وتدخل فينقاشات ويمكن كمان تعطي نصائح، أنا أتصور أن ناس كتير تسألك عن إيه اللي لازم يعملوه لتطوير نظامهم التعليمي. فكيف تجاوب على هذا النوع من الأسئلةالمباشرة جدًاوالعملية، واللي أحيانًا لا تراعي السياق التعليمي للبلد؟ فيكونوا عايزين ياخدوا حلول تقنية وعملية مباشرة فقط، إلا أن موضوع التعليم معقد أكثر بكثير من ذلك. فكيف تدير هذا النوع من النقاشات لما بتشوف أنظمة تعليم مختلفة على مستوى العالم؟

باسي ساهلبرج: هذا سؤال رائع جدًا. في البداية، وأقصد بالبداية من حوالي 10 سنوات لما القصة الفنلندية بدأت تتطور وتتعرف على مستوى العالم. كنت أنا وزملائي وغيرنا عندنا نفس الإجابة وهي أن هناك5 عوامل جعلت فنلندا أوكندا ناجحة بهذا الشكل وكنا نتكلم عن النظام العام، والمعلمين العظماء، والقيادة الهادفة، وهذه العوامل المعروفة، وكلها حقيقية.

لكن الآن لما الناس تسألني، وأنت عندك حق الناس فعلًا تسألني طول الوقت “ماذا نفعل؟” ويطلبوا مني الحل أوالنصيحة على أساس ما رأيت فيالبلاد المختلفة، لكن اجابتي اتجهت بصورة كبيرة للتأكيد على مدى صعوبة وتعقيد هذا السؤال بالكامل من حيث طبيعة السياق التعليمي للبلد. فبلاد مثل الصين أواليابان أوفنلندا، مختلفة جدًافي نواحي كثيرة. وبعض من العوامل اللي نجحت في فنلندا أوأماكن أخرى ليس المطلوب بالضرورة على الإطلاق أنها تنجح في أماكن غيرها. أعتقد إن اجابتي الآن تراعي أكثر السياق التعليمي، بدون التسرع في تقديم عامل معين للإصلاح على أساس أني استخدمته كثيرًا. فالتسرع يعني تدمير للتعليم. وهذا من أهم العوامل وراء نجاح فنلندا. وطبعًا فوق كل هذا يأتي نظام القيادة عندهم وطبيعته المستدامة، وهي أحد أهم عوامل النجاح بدلًا من محاولة تحديد بعض العوامل الأخرى.

ثالثًا: أحاول الآن وأنا أرد على هذه الأسئلةأوأقدم نصيحة لأحد هو إنى أقوله من فضلك حاول تفهم أن جزء كبير من العوامل اللي تجعل فعلًا نظام التعليم ناجح أوتجعل الأطفاليتعلموا بفاعلية في أنظمة التعليم هي على الأرجح عوامل نجدها خارج المدرسة، أولا تتعلق بالمنهج أوالتدريس أوالمعلم أوأي من هذه العوامل. في فنلندا على سبيل المثال كانت هناك عوامل مرتبطة باللي بتعمله الأسر، والسياسات الاجتماعية الأخرى، والرعاية الصحية، وسياسات الشباب، والرياضة والفنون وعوامل تانية كتير، مثل شبكة المكتبات، وكل هذه الأمور. وكما تعلم، أن الأطفاليتعرضوا لأشياء كثيرة خارج المدرسة وهي أمور مؤثرة. هذه الأمور معرفتنا عنها قليلةجدًا. أنا عارف أن هناك علماء آخرينأوأشخاص يؤكدوا على أهمية العوامل الموجودة خارج المدرسة. كل العوامل المتاحة أوغير المتاحة للأطفال لما يكونوا خارج المدرسة.حابب ألخص ردي على سؤالك بأني اجابتي على مثل هذا السؤال من الناس تغيرتنوعًا ما من مجرد تقديم إجابة محددة عن خمس أوسبع عوامل تساعد أنظمة التعليم انها تشتغل، الموضوع معقد عن هذا. لكني أحاول أؤكد على حقيقة أن المعلمين والأشخاص العاملين في المدرسة لازم يكونوا محترفين ومدربين جيدًا. ولازم المناهج الدراسية تكون مصممة بحيث يكون للمعلمين والطلاب دور فيها، وأن سياسات التعليم لازم تكون عادلة. طبعًا مع التركيز على جودة وتميز هذه العوامل.  لكني لا أضع نفسي في مكانة أووضع، أقول فيه لأي دولة إذا عملت ما عملته فنلندا أوالكنديين، فكل شيء سيكون ممتاز. طبعًا هذا غير صحيح ولن ينجح.

ويل بريهم: تمام. أمر شيق إننا نفكر في المدرسة في سياق مجتمعي أكبر. لأن هناك مواقف كتير غالبًاما يصل فيها الشعور إن الناس في مجال التعليم يحدوا التعليم داخل إطار المدرسة، ولكن أنت أكيد عارف إن التعليم ممكن يحصل في أماكن أخرى ويتأثر بجوانب كثيرة في المجتمع خارج المدرسة؛ احنا محتاجين نوسع تعريف التعليم بدلا من التعريف الضيق المحصور في المدرسة.

باسي ساهلبرج: بالتأكيد يا ويل. ما ذكرته الآن هو أمر مهم، وهو عبارة عن جزء في الكتاب اللي نحكي عنه هنا، وهو يتكلم عن الدور الهام للصحة والراحة البدنية للأطفال، وهذا بالتأكيد أمر ممكن المدرسة تعمل فيه أمور بهدف تحسين الراحة والصحة البدنية وسعادة الأطفال. لكن أنت تعلم أنه في معظم أنظمة التعليم غالبًايكون الجزء الاكبر من هذا النوع من الرعاية مصدره البيوت، والمجتمعات، وأشياء أخرى. وهنا نبدأ نفهم فعلا إن العالم المحيط بالمدرسة في غاية الأهمية. من السهل جدًاإنك تجادل بأن ما يتعلمه الأطفالفي الفيزياء أوفي الرياضات غالبًاما يحصل داخل المدرسة لأن عدد قليل جدًامن الأطفالممكن يذاكروا الرياضيات بمفردهم. وبالتالي لو بتقييم مستوى تقدم أوتحسن الأطفالفي الرياضيات مثلا أوالفيزياء أوالتاريخ أواللغات الأجنبية، من السهل إنك تثبت أن هذا التأثير مصدره بالأكثر من المدرسين والمدرسة وهذه الأمور. لكن الصحة والراحة البدنية والسعادة ومدى الاندماج فهي أمور أكثر تعقيدا. أنا أعتقد إننا داخلين هذه المرحلة قريبًا جدًالما نسأل مرارًا وتكرارًا أسئلة مثل”ما مدى أهمية العالم المحيط بالمدرسة؟ ومتى نبدأ نعلم أولادنا؟

ويل بريهم: اعتقد أن أجابتك الآن تعني ضمنيًا أننا لازم نغير طريقتنا في قياس الأمور من مجرد النظر لمستوى الأطفال في تحصيل محتوى مادة معينة؟

باسي ساهلبرج: بالتأكيد. وأظن أن هذا سيحدث في خلال الخمس سنين القادمة.

ويل بريهم: هناك فكرة أخرى سمعتك تتكلم عنها وكتبت عنها في كتابك الجديد وهي “البيانات الصغيرة”. ممكن تقول لي ما الذي تقصده بـ “البيانات الصغيرة”.

باسي ساهلبرج: تمام. البيانات الصغيرة شيء شيق، لأني تكلمت عنها كتير خلال السنة الماضية. وغالبًالما كانت تتاح لي الفرصة كنت أسأل الناس هذا السؤال “كيف يمكن شرح معنى البيانات الصغيرة لطفل عنده 9 سنين؟” بعد ذلك كنت أطلب منهم أنهم يرفعوا أيديهم في خلال الـ 30 ثانية القادمة لو شعروا انهم مرتاحين أنهم يجاوبوا. وعادة لا تكون هناك أي أيادي مرفوعة لأن الناس إلى حد ما يكونوا محتارين بخصوص مفهوم المصطلح. ولما أحاول أشجعهم بعض الشيء وأسألهم “ماذا يأتي على بالك لما تفكر في مصطلح البيانات الصغيرة؟” كان بعض الناس يقولوا إنه ممكن يكون مجرد كمية بيانات أقل من البيانات الكبيرة. وبالتأكيد ليس هذا هو معنى المصطلح أبدًا. يقودني هذا لإجابة سؤالك عن معنى البيانات الصغيرة. ما وجدته مع كتير من الزملاء اللي شغالين في نفس المجال هو إننا نجد استجابات كثيرة ومتزايدة للتحديات والقضايا التعليمية من خلال الحلول اللي تتضمن بشكل أوبآخر استخدام البيانات الكبيرة. على سبيل المثال نقدر نطلع على نظام البرنامج العالمي لتقييم الطلبة PISA    وهو برنامج قامت به منظمة التعاون الاقتصادي والتنمية OECDوهذا البرنامج يستخدم البيانات الكبيرة كحل لنظام التعليم. وكذلك هناك أنظمة أخرى كثيرة مثل نظام “تحليلات التعلم” وكل المعادلات والأجهزة الذكية واجراءات التقييم اللي بيتم تنفيذها بواسطة الآلة وتصنيف المجموعات وأشياء أخرى كثيرة. في مرحلة معينة أنا والزملاء توقفنا وقلنا “كيف سيتجاوب علماء التربية مع ظهور كل هذا الكم من البيانات الضخمة؟!” هذا ما نراه في الفصول. ولو حضرت أي مؤتمر لمنظمة Edu Techعن تكنولوجيا التعليم ممكن نشوف كل الحلول البراقة اللي توعد بكل شيء من تعزيز الإنجازات وسد الثغرات في الإنجاز وتقليل اعداد المتسربين وغيرها من الوعود كما تريد. ظهرت أمامنا هذه الفكرة وهي إنه بدل ما نقول إن البيانات الكبيرة فكرة سيئة ولازم يتم إبعادها عن المدارس لأننا لا نحبها، ابتكرنا فكرة غير متعارضة مع البيانات الكبيرة. لأني مصدق أن البيانات الكبيرة والحلول اللي بتقدمها ممكن تكون مفيدة في أمور كثيرة. لكن بشرط أن يتم استخدامها بطريقة مختلفة وأكثر عمقًا. لو بدأنا بتقييم مصير ومستقبل الأطفالبناء على البيانات الكبيرة والمعادلات في المدارس، وهذا هو الوضع الحالي، في بعض الحالات ممكن الآلة تتنبأ بما يمكن أن يكون عليه الطفل اللي عمره 10 سنين في المستقبل بناء على ما يقوم به في المدرسة. لكن التعليم غالبًالا يعمل بهذه الطريقة. كان رد فعلنا أننا نؤكد على أهمية البيانات الصغيرة اللي تهتم بأصغر الحلول اللي ممكن نلاقيها في الموقف، على سبيل المثال في الفصل أوالمدرسة، من خلال الملاحظة داخل الفصل والتركيز فيما يحدث فيه ولماذا يقوم الأطفالبهذه الأمور ولماذا هذا الفصل منظم بهذه الطريقة. هذه التفاصيل لا يمكن تتم من خلال الآلة.

البيانات الصغيرة تتعلق بالملاحظة وجمع المعلومات والأدلة من خلال تربويين عندهم حكمة مهنية وخبرة فيما يتعلق بالتعليم. نفس الشيء، البيانات الصغيرة بدأت تظهر الآن في مجال الصحة أوالرعاية الصحية، لدرجة أن فيه معاهد بحثية مماثلة لما هو موجود في سيدني، أستراليا، قالوا أن أول معهد بحثي لهم في مجال الصحة كان اتجاه البحث فيه مبني علي البيانات الصغيرة. وكذلك الأطباء وعلماء الطب يبحثوا علي أدلة أومفاتيح صغيرة في أسلوب حياة المرضى وما يجب القيام به في سبيل فهم الأمور اللي بتكون مفيدة لهم لكي يعيشوا حياة صحية أكتر. وبالتالي فالبيانات الصغيرة هي بمثابة استجابة أورد فعل لظهور موجة البيانات الكبيرة اللي بتطرق أبواب المدارس. ونحن نؤمن أن هذا أحسن رد فعل أواستجابة بدل ما ببساطة تعترض على دخول البيانات الكبيرة المدارس وتمنعها وتقول إنه ليس لها مكان عندنا. لأن البيانات الكبيرة ستقوم بهذا الدور على أي حال حتى لو لم نقم به. فلو لم نطبق مبدأ البيانات الكبيرة سيحدث هذا في حال من الاحوال؛ ولو لم يكن عندنا سيناريو جيد، ولو مش قادرين نحدد لماذا نحتاج علماء تربويين وقادة محترفين قادرين على الملاحظة وأخذ القرارات بناء على حكمة مهنية وخبرة، فبلا شك سيتم استبدالنا بسرعة بالآلات.

ويل بريهم: أنا كباحث الأمر واضح ومباشر بالنسبة لي. فأنا باحث نوعي، وهذه الفكرة بالنسبة لي مفهومة لأنها تتعامل مع نتائج نوعية من خلال أحجام صغيرة من عينة البيانات. نحن غير محتاجين ناس كثيرين ولا نحتاج البيانات الكبيرة ولا طرق احصائية كميّة ضخمة لكي نجيب على بعض الأسئلةالمهمة بخصوص الحياة الاجتماعية، بما فيها المدرسة. وفي نواحي كثيره، ممكن من خلال أن شخص يلاحظ تصرفات شخص آخر وعلاقاته وتداخلاته الاجتماعية، يمكن وضع نظريات لكثير من الأمور الحادثة حولنا، مش كده؟ بالنسبة لي هذا نوع من عدم التفكير.

باسي ساهلبرج: صحيح فعلا، لكن تعرف، أنا قمت بتجربة معينة، في محاضراتي وفي ورش العمل، سجلت مقطع فيديو صغير مدته حوالي دقيقتين عن حل من هذه الحلول اللي بتوعد بإنجازات متطورة وبتقليل نسب التسرب من النظام التعليمي. هذا الحل هو عبارة عن معادلة آلية ذكية تدرس كيف يجيب الأطفالعلى نوع أسئلة اختيار الإجابة الصحيحة من عدة إجابات. يبلغ ثمن جهاز مثل هذا حوالي مئات الآلاف من الدولارات أو ما يقرب من ذلك. لكن انت تعرف ما يحدث لما يتم استخدام مثل هذا الجهاز في بعض الولايات والمقاطعات؟ ترتفع جميع المؤشرات وهذا أمر بديهي لا يحتاج لذكاء. وبعد ذلك نجد هناك شخص مسؤول يوعد بأنه سيحقق كل هذه التحسينات المعجزية في نظام التعليم، رغم أن هذا الشخص نفسه بيكون عارف أنه من الصعب جدًاتحقيق هذه النتائج فقط بمجرد التكلم مع الناس والمدرسين والمحاولة بجدية أكتر. من المرجح جدًاجدًا– وهذا ما سيحدث على مستوى واسع عالميا- إن الناس سينتهي بها المطاف بأنها ستسعى نحو الحلول اللي بتوعدها بوعود كتير ومجهود أقل. وعلى الأرجح ممكن يروا تحسينات في النتائج، لكن هذه النتائج لن تحدث فرق في التعليم أوستحدث شيء لا يذكر. ما هي نوعية الأطفالالذين سنحصل عليهم كنتاج لنظام تعليم بهذا الشكل، فالتعليم، كما ذكرت، يتعلق أكتر بالعلاقات وكذلك بفهم من نحن وكيف نتعلم أوماذا ننوي أن نعمل. ومرة أخرى أقول أن هناك مواقف مماثلة تكون فيها الآلات اسوأ من البشر وتكون البيانات الكبيرة محدودة وقدرتها محدودة في عمل الأمور اللي احنا ممكن نعملها. وهنا نجد أن فرصة البيانات الصغيرة كبيرة جدًا.

ويل بريهم: حابب اسأل اكتر شوية عن هذه الفكرة، فنلندا هي واحدة من البلاد اللي مفروض باقي الدول تنظر لها كنموذج في هذا المجال عشان تصلح ما يمكن اعتباره فشل في أنظمتها التعليمية، فمن أين جاءت أسطورة فنلندا في إصلاح نظامها التعليمي؟ وهل تعتقد انها حقيقية فعلًا؟ أوهي مجرد اسطورة؟

باسي ساهلبرج: لا، أنا اظن أنه كما كتبت في كتابي أن هناك بعض الأساطير الخطيرة في موضوع فنلندا اللي يجب على الكل يتجنبها. وأنا أستخدمها كفكرة رابعة كبيرة لأي نظام تعليم، أنه لكي تستطيع التحسن فلابد أن تبتعد عن هذه الأساطير الليغالبًانسمعها عن فنلندا. بعض هذه الأساطير الخطيرة أنه مثلا لا توجد واجبات مدرسية في فنلندا وهذا ما سمعه الناس في الأفلام الوثائقية وقرأوه في الجرائد. أنا قابلت عدد من رواد ومسئولين عن أنظمة تعليم وكانوا يسألوني بشكل شخصي أن كانت فكرة جيدة انهم يعملوا مثل فنلندا ويجعلوا الواجبات المدرسية أمر غير رسمي أوغير مطلوب.  طبعًا سيكون هذا في غاية الخطورة والضرر وشيء مجنون وغير معقول تماما. شيء آخر من الأساطير الشائعة عن فنلندا وهو أن الدولة تتخلص من تدريس المواد الدراسية، لدرجة أنه في المستقبل سيكون التدريس عبارة عن مجرد إعطاء موضوعات أوعناوين للبحث، مثل المشروعات البحثية اللي نعملها. وهذا أيضًا كما وصفت في الكتاب غير حقيقي تمامًا. هناك شيء من سوء الفهم وهناك أساطير بخصوص ما تقوم به فنلندا، وهذا غالبًاوببساطة بسبب الصحافة الفقيرة اللي يكتب فيها ناس عن فنلندا من غير ما يزوروا البلد أوحتى يتكلموا مع متخصص فينشروا هذه الأفكارغير المعقولة بهدف انهم يعملوا مانشتات صحفية فقط.

لكني تعلمت من خلال شغلي في هذا الكتاب أوفعليًا من خلال شغلي على عدد متنوع من كتبي أنه من الصعب جدًا فهم أي نظام تعليم، سواء كان نظام ياباني أوفنلندي أوأمريكي، بدرجة تجعلك قادر فعلا إنك تجري حوار جيد عنه، يعني لماذا يوجد نظام شغال بالطريقة اللي شغال بيها. وهذا يجعل من السهل جدًاأن تخرج هذه الأساطير بخصوص هذا النظام أوذاك، فتتكلم كأنك تعرف ماذا يعمل هذا النظام، وأنا أرى أن هذا أمر محزن. لكن أنا أعتقد كمان أن هناك جوانب مفيدة وشيقة في نظام التعليم الفنلندي كما توجد جوانب مفيدة أيضًا في أنظمة أخرى كثيرة. فعلى الأرجح أن معظم أنظمة التعليم يكون عندها جانب شيق ومفيد يميزها غير موجود في باقي الأنظمة الأخرى. لكن طبعا لأن كله كان مركز جدًامع فنلندا فكان الجهد مركز على تحديد هذه المميزات اللي هنا في فنلندا مع ترك باقي الانظمة، يعني على سبيل المثال لا يوجد من يهتم أنه يسأل على هذه الجوانب في باقي الأنظمة. أنا أعتقد أننا لابد نهتم جدًا بتحديد الجوانب المفيدة في الأنظمة الأخرى لأنها قد تكون مفيدة أكتر. أنا كتبت كتاب ريادة التعليم الفنلندي “FinnishED Leadership”مخصوص لما لقيت ناس كتير تسألني “لو فعلًا ما نقرأه في الجرائدأوما نراه في الأفلام والوثائقيات غير حقيقي، هل هناك أي شيء ممكن القيام به لو أنا مهتم وشغوف باللي فنلندا تعمله؟”  طبعًا مستحيل يكون هناك نظام تعليمي أداؤه عالمي بالصدفة. ينطبق هذا على اليابان وكندا وفنلندا ودول أخرى. فأنظمة التعليم في هذه الدول لم تأتِ من فراغ لكن دائمًا هناك أسباب لما وصلوا له. فمن غير المنطقي أن تكون هذه الأنظمة نجحت بالصدفة.

ويل بريهم: في كلامك مع جورج بتاكي في هذا المؤتمر من كام سنة، كانت محادثة صغيرة وغير ضروري أنه يكون اتعلم شيء منك، لأنها كانت مجرد محادثة صغيرة. لكن هل أنت أتعلمت شيء من جورج؟

باسي ساهلبرج: أنا شخص طموح ودائما أحاول أن اتعلم كل شيء ممكن من الخبرات اللي بمر بيها. أنا كمان قضيت جزء مهم من حياتي، ليس في السياسة، لكن في مجال وضع السياسات. وغالبًاما يكون هذا المجال مرتبط بقوة بالسياسة. وأنا أعتقد أن ما تعلمته من جورج هو أنه سهل جدًا أنك تستخبى وراء قوتك السياسية وتأثيرك السياسي وخبرتك السياسية لما الأمر يتعلق بالتعليم. وهذا نوع من البلاغة اللي سهل أنك تكتشفها. أنا أعجبت به لما سمعته وهو يقول كلمته في المؤتمر، هذا الراجل عنده خبرة سياسية كبيرة، فبالرغم من ال 45 دقيقة اللي قضيناها وهو يسمع أمور مختلفة 180 درجة عن اللي هو عارفه ومصدق فيه إلا أنه كان قادر يطلع المنصة ويتكلم عن نفس الأمور بالضبط كما قالها لي “عارفين ما هي المشكلة اللي في أمريكا، كل المشكلة هي في المدرسين السيئين ونحن لازم نطردهم لان أمريكاتستحق أفضل بكثير”. كل هذه الأمور اللي قالها تتطلب مهارات خاصة عشان تعرف تعملها صح. فأنا تعلمت أن لو عندي مهارات مثل التواصل والخطابة، سأكون مؤثر أكتر في شغلي. لكن طبعًا هو لم يتكلم كتير في كلمته عن الأشياء اللي قالها لي وأنا لم أسمع عنها من قبل. طبعًا أنا ما ذكرتش أني ما سمعتش عن هذه الأمور، لأني كنت معجب بطريقة كلامه وكنت مقتنع أنه من المهم بالنسبة لأي حد أنه يجد سياق أوقصة أوأسلوب لحديثه يشد انتباه الناس ويجعلهم يفكروا في كلامه. عارف ما يمثل لغز بالنسبة لي، أني لا أعرف هل جورج فاكر هذه المحادثة اللي تمت بيننا، وهل لو فاكرها، هو فاكرها كما أفتكرها أنا؟ لا أعلم! لأنه غالبًاما يقول نفس هذه القصة لزملائه “عارفين هذا الرجل الفنلندي كان علي نفس الخط معي، وكان رأيه مثل رأيي في هذه الأمور.” لكن على أي حال، أنا اعتقد أن هذا الحوار كان مفيد جدًا، لأنه من غير الغداء مع جورج، من الأرجح أني ما كنتش أبدًا سأكتب هذا الكتاب.

ويل بريهم:أوك باسي ساهلبرج. شكرًا جدًالانضمامك في برنامج فريش أيد مرة أخرى. دايمًا أكون سعيد بالحديث معك.

باسي ساهلبرج: شكرا يا ويل شكرا جدًا.

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Will Brehm:  1:47
Pasi Sahlberg, bienvenue à FreshEd.

Pasi Sahlberg :  1:49
Merci beaucoup, Will. C’est bon d’être avec vous.

Will Brehm : 1:51
Vous voyagez à travers le monde pour donner des discours principaux lors de diverses conférences et ateliers à différents ministères de l’éducation dans le monde entier. Et dans votre dernier livre, vous écrivez que lors d’une conférence, vous vous êtes retrouvé assis à côté de George Pataki, qui est l’ancien gouverneur de New York, et vous avez déjeuné ensemble. De quoi avez-vous fini par parler tous les deux?

Pasi Sahlberg:  2:16
Oui, c’est vrai. Et en réalité, c’est l’une des motivations pour écrire un livre, j’étais conférencier dans une conférence comme lui il y a quelques années. Et bien sûr, comme je ne suis pas américain, je ne le connaissais pas très bien, évidemment, j’ai entendu un nom et vous savez, l’étude de l’histoire complète, je ne suis pas le genre de gars qui fait beaucoup de bavardages. Donc, vous savez, si vous déjeunez avec un Américain, vous devez faire un peu d’exercice de conversation. Mon coup d’envoi pour la discussion était de lui demander simplement “que pensez-vous de l’éducation américaine en ce moment, George ?”, et je savais qu’il avait une opinion, parce qu’il est en politique de haut niveau, et qu’il était sur le point de se présenter pour être le prochain président des États-Unis par le biais de son parti. Et donc, vous savez, j’étais un peu curieux d’entendre ce qu’il disait. Mais ce qu’il a dit n’était pas surprenant, mais c’était une opinion très négative, très négative, pessimiste, sur le fait qu’il n’y a aucun espoir de faire ces choses que les gens offrent souvent aux États-Unis, comme améliorer les écoles ou les enseignants, son opinion était beaucoup plus sur le fait de tout distraire et de détruire le système public et d’apporter toutes ces options alternatives, comme le contrôle privé des écoles et l’enseignement pour l’Amérique et toutes ces choses. C’était donc un début surprenant pour notre conversation.

Will Brehm:  2:57
Donc, l’idée d’une telle perturbation, c’est ça ? Je veux dire, c’est un terme très fréquent que nous entendons de nos jours, nous voulons déranger les écoles, comme nous voulons déranger l’économie des taxis avec Uber.

Pasi Sahlberg:  3:53
Oui, tout à fait, tout à fait. Et puis, vous savez, le fait est que j’ai passé assez de temps aux États-Unis, dans différentes régions du pays. Et, vous savez, j’entends ce genre d’histoire dans beaucoup d’endroits où les gens croient que, vous savez, ils croient en quelque sorte que l’éducation publique est morte, qu’il n’y a rien que nous puissions faire pour cela au cours des cent dernières années, nous avons tout essayé et rien n’a fonctionné. Donc, vous savez, d’une certaine manière, je comprends ces gens qui ne comprennent pas vraiment l’éducation, qui disent exactement comme dans les taxis, les entreprises de transport, ou autre chose qui nous permet de faire disparaître tout cela et de construire cette toute nouvelle idée de partenariat public-privé qui sera plus dynamique et plus efficace, et, vous savez, basée sur le, vous savez, si vous ne pouvez pas livrer, alors vous êtes mort et une entreprise en difficulté et quelqu’un d’autre viendra. Mais, vous savez, dès que vous en savez un peu plus sur l’histoire de l’éducation et sur la façon dont les systèmes éducatifs fonctionnent ailleurs, alors, bien sûr, vous avez une vision différente.

Will Brehm:  4:43
Donc, George a-t-il fini par vous demander votre avis sur, vous savez, l’éducation américaine pour son propre genre de, pour son éducation, je suppose?

Pasi Sahlberg:  4:52
Tout à fait. Et je, vous savez, après, j’ai pris cela comme une sorte de signe de bavardage que je ne suis pas sûr qu’il était vraiment concerné par ce que j’allais dire, mais, vous savez, parce que je lui ai dit que je suis un citoyen finlandais, un éducateur finlandais, et j’enseignais à l’université de Harvard à ce moment-là et évidemment, je parlais dans la même conférence. Il a donc eu l’impression qu’il voulait entendre, bien sûr, qu’il avait entendu parler de l’éducation finlandaise. Mais, vous savez, c’était une question que je ne voulais pas qu’il me pose après avoir entendu ce qu’il avait à dire sur l’éducation, parce que ma réponse à sa question était presque à l’opposé, vous savez, mon point de vue était tel que c’était comme un noir et blanc par rapport à ce qu’il disait, et devant son autorité, juste les deux assiettes de déjeuner entre nous, j’étais un peu comme, effrayée de la façon dont il allait réagir et en fait ma réponse à lui était que comme j’écris dans mon livre, que vous savez, je préférerais ne pas parler de l’éducation américaine parce qu’il y a tellement de choses que je ne comprends pas et c’est une sorte de façon dont la conversation avec lui a évolué. C’était une conversation très intéressante par la suite, parce qu’il m’a répondu que ce que vous ne comprenez pas, c’est que pour lui, la solution et la stratégie des Américains, vous savez, pour réparer les écoles américaines, était si claire que vous savez, vous pouvez vous défaire de ces vieux vous savez, virer tous les enseignants et fermer les écoles les moins performantes, et, vous savez, faisons en sorte que cette chose ressemble plus à une entreprise. Et donc il ne comprenait pas tout à fait pourquoi je ne comprenais pas certaines de ces choses dans l’éducation américaine. Mais c’est là que la vraie conversation a vraiment débuté.

Will Brehm:  6:27
Lui avez-vous vraiment dit en quoi vous voyez les choses différemment ? Et si oui, qu’avez-vous décrit à George pour qu’il repense peut-être à sa propre conception de l’éducation américaine?

Pasi Sahlberg:  6:40
Oui, eh bien, vous savez, la chose principale que je voulais qu’il s’arrête vraiment et réfléchisse davantage qui a été intégrée dans ma réponse à sa question “quelles sont ces choses que je ne comprends pas dans l’éducation américaine”, et que la chose principale que je lui ai dite et que je crois toujours fermement importante est que je ne comprends pas, Je ne comprends vraiment pas pourquoi, aux États-Unis d’Amérique, ce sont eux qui créent les idées et les innovations en matière d’éducation, vraiment, tout au long des cent dernières années, à commencer par John Dewey, et bien d’autres, depuis, qui ont fait la grandeur d’autres systèmes éducatifs, comme la Finlande, et le Canada, et Hong Kong, et la Chine, et Singapour, et vous le nommez ainsi, vous savez, si vous traquez ces idées clés en Finlande, par exemple, qui ont été d’une importance capitale pour améliorer le fonctionnement du système éducatif, elles sont, pour la plupart, américaines et je lui ai dit, que, vous savez, si je regarde les efforts américains en matière d’éducation pour apporter des améliorations aux écoles, je ne vois pas vraiment d’utilisation systématique correcte de ces mêmes idées aux États-Unis ; que les États-Unis travaillent beaucoup plus avec les idées que beaucoup de ces systèmes d’enseignement supérieur performants ont délibérément essayé d’éviter, comme cette pensée basée sur le marché, et la dé-professionnalisation, la standardisation du système. Je lui ai donc donné, je pense, trois ou quatre exemples d’idées après qu’il ait demandé concrètement ce que je voulais dire, comme par exemple l’apprentissage coopératif qui a été d’une importance capitale pour les performances des écoles finlandaises comme pour celles de l’ensemble du système, et la théorie d’Howard Gardner sur les intelligences multiples ou le coaching par les pairs que j’ai également mentionné dans le livre comme un moyen pour les enseignants d’apprendre efficacement à enseigner différemment, et rien de tout cela n’est connu en Amérique et dans de nombreuses régions d’Amérique, mais cela n’a jamais fait partie du type d’effort systématique d’amélioration du système. Par exemple, si vous regardez le livre ” Aucun enfant laissé pour compte ” ou ” La course vers le sommet “, ou toute autre réforme récente, il n’y a aucun signe de ces choses. Voici donc ma réponse à sa question : “Écoutez, George, je ne comprends vraiment pas pourquoi vous ne faites pas ces choses dont le monde a prouvé l’efficacité, qui peuvent être beaucoup plus efficaces que toutes ces choses que vous mentionniez.

Will Brehm:  8:56
Donc, d’accord, laissez-moi comprendre. Donc, George Pataki vous demande en gros votre avis. Et vous répondez fondamentalement en disant, ce qui rend l’éducation finlandaise si formidable, parce qu’elle a ce genre de réputation internationale et toutes ces autres écoles veulent être comme les écoles finlandaises, et vous dites, regardez, George, beaucoup des idées que la Finlande emploie proviennent en fait d’universitaires américains. Et il est étrange que les écoles américaines ne reprennent pas ces idées qui sont en fait nées et ont été élevées dans l’Académie américaine. C’est ce qui se passait.

Pasi Sahlberg:  9:32
Oui, la seule chose que je dirais probablement un peu différemment dans votre résumé est que je ne suis pas certain, comme je l’ai dit, qu’il soit vraiment concerné par mes conseils, je pense que j’étais probablement beaucoup trop jeune et inconnu pour qu’il y ait quelqu’un pour donner des conseils. Mais je pense que George était dans une sorte de moment et d’humeur très sensible à tous égards, parce qu’il se lançait manifestement dans cette course très importante pour devenir le prochain président des États-Unis. Je pense donc qu’il serait idiot de sa part de dire que, vous savez, je ne me soucie pas vraiment de ce que vous avez fait là-bas, parce que j’ai ma propre solution. Mais il était très intrigué par ce fait. Et j’ai vu à nouveau, comme je l’ai décrit dans mon livre, qu’il était vraiment dérangé par ce fait en comprenant que, hé, attendez une minute. Donc, les autres pays comme la Finlande, qui se servent de nos recherches, que nous avons fait payer par nos contribuables, et que les Finlandais prennent ensuite au sérieux et mettent dans les réformes de l’éducation et font marcher le système, que se passe-t-il ici ? Vous savez, c’est ce que je l’ai vu penser de temps en temps, c’est vraiment réel ou est-ce que je rêve de quelque chose?

Will Brehm:  10:37
Mais certaines des idées qu’il préconisait, comme vous l’avez dit, cette sorte de dé-professionnalisation des enseignants et la commercialisation des écoles et de la scolarisation, ont sans doute aussi une base de recherche, n’est-ce pas?

Pasi Sahlberg:  10:51
Et absolument, et cela ne fait aucun doute, si vous n’avez pas besoin de passer trop de temps avec un chercheur américain ou une conférence de recherche, quand vous apprenez ce que les Américains savent vraiment sur ces choses. Et c’est, bien sûr, une sorte de chose intéressante. Et, vous savez, ces recherches, dans de nombreux cas, sont lues et entendues de beaucoup plus près par les décideurs politiques et les éducateurs en dehors des États-Unis. Et c’est une de ces choses que je ne comprends vraiment pas. C’est en fait ce qui explique ma confusion et mon incapacité à comprendre le monde de l’éducation américain : comment se fait-il qu’aux États-Unis, jour après jour, les gens tombent sur de grands livres et des rapports de recherche, entre autres ? Et ils ont dit : “Non, ce n’est pas comme ça, ce n’est pas comme ça que ça se passe. Mais quand, quand vous traversez la frontière, juste au nord des États-Unis, que vous allez au Canada, vous voyez à quel point les décideurs politiques, les politiciens et tout le monde prennent différemment les recherches internationales de nos jours, et qu’ils considèrent leurs conclusions et, vous savez, comparent les résultats des recherches à leurs propres pratiques et politiques. Et s’ils y trouvent une sorte d’incohérence, comme c’est le cas en Finlande, ils sont prêts et capables de modifier le cours des choses, mais pas aux États-Unis.

Will Brehm:  12:04
Alors pourquoi l’Amérique est-elle si inhabituelle dans ce sens, comme, est-ce simplement de l’idéologie?

Pasi Sahlberg:  12:09
Eh bien, c’est peut-être, vous savez, si vous savez, Will, dites-moi, vous le savez sans doute mieux que moi. Mais c’est une sorte de confusion entretenue dans ma tête que de savoir comment il se fait que le pays qui, vous savez, produit ce, vous savez, mon genre d’estimation approximative est que probablement environ trois quarts des travaux de recherche et d’innovation éducatifs importants proviennent encore des États-Unis ; c’est pourquoi ils ne sont pas pris plus au sérieux. C’est la raison pour laquelle il est si souvent négligé, c’est la raison pour laquelle il y a un fossé entre ceux qui savent qui font la recherche et, vous savez, les soi-disant experts américains et ceux qui sont des politiciens plus idéologiques ou d’autres façons, des experts dans ce domaine. Pourquoi ce canyon est si énorme, pourquoi les gens ne peuvent pas vraiment s’asseoir et dire : “Ok, voyons ce que nous savons. Donc, je ne sais pas vraiment.

Will Brehm:  12:59
Et donc, quand on voyage à travers le monde, qu’on présente ces différentes conférences, qu’on rencontre des gens comme George et qu’on fait peut-être la conversation, mais aussi qu’on donne des conseils et des astuces, j’imagine que beaucoup de gens vous demandent ce que devrait faire notre système scolaire. Et comment répondez-vous à ce genre de question très directe qui est si pratique et qui, à bien des égards, efface le contexte, n’est-ce pas ? Comme s’ils cherchaient simplement ces solutions techniques très pratiques, quand on sait que l’éducation est beaucoup plus compliquée que cela. Alors, comment aimez-vous gérer ce genre de conversations quand vous voyez les différents systèmes d’éducation dans le monde?

Pasi Sahlberg:  13:37
Oui, c’est une bonne question au début. Et par “début”, je veux dire qu’il y a environ dix ans, quand l’histoire de la Finlande a vraiment commencé à évoluer dans le monde entier, je pense que moi-même et beaucoup de mes collègues et d’autres étions en quelque sorte, dans une situation où ils répondaient d’une manière assez typique qu’il y a cinq, vous savez, il y a cinq choses qui rendent la Finlande géniale ou cinq choses que vous savez, les Canadiens font. Et puis, vous savez, j’ai parlé du système public, des grands professeurs et du leadership déterminé, vous savez, ces choses communes et, vous savez, toutes sont vraies.

Mais à présent, quand les gens et vous avez raison, que, vous savez, les gens me posent tout le temps ces questions, vous savez, que devrions-nous faire, sur la base de ce que vous avez vu dans le monde entier, mais mes réponses se sont transformées en une sorte de, vous savez, soulignant la complexité et la difficulté de toute cette question, et la nature du contexte, les endroits où vous regardez ces choses comme la Chine ou le Japon, Tokyo, et la Finlande, qu’ils sont très différents à bien des égards. Et, vous savez, certaines de ces choses qui marchent bien en Finlande ou ailleurs ne marchent pas nécessairement du tout dans d’autres endroits. Donc, je pense que ma réponse s’est avérée être beaucoup plus comme, vous savez, en regardant les choses générales comme ne pas précipiter la réforme, c’est une de ces choses que j’ai beaucoup employé que de précipiter une réforme de l’éducation est de la ruiner, c’est vraiment une de ces choses qui est derrière le succès de la Finlande. Et, bien sûr, leur leadership en général, la nature durable du leadership est l’une de ces choses importantes plutôt que d’essayer d’identifier d’autres choses.

Mais, vous savez, troisièmement, le genre de chose sur laquelle je travaille de plus en plus maintenant est que j’essaie aussi, si je suis sur le point de conseiller quelqu’un, j’ai dit, essayez de comprendre que, vous savez, une grande partie de ces choses qui font vraiment fonctionner le système éducatif, ou des enfants qui apprennent dans les systèmes, sont probablement ces choses que nous trouvons en dehors de l’école, qu’ils ne concernent pas les programmes, la pédagogie ou les responsables de l’éducation, rien de tout cela, alors comme en Finlande, par exemple, ils sont liés à ce que font les familles, aux autres politiques sociales et aux soins de santé, aux politiques de la jeunesse, aux sports et aux arts et à bien d’autres choses, au réseau de bibliothèques, vous savez, tout cela. Je sais qu’il y a d’autres chercheurs et d’autres personnes qui insistent sur l’importance des facteurs extra-scolaires, toutes ces choses que les enfants ont ou n’ont pas quand ils ne sont pas à l’école. Mais, vous savez, je pose rapidement cette question, votre question est que, vous savez, je me suis en quelque sorte éloigné de donner une sorte de réponse concrète à cinq ou sept choses qui, vous savez, font que les systèmes d’éducation fonctionnent, des choses beaucoup plus complexes, mais j’essaie toujours de, vous savez, mettre l’accent sur le fait que, vous savez, les enseignants et les personnes qui travaillent dans les écoles, ils doivent être des professionnels, ils doivent être, vous savez, correctement formés ; le programme scolaire, vous savez, doit être conçu de manière à ce que les enseignants et les élèves aient de plus en plus voix au chapitre ; les politiques éducatives doivent mettre l’accent sur l’équité, et, vous savez, sur l’excellence ou la qualité de, vous savez, ce genre de choses. Mais je ne suis plus en mesure de donner, disons, à un pays qui, vous savez, si vous faites ce que la Finlande a fait, ou les Canadiens, d’autres que tout ira bien, cela ne marchera pas.

Will Brehm:  17:06
Oui, il est passionnant de penser que cette notion d’école s’inscrit en quelque sorte dans cette écologie sociale plus large. Parce que, je veux dire, à bien des égards, on a presque l’impression que souvent les gens dans le domaine de l’éducation, réduisent l’éducation à l’école, et, vous savez, l’éducation se fait dans tellement d’autres parties, et est influencée par tellement d’autres parties en dehors de l’école, que nous, vous savez, nous devons élargir cette définition pour nous écarter de cette étroitesse de l’école.

Pasi Sahlberg:  17:35
Certainement, Will. Et maintenant, vous savez, ce que je vois se dessiner qui fait également partie de ce livre dont nous parlons ici, c’est le rôle plus important du bien-être et de la santé des enfants, alors c’est, bien sûr, quelque chose qui est, vous savez, les écoles peuvent faire quelque chose pour améliorer le bien-être, la santé et le bonheur des enfants. Mais, vous savez, dans la plupart des systèmes d’éducation, la majeure partie de ces progrès provient probablement des foyers, des sociétés et des communautés, et vous savez, d’autres choses. Et c’est là que nous commençons vraiment à comprendre, vous savez, l’importance du monde qui entoure l’école. Il est beaucoup plus facile d’affirmer que ce que les enfants apprennent en physique ou en mathématiques se passe probablement surtout à l’école, que très peu d’enfants étudient les mathématiques par eux-mêmes. Donc, si vous mesurez les progrès des enfants en mathématiques, en physique, en histoire ou en langues étrangères, il est facile de dire que cet effet est surtout le fait des enseignants et des écoles, et de toutes ces choses, mais la santé, le bien-être, le bonheur et l’engagement sont des choses beaucoup plus compliquées et complexes. Et c’est pourquoi je pense que nous entrons dans cette phase où nous nous posons de plus en plus souvent cette question, mais vous savez, l’importance du monde qui entoure l’école, lorsque nous éduquons nos enfants.

Will Brehm:  18:58
Et il paraît implicite dans cette réponse que vous venez de donner que ce que nous mesurons et comment nous le faisons doit vraiment changer, et non plus seulement regarder les résultats des élèves en matière de connaissances sur certains sujets?

Pasi Sahlberg:  19:10
Absolument. Et cela va se produire dans les cinq prochaines années, je suppose.

Will Brehm:  19:13
Une autre idée dont je vous entends beaucoup parler et que vous avez évoquée dans ce nouveau livre est celle des petites données, pouvez-vous me dire ce que vous entendez par petites données?

Pasi Sahlberg:  19:22
Oui, de petites données, vous savez, c’est intéressant, parce que j’en ai beaucoup parlé au cours de l’année dernière. Et j’entends souvent des gens me poser cette question, toujours, si j’ai une chance que, vous savez, ma question se présente comme ceci, cela, comment expliqueriez-vous ce que sont les petites données à un enfant de neuf ans. Et puis j’ai demandé aux gens de lever la main s’ils se sentent à l’aise, vous savez, de le faire dans les 30 secondes qui suivent. Et normalement, je ne vois pas de mains que les gens soient un peu confus par ce concept. Et quand je les pousse un peu et que je dis cela, alors qu’est-ce qui vous vient à l’esprit quand vous réfléchissez aux petites données ? Certaines personnes disent que c’est peut-être un peu moins de grosses données. Et bien sûr, ce n’est pas le cas. Mais, vous savez, cela m’amène à ceci. La réponse à votre question est que, vous savez, ce que j’ai vu avec beaucoup de mes collègues oeuvrant dans le même domaine, c’est que nous avons de plus en plus de réponses maintenant, aux défis et aux problèmes de l’éducation par le biais de solutions qui disent que, d’une manière ou d’une autre, il faut utiliser les grandes données, comme, d’une certaine manière, vous savez, vous pouvez regarder le système PISA de l’OCDE comme une grande solution de données pour les systèmes éducatifs. Mais il y a beaucoup d’autres choses comme l’analyse de l’apprentissage, et, vous savez, tous ces algorithmes et ces machines intelligentes, et, vous savez, les procédures d’évaluation qui sont faites par, vous savez, basées sur la machine, vous savez, la notation de groupe, et beaucoup d’autres choses. Et à un moment donné, nous nous sommes arrêtés avec mes collègues et nous nous sommes demandé comment les éducateurs devaient réagir face à l’émergence de données essentielles dans le monde, et dans les salles de classe, c’est vraiment ce que vous pouvez voir, maintenant, si vous allez à une conférence Edu Tech, vous voyez toutes ces solutions fantaisistes qui promettent tout, vous savez, l’amélioration des résultats, et, vous savez, la réduction des écarts de résultats, et la réduction des abandons, et vous le dites. Nous avons donc eu l’idée que, vous savez, peut-être que la meilleure façon de dire que les grandes données sont une mauvaise idée et que les grandes données devraient rester à l’écart des écoles, parce que nous n’aimons pas ça, est de proposer une idée qui serait plutôt un complément aux grandes données. Parce que je pense qu’il y a des choses que nous pouvons certainement faire beaucoup mieux avec les grosses données, et, vous savez, ces solutions qui vont avec. Mais si cela va trop loin, vous savez, si nous commençons à juger du destin, de l’avenir des enfants, sur la base des grandes données et de l’algorithme de l’école, c’est le cas maintenant, dans certains cas, vous, les machines peuvent prédire ce que sera l’enfant de 10 ans dans le futur sur la base de ce qu’il fait dans une école, c’est là que nous disons, vous savez, ce n’est probablement pas comme ça que l’éducation fonctionne, que, vous savez, notre réponse à cela est que, vous savez, les petites données sont essentielles, les petites données concernent, vous savez, tous ces petits indices que vous pouvez trouver dans la situation, ma classe ou mon école, par exemple, en observant, vous savez, quand vous êtes assis dans une classe, et que vous regardez autour de vous, ce qui se passe ici, et pourquoi les enfants et ces personnes, pourquoi ces personnes font ces choses, et pourquoi cette classe est organisée de cette façon, et vous savez, ce qui se passe ici, qu’aucune machine, que les machines sont bien pires pour faire cela.

Et c’est pourquoi vous savez, ces petites données sont, il s’agit d’observer, et de recueillir des informations et des preuves grâce à la sagesse professionnelle et à l’expérience des éducateurs, quand il s’agit d’éducation. C’est la même chose, vous savez, les petites données émergent désormais, également dans le domaine de la santé, des soins de santé, qu’il existe des instituts de recherche, comme à Sydney, en Australie, ils ont dit, leur premier institut de recherche sur la santé qui est basé sur les petites données, c’est la même chose que les médecins, les experts médicaux recherchent en quelque sorte ces minuscules petits indices dans la façon dont les patients vivent et, vous savez, ce qu’ils font afin de comprendre ce qui serait bon pour eux de vivre plus sainement. Et donc, les petites données sont, vraiment, comme une réponse à cette vague émergente de grandes données qui vient, vous savez, frapper à la porte des écoles, et nous pensons que c’est une meilleure réponse que de simplement, vous savez, lever les mains en l’air et dire, qui ne viennent pas ici, c’est une école et il n’y a pas de place pour les grandes données ici, parce que Big Data va le faire de toute façon, vous savez, si nous n’avons pas une bonne narration, si nous ne sommes pas en mesure de, vous savez, dire, pourquoi avons-nous besoin d’un professionnel qui, vous savez, les preuves, les preuves et les décisions basées sur la sagesse et l’expérience professionnelles que seuls les enseignants et les dirigeants éducateurs peuvent avoir. Et puis, bien sûr, nous serons aussi très vite remplacés par des machines.

Will Brehm:  23:49
Je veux dire, en tant que chercheur, c’est tellement simple pour moi, n’est-ce pas ? Je suis un chercheur qualitatif, et cette idée qu’on peut s’enrichir, des sortes de résultats qualitatifs grâce, vous savez, dans un sens, à des échantillons de petite taille, n’est-ce pas ? Nous n’avons pas besoin de beaucoup de personnes, nous n’avons pas besoin de grandes données, nous n’avons pas besoin de grandes méthodes statistiques quantitatives pour répondre à certaines questions très essentielles que nous nous posons sur la vie sociale, y compris l’école. Et, à bien des égards, vous savez, même en observant les comportements, les relations et les interactions sociales d’un individu, nous pouvons en fait théoriser une grande partie de ce qui se passe, n’est-ce pas ? Donc pour moi, c’est un peu comme une évidence.

Pasi Sahlberg:  24:34
Oui, c’est vrai. Mais, vous savez, j’ai fait cette expérience, encore une fois, dans mes conférences et mes ateliers, j’ai un petit clip vidéo, d’environ deux minutes, c’est une solution unique qui promet d’améliorer les résultats et de réduire les abandons dans le système. Si vous vous fiez à cela, c’est une sorte d’algorithme de machine intelligente qui examine comment les enfants répondent à des questions à choix multiples. Et le prix de celui-ci sera probablement de quelques centaines de milliers de dollars, ou quelque chose comme ça. Mais vous savez, si la promesse est la suivante, et ce qu’ils peuvent montrer maintenant, c’est que quand cela a été utilisé dans certains des États ou districts, ce qui s’est passé, vous savez, tout, toutes les courbes augmentent, alors, bien sûr, le, vous savez, même si c’est une évidence pour vous ou moi, alors vous aurez quelqu’un là-bas qui sera tenu responsable, Je parle des autorités du système, et il ou elle a promis de, vous savez, faire toutes ces améliorations miraculeuses dans le système, et cette personne sait que, c’est probablement très difficile de faire cela en, vous savez, juste, vous savez, parler aux gens, aux enseignants, et essayer un peu plus fort. Il est donc très, très probable que cela se produise, vous savez, à l’échelle mondiale, que les gens finiront par, vous savez, s’engager dans les solutions qui vous promettent beaucoup, et, et probablement, vous savez, probablement, vous savez, par voir une amélioration des résultats, mais cela n’a rien à voir, ou très peu en rapport avec l’apprentissage, en fait, vous savez, comment les enfants, quel type d’enfants nous sortons du système, tout comme vous l’avez dit, que, vous savez, l’éducation est beaucoup, beaucoup plus une question de relation, beaucoup plus une question de, vous savez, comprendre qui nous sommes, et, vous savez, comment nous apprenons, ou ce que nous allons faire. Et encore une fois, c’est là que les machines sont bien pires que les humains. Et les grandes données sont limitées, vous savez, les grandes données ont un pouvoir limité pour faire ces choses que nous pouvons faire. Et c’est là que se trouve l’énorme opportunité pour les petites données.

Will Brehm:  26:26
Je voudrais donc poser quelques questions sur cette idée, je pense, que la Finlande est en quelque sorte l’un des pays vers lesquels les autres pays devraient se tourner, pour réparer leurs, vous savez, systèmes d’éducation soi-disant défaillants, comme, d’où vient ce mythe de la Finlande ? Et pensez-vous vraiment que c’est vrai ? Ou est-ce qu’il y a du vrai là-dedans ? Ou est-ce que, vous savez, c’est juste un mythe?

Pasi Sahlberg:  26:49
Non, je pense que comme je l’écris dans mon livre, il y a des mythes très dangereux sur la Finlande que, vous savez, tout le monde devrait éviter. Et c’est pourquoi je l’utilise comme une sorte de quatrième grande idée pour tout système éducatif : essayer de s’améliorer, c’est se tenir à l’écart de ces mythes dont on entend souvent parler sur la Finlande. Certaines de ces choses très dangereuses sont des choses comme, il n’y a pas de devoirs en Finlande, que les gens ont vu dans des films documentaires, et lu dans les journaux du monde entier. Vous savez, j’ai rencontré des dirigeants du système éducatif, me demandant personnellement si ce serait une bonne idée dans leur propre système de faire ce que la Finlande a fait, et, vous savez, de rendre les devoirs illégaux, et ce sera une chose extrêmement nuisible, folle, folle à faire. Et puis, bien sûr, l’autre chose, le mythe très répandu sur la Finlande est que le pays renonce à enseigner des matières qui, à l’avenir, ne seront plus que des thèmes ou des sujets, des sortes de projets que nous faisons. Et c’est encore une fois, comme je l’ai décrit dans le livre, que ce n’est pas vrai du tout. Il y a donc une sorte de malentendu, des mythes, vous savez, sur ce que fait la Finlande, c’est souvent simplement à cause du mauvais journalisme. Parfois, les gens écrivent ces histoires sans visiter le pays, ou sans parler à qui que ce soit, parfois, vous savez, pour avancer ces idées folles qui font les gros titres.

Mais ce que j’ai appris en travaillant sur ce livre, et en fait sur plusieurs de mes livres, c’est qu’il est très difficile de comprendre, de vraiment comprendre un système éducatif, qu’il soit japonais, finlandais ou américain, au point que vous pourriez vraiment avoir une bonne discussion sur, vous savez, pourquoi ce système fonctionne comme il le fait. Et c’est pourquoi il est très facile d’inventer ce mythe de, vous savez, ceci et cela, en disant que, vous savez, c’est ce que fait le système, mais je pense, vous savez, que c’est triste. Je pense qu’il y a aussi des choses très utiles et intéressantes dans le système éducatif finlandais, comme dans beaucoup d’autres, probablement la plupart des systèmes éducatifs ont quelque chose d’intéressant qu’ils font, que d’autres ne font pas vraiment. Mais, bien sûr, parce que tout le monde a prêté beaucoup d’attention à la Finlande, vous savez, ce, le travail pour identifier ces choses ici en Finlande a été beaucoup plus actif que dans les systèmes, par exemple, quand personne n’est intéressé à, vous savez, demander ces choses. Et c’est pourquoi je pense que nous devons être très prudents dans l’identification de ces choses qui peuvent être utiles. Et, et ce livre ” Le leadership terminé ” est en fait ce que j’ai écrit, parce qu’il y avait des gens qui se demandaient, donc si ce n’est pas vrai, ce que j’ai lu dans les nouvelles ou vu dans les films ou les documentaires, y a-t-il quelque chose que je puisse faire si je suis inspiré par ce que la Finlande a fait. Et évidemment, il n’est pas possible d’avoir un système mondial performant, un système d’éducation par accident, ils sont toujours, vous savez, c’est la même chose avec le Japon, et le Canada, et la Finlande et d’autres pays l’ont, il y a toujours quelque chose que le système a fait pour y arriver, cela ne peut pas s’expliquer par le simple fait d’être bon par accident, ce n’est pas possible.

Will Brehm:  29:54
Donc, dans votre conversation avec George Pataki au cours de cette conférence il y a quelques années, cette petite conversation que vous avez, et donc peut-être que George n’a rien appris de vous, n’est-ce pas ? C’était juste une petite conversation, mais avez-vous appris quelque chose de George?

Pasi Sahlberg:  30:09
Je suis une personne plutôt optimiste, j’ai toujours essayé de tout apprendre des occasions et vous savez, bien sûr, vous savez, j’ai aussi passé une bonne partie de ma vie, non pas en politique, mais dans le monde politique et le travail politique est toujours très étroitement lié à la politique. Et je suppose que ce que j’ai appris de George, encore une fois, c’est qu’il est facile de se cacher derrière son type de pouvoir politique, d’influence politique et d’expérience politique quand il s’agit d’éducation. Mais vous pouvez trouver cette rhétorique très facilement. Et je l’admire un peu quand j’ai écouté son discours d’ouverture à la conférence, comment un politicien expérimenté, vous savez, même après les 45 minutes que nous avons eues, quand il a entendu quelque chose qui, à presque 180 degrés contre ce qu’il pensait et croyait, mais il peut encore marcher jusqu’au podium et, vous savez, parler de ces choses-là exactement, comme il me l’a dit, vous savez, quel est le problème en Amérique, et, vous savez, c’est à propos des mauvais professeurs, et, vous savez, nous devons les licencier et l’Amérique mérite beaucoup mieux et, vous savez, toutes ces choses que vous devez avoir certaines compétences pour être capable de faire que je serais aussi probablement beaucoup mieux dans mon propre travail, si j’avais certaines de ces compétences de vous savez, comment communiquer et, vous savez, parler de ces choses. Mais bien sûr, il n’a pas dit grand chose sur ce que je n’avais pas entendu auparavant. Donc, ce n’est pas, je n’ai pas quitté la conversation en disant que, Oh, je ne savais pas que je n’avais pas, vous savez, je n’y ai pas songé. Il s’agissait plutôt de convaincre les gens qu’il est important pour nous tous de trouver une bonne histoire, une bonne conversation et quelque chose qui, vous le savez, peut arrêter les gens pendant un certain temps et les faire réfléchir. Vous savez, c’est un mystère pour moi, de savoir si George se souvient vraiment de cette conversation, et s’il se souvient de la conversation, s’il s’en souvient, c’est de la même manière que moi. Il raconte probablement la même histoire à ses collègues en disant que, vous savez, ce Finlandais était exactement sur la même longueur d’onde que moi. Et, vous savez, il a parlé de ces choses de la même manière, je ne sais pas. Mais quoi qu’il en soit, je pense que la conversation est, c’est bien d’avoir ça et c’est génial que nous ayons une conversation. Sans ce déjeuner avec George, je n’aurais probablement jamais écrit ce livre tel qu’il est maintenant.

Will Brehm:  32:28
Eh bien, Pasi Sahlberg, merci beaucoup d’avoir rejoint FreshEd et c’est toujours un plaisir de parler.

Pasi Sahlberg:  32:33
Merci, Will. Merci beaucoup.

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Ever since the 1983 Nation at Risk report, America has seemingly gone through one educational reform after another. Have these reforms worked? My guest today, Paul Reville, thinks the reforms have correctly focused on the goals of excellence and equity but have not addressed the systemic problems impacting schools.

Paul Reville is the founding director of the Education Redesign Lab at the Harvard. Prior to his time at Harvard, he was the Education Secretary for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. As Governor Patrick’s top education adviser, Paul brings valuable insights to his work of the real-life political challenges that sometimes slow educational change.

Paul is the Francis Keppel Professor of Practice of Educational Policy and Administration at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Citation: Reville, Paul, interview with Will Brehm, FreshEd, 96, podcast audio, November 20, 2017. https://www.freshedpodcast.com/paulreville/

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