We live in exciting times. This adage is often used when nobody really seems to know what is going to happen next. The new global political order has led many of us to accept that anything can happen. Heraclitus was right: everything changes but change itself.
This is a challenge for those in the teaching profession. Again schools are called to help when nations derail from business as usual. Curriculum reforms, higher performance standards, and hard evidence-based policies have become routine solutions for governments to combat failing economies and emerging social problems that come with them.
During my travels I am frequently asked where to look at next in school education in the world. Finland, Canada and Singapore have been the main stage players recently. Indeed, students learn well, and new curricula to respond the needs of the new world order are currently being implemented in these countries.
But I have also learnt that interesting things happen in schools everywhere. I’ve witnessed outstanding public schools in China, Brazil, Iceland and Australia, just to mention a few. When all children come to school curious, ready to explore new ways of learning, and schools engaging in deeper learning, I become hopeful.
In June, I visited New Zealand to learn more about what Kiwi colleagues told me is a much welcomed turning point for teachers and children. Meeting with hundreds of educators and visiting several schools, I found they were full of excitement and empowerment. I am not the only one who is following how this whole-system turnaround will play out in New Zealand. The world is watching.
It is important not just to do right things, but to do things right. Reclaiming the promise of good and purposeful learning for all children by relying more on teachers’ collective professional wisdom is the better way than relentlessly pushing for higher standards through competition and accountability.
This first issue of Ako celebrates the new era of trust in schools and importance of teachers’ voice in moving the profession forward. Ako, or learning from one another, is the greatest opportunity we have – as nations and as their citizens – to provide all children with the great school they deserve. I hope you read this inaugural issue and that the stories from colleagues speak to you and leave you inspired as I am after writing these words to you.
Pasi Sahlberg is a Finnish educator and author who has worked as a schoolteacher, teacher educator, researcher, and policy advisor in Finland and has studied education systems, analysed education policies, and advised education reforms around the world. He is currently Professor of Education Policy at the Gonski Institute for Education, University of New South Wales in Sydney.