Is every policy a populist policy?
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Is every policy a populist policy?

The Bangkok Post:

The Office of Basic Education Commission (Obec) plans to reduce the workload of students so that they have more time to learn outside of classrooms.

Obec, which supervises public primary and secondary schools, held a meeting on Tuesday to evaluate and improve the standard of the education system.

The new curriculum will be completed by the beginning of the next school year, which begins in May.

All Thai students will have less work in school and more times for activities. The amount of homework and projects will be adjusted accordingly and tests will be given only when necessary,”  said Obec’s secretary-general Chinnapat Bhumirat.

The Nation:

Concerned by the Education Ministry’s move to reduce homework for students, an education expert yesterday warned that such a policy must be implemented carefully, otherwise it would reduce students’ skills instead of providing more time for them to learn from different activities.

Professor Sirichai Kanjanawasee, former dean of the faculty of education at Chulalongkorn University, said he agreed with the move to reduce the amount of homework, but teachers will have to be watchful of the impact on students.

“Teachers in different subjects should discuss and plan together how they would reduce the amount of homework. For example, they could integrate a lesson on two or three subjects into one assignment. So students could practise the required skills of all these subjects in the assignment. They should adjust their teaching as well, making it more integrated with other subjects. Also, they should adjust examinations to be more integrated,” he said.

Education Minister Phongthep Thepkanjana said primary-school students had very little homework, but upper-secondary students had to do much more.

Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva sees the homework-reduction move as a “junior populist policy” that could indulge children.

Parents and students have mixed opinions

BP: Junior populist policy? Indulging children? A large amount of homework is not essential for a successful education system. One just needs to look at Finland for proof of this – see here and here – although less homework on its own won’t see replication of the Finnish system (fewer tests is also part of the Finnish model too though….). Is this the beginning of more education reform?

A key thing to note about the Finnish system is, as noted by the Smithsonian magazine:

The result is that a Finnish child has a good shot at getting the same quality education no matter whether he or she lives in a rural village or a university town.

The differences between weakest and strongest students are the smallest in the world, according to the most recent survey by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)

The Atlantic:

Since the 1980s, the main driver of Finnish education policy has been the idea that every child should have exactly the same opportunity to learn, regardless of family background, income, or geographic location. Education has been seen first and foremost not as a way to produce star performers, but as an instrument to even out social inequality.

In the Finnish view, as Sahlberg describes it, this means that schools should be healthy, safe environments for children. This starts with the basics. Finland offers all pupils free school meals, easy access to health care, psychological counseling, and individualized student guidance.

In fact, since academic excellence wasn’t a particular priority on the Finnish to-do list, when Finland’s students scored so high on the first PISA survey in 2001, many Finns thought the results must be a mistake. But subsequent PISA tests confirmed that Finland — unlike, say, very similar countries such as Norway — was producing academic excellence through its particular policy focus on equity.

BP: Very relevant to the inequality of opportunities in education that BP has blogged about.