A Conversation with a Finnish Parent about the U.S. Education System

I recently met with a gentleman who relocated his family from Finland to the United States this summer due to a work assignment. He and his wife have three children, ages 9, 12, and 15, so getting them enrolled and settled into their new school was a top priority for them.

I asked him what he thought of the U.S. schools and how they compared to what his children attended in Finland. His answer didn’t surprise me.

“The teachers at the schools seem very nice, but why is everyone so focused on test scores here?” he replied. “I understand that the schools want to place my children in the correct learning environment, but don’t they realize that test scores aren’t the only way to assess students? My children have spent so much time taking placement tests and so little time talking to teachers and school officials. How can they know what my children are really like based on test scores alone?”

He went on to explain that in Finland, the teachers and schools take a more holistic view of students. While they understand that tests have a purpose, the teachers in Finland spend more time talking with students and assessing the students’ understanding of concepts via conversation and displayed practical applications of the knowledge, not just how they can answer a test question.

You can find an entire 10-part blog series on Learning and Discipline in Finland on this site that details many more differences between the U.S. and Finnish learning systems.