How GERM is infecting schools around the world – The Answer Sheet – The Washington Post



As if we aren’t worried enough about Ebola, it seems that a very creepy epidemic is already well under way in our schools.  This is a very interesting article that certainly had me checking for each symptom in my current environment.  According to Pasi Sahlberg, education reforms in different countries have been following similar patterns.  He calls this common way of improvement the Global Educational Reform Movement or GERM.

“It is like an epidemic that spreads and infects education systems through a virus. It travels with pundits, media and politicians. Education systems borrow policies from others and get infected. As a consequence, schools get ill, teachers don’t feel well, and kids learn less.”

Check if you recognise any of the symptoms (excerpts from an article by Valerie Strauss )

  1. More competition within education systems
    Many reformers believe that the quality of education improves when schools compete against one another. In order to compete, schools need more autonomy, and with that autonomy comes the demand for accountability. School inspections, standardized testing of students, and evaluating teacher effectiveness are consequences of market-like competition in many school reforms today. Yet when schools compete against one another, they cooperate less.” 
  2. Increased school choice
    “It essentially positions parents as consumers empowering them to select schools for their children from several options and thereby promotes market-style competition into the system as schools seek to attract those parents. More than two-thirds of OECD countries have increased school choice opportunities for families with the perceptions that market mechanisms in education would allow equal access to high-quality schooling for all. Increasing numbers of charter schools in the United States, secondary school academies in England, free schools in Sweden and private schools in Australia are examples of expanding school choice policies. Yet according to the OECD, nations pursuing such choice have seen both a decline in academic results and an increase in school segregation.”
  3. Stronger accountability from schools and related standardised testing of students
    “Just as in the market place, many believe that holding teachers and schools accountable for students’ learning will lead to improved results. Today standardized test scores are the most common way of deciding whether schools are doing a good job. Teacher effectiveness that is measured using standardized tests is a related symptom of GERM. According to the Center for Public Education, standardized testing has increased teaching to the test, narrowed curricula to prioritize reading and mathematics, and distanced teaching from the art of pedagogy to mechanistic instruction.”

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