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Insights from world-class learning systems

ACER news 5 minute read

ACER Chief Executive Professor Geoff Masters is sharing insights from his latest research in a special Teacher podcast miniseries.

In Part 1 of the miniseries, published today, Professor Masters and Teacher editor Jo Earp discuss how 5 high performing school systems – in British Columbia, Estonia, Finland, Hong Kong and South Korea – are responding to 2 common challenges: better preparing young people for the future and ensuring every student learns successfully.

In the podcast, Professor Masters explains that, despite those systems’ strong achievement in studies like the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment, ‘They believe are not doing the job that they might be doing in providing young people with the best possible preparation for the future.

‘They also recognise that large numbers of young people, even in these very top performing systems, are left behind in their learning and end up not achieving the kinds of outcomes that they will require if they're to function effectively in life beyond school.’

Professor Masters’ latest book, Building a world class learning system: insights from some top performing school systems, is the result of a multi-year study commissioned by the United States’ National Centre on Education and the Economy. The study revealed that these 5 school systems have all been on trajectories of reform, in most cases for several decades, and their paths are continuing.

‘They all recognise that if you are going to transform teaching and learning in schools to address the challenges that we now face, we need to transform the structures within which schools work. And that's not always recognised around the world,’ Professor Masters said.

‘You see many countries that undertake reforms that amount to nothing more than tweaking what they currently have, making minor modifications to existing arrangements, not engaging in deep reform; often looking to teachers to solve the problem, concluding that the problem must be the quality of teachers, the kinds of teaching methods that are being used.’

Professor Masters told Teacher these 5 systems are transforming their curricula to give greater priority to skills, competencies and personal attributes, and integrate them with subject learning. They also have an increased focus on developing students’ deeper understandings and abilities to transfer and apply these understandings to unseen contexts.

‘They are all looking at how they can reform their curricula to be more holistic in their approach, to focus on the whole student, not on narrow memorisation and reproduction. And then, in addition to that, they're also looking at how they can make their curriculum more flexible for the purposes of ensuring that every student learns successfully,’ Professor Masters said.

‘All of that has implications for how learning itself is conceptualised and assessed and reported. So, they're all focused on these big challenges.’

ACER has embarked on an ambitious agenda to redefine learning and transform learning systems so that everyone can succeed. Our evidence-based mapping of long-term learning progress is helping transform curriculum, instruction, assessment and teacher education.

We work with national and international partners, such as the Emirates School Establishment, in shaping policy to transform learning systems so that every learner progresses and can achieve high standards.

Find out more:

Listen to the full podcast or read the transcript at Teacher magazine.

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