Finland is the envy of the world because it has schools in which children start reading at seven, where teachers have high social status, where autonomy and self-reliance is encouraged from an early age, where the curriculm includes manual skills such as woodwork, welding and cookery, and where, above all, there is NO stress and NO homework. It’s the opposite of the Chinese model, with its emphasis on rote-learning, tests and after-school tutoring. That system, which I was embedded in from age three to 12, is being imported by stealth into western school systems through the rise of Chinese language instruction. By this I mean that there isn’t a fun way to learn Chinese: in order to learn it well, you basically have to imitate Chinese learning behaviours. Or perhaps if there is, only the Finns know the secret.

Links: Video of a math teacher who taught himself to write upside down for tutoring.

Stephen Downes on Online Learning Trends. “The personal learning environment is more of a conferencing tool than it is a content tool. The focus of a personal learning environment is more on creation and communication than it is consumption and completion.” PLE’s and informal learning are – interestingly enough – the diametric opposite of the whole “how to” mindset which is popular on highly trafficked blogs and the mainstrea media. (eg “How to Get Green in 10 Easy Steps” etc)

Bill Gates’ latest talk at TED in which the second half of his presentation is devoted to what makes a great teacher.