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From Finland, an Intriguing School-Reform Model -

Stashed in: Young Americans, Education!, Awesome, teachers, Schools, Nordic!

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In his country, Dr. Sahlberg said later in an interview, teachers typically spend about four hours a day in the classroom, and are paid to spend two hours a week on professional development. At the University of Helsinki, where he teaches, 2,400 people competed last year for 120 slots in the (fully subsidized) master’s program for schoolteachers. “It’s more difficult getting into teacher education than law or medicine,” he said.


He emphasized that Finland’s success is one of basic education, from age 7 until 16, at which point 95 percent of the country goes on to vocational or academic high schools. “The primary aim of education is to serve as an equalizing instrument for society,” he said.

Dr. Sahlberg said another reason the system had succeeded was that “only dead fish follow the stream” — a Finnish expression.

Finland is going against the tide of the “global education reform movement,” which is based on core subjects, competition, standardization, test-based accountability, control.

“Education policies here are always written to be ‘the best’ or ‘the top this or that,’ ” he said. “We’re not like that. We want to be better than the Swedes. That’s enough for us.”


Yes, education is the great equalizer.

This was the most interesting part for me:

“Thirty years ago, Finland’s education system was a mess. It was quite mediocre, very inequitable. It had a lot of features our system has: very top-down testing, extensive tracking, highly variable teachers, and they managed to reboot the whole system.”

Interesting article... what caught my attention was the part of the article that says “The first six years of education [in Finland] are not about academic success ... [they] don’t measure children at all. It’s about being ready to learn and finding your passion.”

In contrast, the U.S. -- especially in K-12 -- relies heavily on standardized testing and the results of these tests... compared to the Finnish model, the U.S. education system is over-tested and under-assessed. In higher ed (post-secondary), there has been a ton of debate around "what is quality" and "how can we define quality" metrics so that we can actually assess them. The risk from K-12 experience is that we have done this, and the current "standards" -- as measured by the current testing system -- focuses on a narrow part of the curriculum, is expensive and leads to teaching to the tests as opposed to the Finnish model of making sure kids spend the first part of their education experiences learning to love learning.

That being said, not sure that successes from a homogeneous and much smaller -- and better funded -- education system like Finland's are easily portable to a country as large as the U.S. ... but interesting point made about evaluating whether it can be applied at a smaller scale on a state level...

K-12 is such a different market than post-secondary... really interesting article.

I found this article through Joyce's stashed Atlantic article: , so hat tip to her.

They do mention in the Atlantic article, I believe, that although not comparable to the united states as a whole, individual states could adopt some of the polices, processes and methods that have been successful in finand to their state.

 If it can work at a smaller scale, it should be able to work at a larger scale, no? Break down education to its smallest piece, and our smallest piece (student and teacher in a classroom setting) is no different than Finland's. 

There are simply too many incumbents that stand in the way of this: Pearson, for one, and every major education company that has politicians in its back pocket. 

It's clear from reading Salman Khan's One Room Schoolhouse, stories about success of Finland's schools, and Outliers that the answers are so simple, yet so financially daunting for the incumbents. 

More days in school. 

Much less testing, if any at all.

Focus on apprenticeship and "mastery" learning.

Increased focus on teacher funnel, certification, and training including better pay (which, of course, would be a natural corollary to increased school days).

It could be easy, but we make it hard because of entrenched corporate interests: with Pearson funding the "education reform" movement, hope is scarce to see a true and unique difference in this arena.

Change must come from the bottom, and not the top. 

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