Working in international schools, it’s amazing to have such motivated, driven and focused students. It’s easy to forget that tradition education practices are no longer the best ways to educate these students because they are getting great test scores, they are attentive in class with little to no behavioral problems and they are being accepted to very prestigious universities. But are these students really learning, or are they just doing what’s necessary for them to make it the next step in their life, be it a transition from elementary school to middle school, high school to university or university into the workforce? Basically, are students just using school as a means to an end?


The Factory Model Of Education

Factory Workers from The U.S. National Archives

I believe the tradition education model does not encourage or foster life long learning. I believe it does not adapt well enough to every student in a school. I believe that a lot of students figure out what they have to know, then after they are tested on this knowledge they forget it and figure out what they have to remember next. Remembering is not learning. I think the sooner we acknowledge that the better.

Steve Denningbelieves that this is attributed to the factory model of education, where everything is arranged for the scalability and efficiency of “the system”, to which the students, the teachers, the parents and the administrators have to adjust. “The system” grinds forward, at ever increasing cost and declining efficiency, dispiriting students, teachers and parents alike. It rewards test scores as opposed to learning or development of knowledge. Standardized test scores are the way that students are evaluated. For the few students that can learn the content of their course in preparation for a test, can they actually adapt that knowledge? Can they analyze the information and recruit higher order thinking skills to apply the knowledge? Like Will Richardson so eloquently puts it, “high test scores do not equal learning“.


Defining Education

If we shift our thinking to change what we define success in education as, then we can redefine what education is. Prakash Nair believes we should instead define education as “developing skills to navigate a fast-changing world“. So then education should be: Teaching students how to learn.

Despite it seeming like such a daunting task to undertake, the Finnish education systems seems to be shifting in the right direction. While reading an article on about why Finnish students perform so well on standardized tests, I found what Pasi Sahlberg, a former math and physics teacher who is now in Finland’s Ministry of Education and Culture said really hit the nail on the head for me.

“We prepare children to learn how to learn,
not how to take a test.”

He goes on to say that he is not bothered by the test scores and that the education of the students is what’s most important. This is what we should be aiming for. This is where successful school will shine. This is where successful students will graduate. This is the education of the future.



A list of just some of the recommended articles that inspired this post:

  1. Steve Denning – The Single Best Idea for Reforming K-12 Education –
  2. Will Richardson – “We Prepare Children to Learn How to Learn” –
  3. Prakash Nair – The Classroom Is Obsolete: It’s Time for Something New –
  4. Lynnell Hancock – Why Are Finland’s Schools Successful? –
  5. Cathy N. Davidson – Collaborative Learning for the Digital Age –