Step by determined step
January 4, 2013
Open Letter to the Minister for Education.
By now you have heard of education in Finland. There is little homework, few grades, long recesses, lots of free time and the teachers are paid like lawyers. The children get first over all the other children of the world, and a larger percentage of each class do better than anywhere in the world. Your temptation may be to do as the Finns do, as apparently France is. It would be a mistake. The Finns are radical but they are not sudden. They didnt brainstorm for three weeks and come up with a genius plan. They didnt (as we have repeatedly done) hire uncommitted consultants from abroad. They looked at their education system and resolved to improve it, step by determined step.
They did not bend to popular whim or silly contemporary fad. They looked very closely at what worked and what didnt. Unlike us, they embraced what worked and got rid of what didnt. (We like to do it the other way around.) And they didnt stop with the first success and consider the problem solved. They made improvement after improvement steadily, and they havent stopped yet. Their success is strange but well earned. But most importantly for any one who wants to copy it, its local. We cant copy the Finns system because we arent Finns. What we can be are Bermudians.
As Bermudians we can copy their strategy. We can look at what works for Bermudians and what doesnt, all by ourselves, without the random input of outside consultants. We can start the painstaking process of building an education culture. That will require leadership. I will ask you, as Minister, to stop the rot of racial and factional atomisation that is the bane of Bermudian political life. And it will force you to present Bermuda with the hard choices. Does public eduction work? Is private education with vouchers a better solution? Should we be paying more for better teachers? Why is the teaching profession a low status profession in Bermuda? And most costly politically; you may have to lead the country to understand that education is the most important long-term issue for Bermuda. Its position in third or fourth place of national concern is one reason we are in the mess we are in now. The person sitting next to you in a restaurant or on the bus, whoever it might be, is the natural resource of Bermuda. If you dont cultivate him or her, and they dont cultivate you, there will be darker days ahead for everyone.