Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Can America Learn from the Finland Education System?

My husband found this article about education in Finland and thought I would be interested in it.  It is a long read so I will try to capture a bit of it, but encourage all of you to read this.

This article from The Atlantic follows Pasi Sahlberg, director of the Finnish Ministry of Education's Center for International Mobility and author of the new book Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland? .

I will use a few bullet points.
  • America needs to improve its education system.
  • Finland's students are turning out some of the best scores in the world.
  • What America keeps ignoring about Finland's successful educational system.
  • Finnish schools assign less homework and engage children in creative play.
  • There are no private schools in Finland (only a small number of independent schools that are publicly funded.
  • None is allowed to charge tuition fees...this goes for the universities too.
  • There are no standardized tests, except the National Matriculation Exam given at the end of what would be our high school.
  • Teachers are trained to assess their students in their own classrooms.
  • Accountability is something that is left when responsibility has been subtracted.
  • In Finland all teachers and administrators are given prestige, decent pay, and a lot of responsibility.
  • There are no lists of best schools or teachers in Finland. The main driver of education policy is not competition between teachers and between schools, but cooperation.
  • The goal of the education system in Finland, resulting in so much success today, is not  excellence. It is equity.
The article does mention that Finland is not at all like the United States...that some of the ideas would never work in the United States.  But I wonder....Why not?


  1. I have bookmarked the article as your synopsis got me interested in reading more. Thank you for posing your question as systematic change is always possible especially with data such as this.

  2. I enjoyed reading your post and I read the article as well. I think it's interesting and aligns nicely with the way I think. I passed the link along to my principal as well. Thanks for sharing this today!

  3. Fascinating read. But how to address equity in a country that prides itself on diversity? Or are the two not mutually exclusive? Thanks for the deep thoughts. :)

  4. I am also going to read this article. I remember reading a while back that children are put into tracks at a young age and not all have the opportunity to go to the university. I will read this article. Amen to the standardized test deal. I also am going to read it today and send it on. xo

  5. If the right people would read these articles perhaps we might get effective change. Lots to think about.

  6. Hmm...Interesting post and interesting article. I am going to send it to my state senator. He seems to listen better than most.

  7. Thanks for sharing - I'll definitely read the whole article. I know what works in some countries might not be applicable here, but you just can't tell me that MUCH of it wouldn't work!!! Why not give something different a chance????

  8. I've been following this for a while now...they are doing amazing stuff in Finland.

  9. Interesting. Thanks for sharing.

  10. I've been doing a lot of reading about Finland's school and our own. We do have much to learn from their education system, and we have much that is good in ours. I think what sticks with me the most is the emphasis on equity. I'm not sure most of our country wants equity for our children, but I think it would be a good place to start with more meaningful reform. We just need to remember L'ELngle's lesson from A WRINKLE IN TIME. Equal does not mean the same as like.

  11. I have seen a bit of the article and it is important. There is an article in our paper today that states children less creative than they were a number of years ago. Part of the reason may be tv and video games but a big reason is the lack of the arts and creative work done in schools now because we must teach to the test!
    Ugh - when will the higher-ups look past their budgets and see what kids actually need??

  12. Some interesting points. I just know we're still not doing it right. Every 5 years things change again. I guess we're trying, but at whose cost?

  13. I've been fascinated by some of the conversations around the schools in Finland. These two statements you made really struck me:

    "There are no lists of best schools or teachers in Finland. The main driver of education policy is not competition between teachers and between schools, but cooperation.

    The goal of the education system in Finland, resulting in so much success today, is not excellence. It is equity."

    Today a friend posted this article from NCTE about "machine scoring" of writing:

    Interesting. I just keep wondering if our educational system, in its quest for data, is measuring what we truly value in education. We're a country whose success can be attributed in many ways to innovation and creativity, but is that what we're providing opportunities for in our classrooms? Can we be held to the standard of teaching creativity, communication, collaboration, and critical thinking in a time where we have so many standardized tests in place to measure narrow skill sets?

    Lots to ponder....


  14. Sometimes it feels like giving teachers prestige to go with the massive responsibility we have is almost too much to ask for. I am a committed teacher who wants improvement from my students as well as giving them opportunities and well-rounded education. Unfortunately, the people in the trenches aren't making the upper level decisions...Soooo frustrating!

  15. Years ago when I attended school in Finland, I only had the one standardized test in 12 years! How I wish that were true for my students.