The Quirky Strengths of Finnish Education

If you enjoy puzzling over what makes for effective education, this story from Smithsonian magazine, entitled “Why Are Finland’s Schools Successful?,” will strike your fancy.  As past stories referenced on this blog have shown, there is a major debate in America over what makes for good teaching.  Is it having bright minds teach children?  Small classroom sizes?  Individualized instruction?  Not having standardized tests?  Having standardized tests?  Same-sex classrooms?

This article by LynNell Hancock does not definitively answer all of these questions.  It does, however, showcase the impressive accomplishments of Finnish schools:

The transformation of the Finns’ education system began some 40 years ago as the key propellent of the country’s economic recovery plan. Educators had little idea it was so successful until 2000, when the first results from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), a standardized test given to 15-year-olds in more than 40 global venues, revealed Finnish youth to be the best young readers in the world. Three years later, they led in math. By 2006, Finland was first out of 57 countries (and a few cities) in science. In the 2009 PISA scores released last year, the nation came in second in science, third in reading and sixth in math among nearly half a million students worldwide. “I’m still surprised,” said Arjariita Heikkinen, principal of a Helsinki comprehensive school. “I didn’t realize we were thatgood.”

Those whose children spend long hours in American classrooms may find this interesting:

Teachers in Finland spend fewer hours at school each day and spend less time in classrooms than American teachers. Teachers use the extra time to build curriculums and assess their students. Children spend far more time playing outside, even in the depths of winter. Homework is minimal. Compulsory schooling does not begin until age 7. “We have no hurry,” said Louhivuori. “Children learn better when they are ready. Why stress them out?”

Read the whole thing.  Much to chew on here.

(Image: Stuart Conway)

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “The Quirky Strengths of Finnish Education

  1. Patrick Schreiner

    Fascinating article. I skimmed it, but what struck me is that the government is spending what sounds like a lot. With the amount of money our government is spending already, it would be near impossible to pull off in America. I do like the fact that they gave the teachers more authority etc etc

  2. owenstrachan

    True. The expenditures are huge. I’m not a fan of that in the least. Interesting to read about, and there are some other things teachers are doing to connect. Good thoughts.

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