Home > Uncategorized > GERM: A New and Scary Acronym

GERM: A New and Scary Acronym

December 30, 2012

Over the past several months I have read several articles about the Global Education Reform Movement or GERM. As one who is slow to adopt any concept that smacks of a conspiracy theory, I was skeptical that there was a GLOBAL reform movement afoot, even though over the past several months I have become increasingly convinced that private businesses are promoting a corrosive privatization agenda.

TES, an English publication, recently published a lengthy article on GERM titled “Dissemination or Contamination?” that is very persuasive in making the case that a global movement DOES exist… and it is turning every education system into one modelled on our schools. The article describes the effect international tests have had on government policies in the developed world. It indicates that the advocates of the tests argue that they can be used by governments to identify “best practices” that could be replicated in their won nation thus “disseminating” ways to improve instruction. On the other hand, the author indicates that these standardized tests— like all standardized tests— prove what we already know: the effects of the parents and the culture outweigh any effects of teachers or the school. Worse, while the tests are not designed to measure school effectiveness, that is precisely how the media reports on them and precisely how politicians react to the results. So, in order to improve their standing in the eyes of the public and the politicians who provide funding, teachers teach to the test and the curriculum in “low performing schools” is narrowed as teachers strive to overcome effects.

Not to sound like a broken record… but the biggest problem with the testing mania is its inextricable link to age-based grade cohorts. We know that many children begin school with vocabulary and learning deficits because they come from homes where the parents do not communicate with their children or read to them. These children CAN learn as much as their advantaged counterparts IF they are given sufficient time and instruction that matches their ability and ways of learning. The current model of schooling, however, calls these children “failures” if they fail to learn at the same rate and test administrators insist that their test results are only valid if they are administered to students within an age cohort.

The other problems with the GERM model are described in these  paragraphs:

Resistance is mounting to this “disease” among concerned educationalists from as far afield as Finland, New Zealand and Scotland. They are alarmed that its symptoms of competition, choice and constant measurements of teacher and pupil performance are leading to a homogenised, Americanised or anglicised global schools system that ignores many of the most important things in education. They argue that it has narrowed curricula, brought in an excess of testing and is making pupils’ lives a pressurised hell.

“It is like an epidemic that spreads and infects education systems through a virus,” according to Pasi Sahlberg, the Finnish education official who coined the acronym Germ. “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.”

Until we break free of the lockstep approach to learning that is reinforced by the testing implicit in GERM.

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  1. March 30, 2015 at 10:58 am

    Hi Wayne, thanks for this! I’ve just seen the term GERM on Twitter and it was new to me so googled it and came up with this post 🙂 I’ve recently Guest Posted on Nancy Baileys Education Website on this very theme!

  1. January 16, 2018 at 12:07 pm
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