Monday, October 10, 2011

Finland's Successful Schools

The following quotes are taken from, Why Are Finland's Schools Successful?

"[Finland] the tiny Nordic nation’s staggering record of education success, [is] a phenomenon that has inspired, baffled and even irked many of America’s parents and educators.

In 1963, the Finnish Parliament made the bold decision to choose public education as its best shot at economic recovery. “I call this the Big Dream of Finnish education,” said Sahlberg, whose upcoming book, Finnish Lessons, is scheduled for release in October. “It was simply the idea that every child would have a very good public school. If we want to be competitive, we need to educate everybody. It all came out of a need to survive.”

Lawmakers landed on a deceptively simple plan that formed the foundation for everything to come.
  • Public schools would be organized into one system of comprehensive schools, for ages 7 through 16.
  • Teachers from all over the nation contributed to a national curriculum that provided guidelines, not prescriptions.
  • Resources were distributed equally.
  • Sifting and sorting children into so-called ability groupings was eliminated. All children—clever or less so—were to be taught in the same classrooms, with lots of special teacher help available to make sure no child really would be left behind.

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.

Many schools are small enough so that teachers know every student. If one method fails, teachers consult with colleagues to try something else.

[The USA] Race to the Top initiative invites states to compete for federal dollars using tests and other methods to measure teachers, a philosophy that would not fly in Finland. “I think, in fact, teachers would tear off their shirts,” said Timo Heikkinen, a Helsinki principal with 24 years of teaching experience. “If you only measure the statistics, you miss the human aspect.”

  • There are no mandated standardized tests in Finland, apart from one exam at the end of students’ senior year in high school.
  • There are no rankings, no comparisons or competition between students, schools or regions.
  • Finland’s schools are publicly funded.
  • Ninety-three percent of Finns graduate from academic or vocational high schools, 17.5 percentage points higher than the United States, and 66 percent go on to higher education, the highest rate in the European Union.
  • Finland spends about 30 percent less per student than the United States.
  • Play is important at this age [7 and 8 year olds]. We value play.
  • 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?”

This is what we do every day, prepare kids for life."


  1. A very interesting article. It would be an incredible feat for the US to make some long term decisions about how to really restore our educational system.

    I'm very interested to learn about colleges that are "alternative." Have you ever run across US colleges that are approaching education in an "out of the box" kind of way?

  2. Thanks for the interesting article. I've not researched this in any way, but have always wondered if the US should offer both the academic and vocational paths in high school. Perhaps encouraging kids who are less academically inclined, but talented in a trade, would result in fewer troubled youths and more content, productive adults?

  3. Very Interesting article. Both anonymous and Laura are right. US should approach academic as well as vocational centers in high school.s

  4. I believe they pay their teachers very well too. So are trying to attract the best and the brightest people to educate the future adults of their country.

  5. Yes right. They always pay their teachers very less wages. This will definitely effect on education level.