Good School model
The Centre for Ethics of the University of Tartu and its numerous collaborators were motivated to develop the good school model in order to demonstrate that the league tables based on examination results are one-sided and can be harmful for the development of schools and cooperation between schools. Year after year, these league tables of upper secondary schools that are created on the basis of final examinations’ results provoke debates in the Estonian media. These league tables are often interpreted as if they showed how good a school is, although in fact they only show the level of students’ academic achievement by pointing out which schools have the most academically gifted students. This misinterpretation constitutes a problem.
The new national curricula for basic and upper secondary schools stress that a school has both educational and character building functions. A school should support the personal and social development of each student and the development of critical thinking, creativity and entrepreneurship. This, however, requires a novel approach to the roles of teacher and student and the recognition of the importance of cooperation on all levels. With the focus on cooperation and development in education, the understanding of the role of teacher/supervisor as an authoritarian source of academic knowledge is no longer adequate.
Besides knowledge, attitudes in the sphere of values and skills are also important. In order to bring children up as happy persons, different parties need to cooperate – schools, homes, hobby schools, youth centres, local councils, and the state. However, at the moment there are no league tables and no evaluation criteria for these activities, and as they are not evaluated, they are not acknowledged and do not receive sufficient attention.
If we have the aim of reforming the educational process, a reform of evaluation practices as applied to schools is also necessary. Teachers’ readiness to support students’ personal and social development is not enough if the success of their work is still evaluated solely on the basis of students’ academic achievement. As long as the examination results are the sole criterion of a school’s success, schools will not have sufficient motivation to develop all important aspects. Thus, it is very important that school personnel, parents and local school authorities understand that a good school is a complex phenomenon and for evaluating it different criteria and different tools are necessary.
87 Estonian experts are involved in the process of developing the good school model, including educational researchers, school principals, teachers, representatives of various unions, the Estonian Ministry for Education and Research officials and representatives of local councils.