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Education in Finland

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Lisa Champion

on 21 July 2013

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Transcript of Education in Finland

What makes Finland's Educational System One of the Best in the World?
Tip of the Iceberg: Education in Finland
By Lisa Champion: University of North Alabama 2013
Key Policies in Finnish Education
A broad commitment to a vision of knowledge-based society
Education equality-All schools are public schools and receive equal funding
Devolution to decision making power to local level
Common,consistent long-term policies
Culture of trust
Finland's Culture
30 years ago, Finland's education system was much like the United States education system today. With Finland's increased independence from Sweden and Russian influence, the government decided to base its economy on knowledge.
Finland has been ranked in the top 3 countries for educational success since PISA's beginnings in 2000.
Let's Ask Some People
I had the opportunity to ask several online friends from Finland what they thought about their countries educational system and if they would change anything. They replied that their children had fun and were learning so why would they change anything?
I also asked some online friends from Sweden. They were very dismissive about Finland. They replied that the Finnish owed much to Sweden. I found out later that Sweden and Finland have some political history.
Finally, with all the connections to CCSS and Pearson, I thought I would ask the head of Stop Common Core in Alabama what she thought of Finnish Education (after I shared some information with her), and she was very quick to dismiss Finland as having any validity to the educational debate because they were a small country with few immigrants. (so is Denmark and Norway and their PISA scores are found in the middle with the U.S)

What questions remain?
Applications to my classroom and other U.S. Teachers
PISA (Program of International Student Assessment)
What is PISA?
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) began PISA in 2000. A test is given to a random sample of students ages 15-16 in 70 countries. Countries are ranked in
Reading, Math, and Science.
Produces internationally agreed
instruments, decisions, and
recommendations for public
service and corporate activity,
accepts principles of
representative democracy and
a free market economy.

Has very close ties to Pearson.
What other countries are at the
top of the list?

What about The United States?
China (along with Korea and Hong Kong consistently rank in the top 4 countries in PISA.

Why do they do so well?
Shanghai is the only region tested in China. It is the business center of China with 20.7 million people.
China, Korea, and Hong Kong students typically go to school 5-6 days a week from 7-4 p.m.
Many attend "cram" schools where the goal is...
Focusing on rote memorization and test taking skills.
Education is not equitable. Many private schools are available for the wealthy.
Asian culture stresses extrinsic motivation and believe high-scores equal success.
The U.S. has consistently ranked in the middle. The U.S dropped 15 places from 3 years ago and now averages 26th.
The United States is seeking to reform education to "Race to the Top."
The U.S. tends to look at Asian countries as models of success
The United States
Why are schools in Finland so successful?
This website is actually an American-based society that wants to promote Asian and America success. This site lists Asian success on PISA because of four reasons. 1. Rigorous standard and coherent curriculum. 2. An agenda of equity and excellence. 3. Best candidates recruited and trained for teachers and principals. 4. Emphasis on science and math. The terms rigorous and coherent sounded a little bit too much like the CCSS, so I looked into the site more. The site was started by Rockefellar in NYC, and it has ties with the CCSS.
Notice the tie to Pearson and OECD? I think there may be a hidden voice in the OECD website.
Why don't we look at Finnish Schools?
Key Elements in Finnish Education
Homework is not assigned. Kids should have time bo be kids.
Classwork focuses on creativity
All schools are public schools
No standardized testing (with the exception of High School Exit Exam)
Equity is stressed over excellence
Focus on total well being of children
Positive Learning Environment-small classes, students encouraged to play, arts are encouraged and enjoyed
Trust--Less than 1% of students drop out and teacher attrition in less than 1%
Teachers must have a masters degree
Teacher training schools require educational theory and many hours of classroom practice
Teachers are respected as much as lawyers and doctors
Schools of education are hard to enter
Teachers design the curriculum at the local level.
Student welfare teams meet weekly to talk about students.They are concerned with the whole child based on teacher observations.
Around 40-50% of students will
require some sort of special education services at some point in
Special education teachers are more respected and receive more training than general education teachers
Students may receive special services based on weekly welfare meetings and those services may be based on behavior, home stress, multi-cultural gaps, and not just academics alone.
Accountability is something that is left when responsibility has been subtracted.
Trust and Respect are Cornerstones
of Finnish Education
The Finnish culture believes in supporting families.
Society values children and their advancement.
Education is free by law, including books, transportation, and meals.
They believe the future of the country depends on innovation.
Why aren't we looking at Finland for a model of education excellence?
The biggest question I have is:Why is the U.S not looking at the strategies Finland is using to improve education? Some would argue that the U.S. education reform is based on corporations looking to make money on new curriculum (new textbooks and training) and assessment (also equals more money). And while I did find some connections from big publishers like Pearson to OECD, and ultimately PISA, there is not enough evidence there to make a case. I do see evidence of Finland using best practices for education that are research based. Equality for students, no high-stakes testing, creative and positive learning environments...and if that is the case, and they are successful, why don't we read and hear more about how we can apply those strategies?

I really cannot say how I would do this study differently if I were to do it again because I think the questions I have merit more investigation. I do support the ideas of the CCSS, but I do not believe in high-stakes testing. I want to continue looking into the corporate connection of education in the United States. I don't disagree with the idea that business and government should have input into education. Finland basis its education system on the needs of their economy. But I would like to know if the motivation is more about greed than best practices for our students.
I see that Finland has successfully implemented many teaching strategies that I can incorporate into my classroom. Just like Finnish schools, I believe in the importance of incorporating creativity into my lessons. Students should enjoy coming to school and have fun learning. I need to look at the entire child to determine what he/she needs. I cannot just use test scores to determine if one of my students is struggling. I can employ best practices in my classroom without emphasizing teaching to the test, and like Finland, maybe my students' scores will be acceptable to those who care. I can care more about the well-being of my students as a whole and assess their growth in other ways besides high-stakes testing. Finland builds its educational system on a basis of trust and respect. While I cannot control how others see teaching or my profession, I can incorporate respect into how I interact with other people, including peers or administrators who may disagree with me, and I can show respect and trust to my students. "Whatever it takes" can describe Finland's dedication to student success, and I can adopt that philosophy into my classroom.

Looking at the educational philosophies of other cultures is an excellent way to examine what is
important to our own culture of learning and education.
Online References:












Journal Articles
Hancock, L. (2011). A+ for Finland. Smithsonian 42(5). 94-102.
Sahlberg,P. (2011). Lessons from Finland. American Educator 35(2). 34-38.
Takala, M., Pirttimaa,R., Tormanen, M. (2009). Inclusived special education: The role of special education teachers in Finland. British Journal of Special Education 36(3). 162-172.
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