Follow-Up to the Introduction/Conclusion Post

After having read my previous post about the legitimacy of the five-paragraph essay, one of my readers (and good friends) had a rebuttal: while the 5-paragraph essay may not the most applicable writing format for students to learn, it does have its own strengths. For instance, it teaches students to focus their attention on a single topic, and to remain steadfast on that topic as their text progresses. It gets them to outline their arguments, and to be fully aware of what they plan on writing before they go and write it. (In other words, to see the forest through the trees.)

When she brought up this point, I then brought up some counter-points of mine own. But it turns out that we’re actually in full agreement on this issue, and on each others’ points. You see, the 5-paragraph essay actually does provide some valuable lessons for our students. And let’s face it: especially given some of our large class sizes, these essays are the easiest and simplest to correct and teach. (But that hints at a whole ‘nother issue!) But this is the not the only way of teaching those lessons. And this is in no way the only way in which people write. So it would be best to teach this format at the beginning of high school, but only for a few months. Once the students “get the message” about the importance of structure and flow, we can then diversify, show them the other formats for the rest of their years in high school.

In other (but related) news, I just saw this post on

Notice how whatisan...’s second paragraph about school runs counter to her first paragraph about how “good writers” act! I find this striking (no less because of the juxtaposition of these arguments!) This, to me, shows how there’s this organizational culture at school that emphasizes following the rules, and getting a good grade, over doing the right thing.

It’s not just a PIS-A cake

Unfortunately, when people want to “prove” that Finnish students are doing better than their counterparts (which in many senses, I believe they are) all they have available is PISA scores from the OECD.

When I was 15, I was actually one of the student participants in the 2006 study. I remember they tested us on science, math, and reading comprehension. By themselves, these aren’t exactly bad things to measure, but they leave much to be desired. They do not give a comprehensive picture of how well our students are succeeding.

I believe we need more, better, and more well-rounded ways to compare our educational systems the world over. No one test can do all of that, so we need to have a multitude of tests that serve as checks and balances for one another.

Do any of you feel the same way? Do any of you know of any other international studies which have compared students from one country to another?