New Zealand is still recovering from the shock of sliding in the PISA rankings. In the 2013 results that came out last week, the country slipped from 7th to 13th in reading, 7th to 18th in science, and 13th to 23rd in maths. Some academics may query the accuracy of the testing, or indeed the validity of comparing countries to one another. However, with a drop as significant as that, education experts should sit up and take notice.
And take notice they did. Some called for the immediate abolition of National Standards. Others pointed out problems in the secondary school grading system. Some said we should pay attention to the underperformers while others cautioned against “chasing the tail” at the cost of not nurturing the achievers.
But what we tend to forget is that we should learn from the countries who top the charts in education. And so, here are the five habits of well-educated countries:
1. Learning Culture
"Asian Tigers" understand the importance of school and learning. Children in those cultures are encourages (perhaps even too enthusiastically) to do their best in reading, writing, maths, science and music.
In contrast New Zealand, Australia, Great Britain - just to name a few - are Western countries known for encouraging their children to win on the sports field while neglecting to instill the same kind of competitive spirit in the classroom. In fact, your child might bring home a report suggesting (in the nicest possible way, the way today's school reports are phrased) that your child should stop comparing themselves to others, and instead of trying to best their classmates at maths, they should simply concentrate on besting themselves.
It's a noble concept, that, but without a competitive spirit and without the hunger to win, your chances of topping the charts diminish, whether it's school, business or rugby we're talking about.
Imagine the All Blacks coach telling his players they shouldn't try to be better than South Africa - they should just go into the game trying to play better than they did last year....
2. Valuing Teachers
Countries that do well in education have a healthy respect for the teaching profession. Children look up to their teachers and try to please them. Governments pay them a good salary. Fathers of brides say: "Thank goodness my daughter is marrying a teacher, not a lawyer."
3. Learning Styles
No country can expect to do well if they think they can apply one mould and one measure to every child. Read about Learning Styles on this page, and discover your own child's learning style here.
Where are we failing? Why? What can we do better? What can we learn from other countries? These are just some of the questions successful educators ask.
5. Celebrate Success
Celebrating achievement is an important part of the learning journey. Reward big and small milestones, praise effort and determination, schedule complete breaks from learning. The children have earned it!