This is the first in a series of articles about learning in FINLAND, which is based upon my visiting a number of Finnish schools in October 2012.
According to numerous studies, Finland is one of the best educational performing countries in the world. However, aside from international tests, Finland has no standardized testing of its own. They do not believe that achievement gains improve the lives of children.
So how do they score so high—especially considering that students start school at a later age (seven), take fewer classes, have a three-month summer break, spend less time in school per day, have barely any homework, and are rarely tested?
The following are a few key elements about the educational approach in Finland.
- Schools in Finland are decentralized, rather than being centralized. In fact, there are fewer than 20 people in their national education office. As a result, the school districts are empowered, and local agencies have more flexibility. One result of this approach is that teachers develop most of the curriculum. The Finnish approach is in stark contrast to the United States approach, where power is increasingly centralized in the federal government rather than with state and local agencies.
- The national curriculum is tiny. Schools are obliged to implement the curriculum, but how it is done is totally up to the schools.
- Finland is very rigorous about their teacher selection. They recruit from the top 10% of university graduates and pay their teachers so well that the subject of money is off the table. The result is that teachers have a very high status, and teaching is a lifelong career. Teaching is not seen as a sacrifice but as quality profession.
- There is time in the school day to plan and work with colleagues in collaboration—even though students spend less time in classrooms. The teachers take collective responsibility for all students, not just the ones in their classes.
- Discipline is not a problem. A prime reason is that young people are brought up to be responsible (in contrast to obeying) at a very young age.
More about learning in Finland will be continued in future posts on “Learning.”