The P2P project is an eLearning project and peer reviews took place between education ministry officials between December 2004 and May 2005 in Northern Ireland, France and Finland. Each of the three countries visited its two peers to study the host’s ICT policies with focus on a specific theme.
The work was reported by EUN's innovation manager as a difficult exercise as it attempted to capture and reflect on all aspects of ICT in its wider educational policy context, “something which is in constant evolution and changing”.
The three countries then described what they and their ministry had gained from the visits, both as visitor and host, and the changes that had taken place as a result of P2P
For John Anderson of the Northern Ireland Department of Education, “The visits helped us benchmark our policy and strategy as well as gain professional support and mutual understanding.” Inversely they identified that they could learn from the French experience in assessing teacher competence (French competence grading scale) and the Finnish National Board of Education's leadership in raising quality and standards of educational content. The peer visit demonstrated that Northern Ireland needed to identify in an accurate way the value and impact of the investment in ICT. The next step for Northern Ireland is to develop a Virtual School – a successful project in Finland. In parallel, Northern Ireland and Finland are working to develop quality criteria in a European context.
Odile de Chalendar, of the French ministry of education, said: “The complexity of France’s networks (ICT in education network, regional coordinators, network of teachers by subjects) makes for the specificity of the French model.” The first lesson learned is that one needs time to understand the complexity of an educational context, which is why substantial background work is required when peer reviewing another country's policy. The managed services were what the peer reviewers from France thought was the key element of Northern Ireland’s successful ICT policy. What was particularly striking was the systemic approach of the Northern Ireland’s Empowering School strategy, where all ICT actors across the spectrum were following the same coordinated goals. One question raised by the French peers was about the sustainability of such a large-scale project. The most surprising aspect of the Finnish model was the fact that there is no inspectorate and that the system is based on trust. In France, the inspectorate plays a central part in evaluating ICT in schools. The Finnish model seems impossible to transfer in France. The fact that the Finnish curricula includes one distance/online course for each pupil is also a novel approach which might be replicated in several countries, forecasts Odile de Chalendar.
The P2P project, for Ella Kiesi of the Finnish National Board of Education, allowed Finnish hosts to have a better understanding of the strengths, challenges and weaknesses in their education system. Finnish peers were surprised to see what in their system was most interesting to other countries: a system based on trust. For Ella, “Each country faces the same challenges, but the solution is culture and country dependent.” The ICT managed services and the services to teachers were cited as an interesting feature of the Northern Ireland education system. In Finland, each school is responsible for implementation of ICT, which makes a centralised system, such as Northern Ireland's, hard to understand. Decisions related to ICT are taken by the whole school community and is not the responsibility of the head teacher alone. In France, Finnish peers were especially interested in the RESO strategy and its programmes (RESO is the latest information society plan in France) as well as the RIP label which helps teachers select digitised learning resources approved by the Ministry of Education. Another strong feature of the French ICT in education policy are the ICT certificates B2i, C2i to train teachers and students alike to use the Internet and ICT. Since the visit, Finland has already begun implementing change based on the P2P reviews, such as implementing teacher and head teachers training as it exists in Northern Ireland or tuning the Finnish national educational portal as regional virtual learning environments as in France.
Alan McCluskey, Chairman of the PIC and rapporteur for the P2P policy strand, presented the draft peer reviews of Northern Ireland and Finland. “Policy is not a building made out of Lego bricks, you can’t just take out pieces and hope they will transfer to your country,” he said. To understand a policy, it is necessary to understand that it is intertwined within a specific country context. This was acknowledged by all actors participating in the P2P project.
A key facet in Northern Ireland and Finland, Alan explained, is the fact that teachers are seen as highly-valued professionals. The teaching profession enjoys a high status in Northern Ireland and in Finland, where the saying is: “The teacher is a candle, a light to carry us forward,” he said.
For the rapporteur, innovation follows two different paths in Northern Ireland and Finland. In Northern Ireland, it is a ‘hard’ approach, with the centrally managed ICT services; in Finland, it is ‘softer’ with more decisions taken by the school community at local level. This model of choice results in a more integrated approach in Northern Ireland, while in Finland decisions are made at the local level in a less centralistic way and innovation is seen as a natural part of the Finnish system at all levels.
To conclude the presentation, David Wood from the University of Nottingham reflected on the present and future of the Peer 2 Peer action. The transfer of knowledge is a complex but crucial issue for peer reviewers, he explained.
In analysing the Peer to Peer process, David wood mentioned that when dealing with transferability of policies, the question of how interoperable policies are is crucial.
All actors in the P2P study concluded that work in the project has been fascinating and that new ground had been broken in peer learning. Odile de Chalendar, EUN Steering Committee Chair, suggested EUN should carry on its work in the peer review field and a number of SC members reacted positively to suggestions of further peer reviews based on the P2P model in 2006.
“A lot of learning is tacit and implicit” said David Wood, “and will only be triggered later on.” That is why peer reviewing should be a long-term process, to give it time and perspective.
Empowering Schools strategy:
Last changed: Wednesday, 05 October 2005