Global

Opportunity, Collaboration & Discovery

The Finland Phenomenon: Inside the World's Most Surprising School System

CJ Westerberg, December 17, 2014 7:08 PM

Finland. Finnishflag.BobCompton.jpg

 via The Atlantic
Finnish Education Chief: "We Created a School System Based on Equality".
Here are excerpts from interview post:

Q.  I remember being struck by how many vocational or hands-on classes
(home economics, art, technology, and so forth) were available to students
at every Finnish school I visited.  At one secondary school I visited, kids were cooking breakfast; at another, I saw that all the kids had learned how to sew
their own bathing suits.  More than one teacher remarked, "It's important for
students to have different activities to do during the day." And there seems
to be no stigma about vocational education. Is this attitude true of all schools
in Finland?


A.  Yes, we definitely believe that for young people handcrafts, cooking,
creative pursuits, and sports, are all important. We believe these help young
people benefit more from the skills they're learning in school. 

Q.   Do you think that this takes time away from academics?

A.  Academics isn't all kids need. Kids need so much more. School should
be where we teach the meaning of life; where kids learn they are needed;
where they can learn community skills. We like to think that school is also
important for developing a good self-image, a strong sensitivity to other people's feelings. . . . and understanding it matters to take care of others. We definitely want to incorporate all those things in education.

Finland Education:  What's up? 
The Daily Riff Library


by C.J. Westerberg

The Daily Riff is updating and curating the best key story links about Finland and their intensely watched and admired education system ("the best in the world").

December 3, 2013 - Are Finland's Vaulted Schools Slipping? via Wapo
 by Pasi Sahlberg -
 . . . .Finland should also continue to let national education and youth policies - and not PISA - drive what is happening in schools. Reading, science, and mathematics are important in Finnish education system but so are social studies, arts, music, physical education, and various practical skills. Play and joy of learning characterize Finland's pre-schools and elementary classrooms. Many teachers and parents in Finland believe that the best way to learn mathematics and science is to combine conceptual, abstract learning with singing, drama, and sports. This balance between academic and non-academic learning is critical to children's well-being and happiness in school. PISA tells only a little about these important aspects of school education.

December 3rd - OECD Education Report:  Finland's No Inspection, no league tables and few exams PLUS article round-up via TELEGRAPH

 December 2, 2013 -
Yong Zhao weighs in on the new PISA scores from Finland   

Here's the newest update - September 2013:
China's Education Plan . . .stealing from Finland's Playbook.  Excerpt:

If you think the business competition from China is hard now, brace yourself. It will likely get tougher in about 20 years or so. And how is China doing it? By borrowing a page from Finland.

At first blush, though, it would appear that China is simply lightening up.

"The Ministry of Education plans to lessen the heavy workload," said CCTV, China's state television network explained in a post on the English version of its website.

Under the proposed guidelines, which are still under discussion, "primary schools may no longer set any form of written homework for students in grades one to six," said CCTV, "Instead, schools should work with parents to organize extracurricular activities and after-school assignments, including museum tours and library study."

In addition, the new system would revamp scoring systems and reduce the number of mandatory exams.

Check out this from Business Insider - it's quick & to-the-point which is getting a lot of whoa's from people who even lose interest in top ten lists. Finnish students rank top of the charts in international studies of standardized testing (PISA). 

Next below is a top ten list via Cooperative Catalyst via via Parenting magazine's Mom Congress 2012 summarizing the traits of the much admired and controversial Finnish education.  The Finns seem to do exactly opposite the growing U.S. education agenda:

  1. Finland does not give their kids standardized tests.
  2. Individual schools have curriculum autonomy; individual teachers have classroom autonomy.
  3. It is not mandatory to give students grades until they are in the 8th grade.
  4. All teachers are required to have a master's degree.
  5. Finland does not have a culture of negative accountability for their teachers. According to Partanen, "bad" teachers receive more professional development; they are not threatened with being fired.
  6. Finland has a culture of collaboration between schools, not competition. Most schools, according to Partanen, perform at the same level, so there is no status in attending a particular facility.
  7. Finland has no private schools.
  8. Education emphasis is "equal opportunity to all."They value equality over excellence.
  9. A much higher percentage of Finland's educational budget goes directly into the classroom than it does in the US, as administrators make approximately the same salary as teachers. This also makes Finland's education more affordable than it is in the US.
  10. Finnish culture values childhood independence; one example: children mostly get themselves to school on their own, by walking or bicycling, etc. Helicopter parenting isn't really in their vocabulary.
  11. Finnish schools don't assign homework, because it is assumed that mastery is attained in the classroom.
  12. Finnish schools have sports, but no sports teams. Competition is not valued.
  13. The focus is on the individual child. If a child is falling behind, the highly trained teaching staff recognizes this need and immediately creates a plan to address the child's individual needs. Likewise, if a child is soaring ahead and bored, the staff is trained and prepared to appropriately address this as well.
  14. Partanen correlated the methods and success of their public schools to US private schools. We already have a model right here at home.
  15. Compulsory school in Finland doesn't begin until children are 7 years old.

What are Finland's strengths?  Perhaps the quickest way to get the big picture is this slide show, or this new and the most in-depth being the above-titled documentary film, "The Finland Phenomenon."  Even if you read all the articles about the Finland school system, I highly recommend you watch the documentary - it fills in the blanks left bare by generalities.

 Can the U.S. and other countries learn from Finland?  Or, as some argue, is this an "outlier" country (translate: a country that teaches others no real lessons to others)?  We also find juxtaposing Finland's practices with Singapore and Japan, there are several key common themes shared by all, but not witnessed in the U.S., such as teacher autonomy, along with some key differences. You be the decider, and let us know what your riff is, on or off-line. 

Other recent links - don't miss podcasts and videos below!:
New curriculum 'abolishes childhood' (bbc.co.uk)  and

The Atlantic Monthly: The Secret to Finland's Success with Schools, Moms, Kids---And Everything.  Sorry the headline and Study did not refer to "Parents" as opposed to "Moms", but a worthy read as it relates to how the general "vibe" of the household or family can affect the well-being and achievement of their children. Glad to see a common sense reality being addressed - does it take deep thinking to get this?

I like how the reporting gives obvious comparisons, such as these:


Tuition at his daughter's university is free, though she took out a small loan for living expenses. Its interest rate is 1 percent.

My cousin is a recent immigrant, and while she was learning the language and training for jobs, the state gave her 700 euros a month to live on.


Check out comments below PLUS
 (3) NEW short videos (under 3 min) via CNN - Perspective from a Math Teacher, Letting Teachers Teach, and Tips from Finland

                                         
Video, Articles, and Podcasts

#1 - Video Trailer to the Bob Compton and Tony Wagner Documentary, "The Finland Phenomenon"
        (Bob Compton produced the controversial "2 Million Minutes" edu-documentary; also  
         featuring Tony Wagner, author and educator, "The Global Achievement Gap")

#2 - 30 second Quik-Vid on "Teachers Key to Finland Education"

#3 - Dan Rather and HD NET - "Finnish First"

#4 - NEW New School Venture Fund Summit 2013 - Video - What America Can Learn from the World's Leading Schools

Articles:

What Americans Keep Ignoring about Finland's School Success via The Atlantic

26 Amazing Facts about Finland's Unorthodox Education System via Business Insider

 The Children Must Play - The New Republic

 The Final Word is Always Finland  - Quick and the ED 


Finland's Educational Success?  The Anti-Tiger Mom Approach

Interview with Finland Minister of Education

Podcast:

Steve Hargadon's "Future of Education" Podcast on Finnish & American Education Perspectives on Learning Communities  (Well worth the visit!)

h/t #1 video via a tweet from Heidi Hayes Jacobs; h/t  Joanne Jacob







  • There are some great ways to educate. Finnish education institutions are doing a great job. Thanks for the information. Smith at Glasgow Caledonian

  • Great article that explains how all of the world can benefit from using methods Finland is using.Nora@Online PhD Programs

  • bra tape

    Thanks for
    excellent blog.I'm happy to find useful blog share in my friends. THANK YOU.

    bra tape

  • "Academics isn't all kids need. Kids need so much more. School should be where we teach the meaning of life; where kids learn they are needed; ". This is fact. Its important for all educational centers or schools to incorporate this ideology in their teaching method not only in Finland but all over the world.

  • Raf Feys

    Pasi Sahlberg verspreidt volgens Finse leraars al te veel nonsens over Fins onderwijs

    Wat Finland-propagandist PASI Sahlberg hier (zie bijlage) en elders beweert over de toepassing van progressieve ideeën à la Dewey e.d. in het (eerder kl...assieke) Fins onderwijs is volgens Finse leerkrachten complete onzin.

    *oldspaper :This is complete nonsense. Here are five real things about Finland that are different:
    1. A terminal exam that you prevents you from getting an arbitur diploma unless you pass it. 2. Higher expectations and more independence for students.
    3. A vocational option for high school (tracking) 4. Less focus on school sports

    *@Popo: I'm not complaining about the education system, but this article just doesn't match with any of my experiences

    *@Alecaldi: What a bunch of crap. As a Fin with 18 years in the school system, now M.Sc Tech, I can't recognize most of the stuff.And to remind you, there is no High school in any Scandinavian countries. It's more like a pre-college for 3 years if you choose to go academic.

    *AM : This article is just unbelievable propaganda and it would be very interesting to know who fed you all this rubbish. Where are these so-called "facts" been taken from? Several of them are simply not true! Finnish teachers are not selected from the top 10% of graduates. All pupils take exams and have homework. All children are certainly not taught in the same classrooms. And what in the world is this "mandatory standardized test which is taken when children are 16"?! I've never heard of it and I work as a teacher in Finland. And excuse me...according to these "facts" I only spend four hours per day in the classroom?! That is so not true!

    *DI: This article explains why there have been so many Nobel prizes per capita in Finland, and why Finnish technology companies like Nokia are currently destroying the competition, and why Finland leads the pack on biotech.

    *PM I went through the Finnish education system so I can correct a few "facts". 1. We start to get homework since the first grade. Of course not that much in the beginning, but there definitely is homework. 2. We definitely are measured since grade one (=eerste leerjaar) at school.3. All kids are taught in the same classroom except when a kid is having difficulties with learning, and then he/she can go to a special teacher's little class to be taught. 4. Teachers spend way more than 4 hours a day in a classroom, except maybe when his/her class is the first or second grade and their days are shorter. But I remember being 10 and had 7-8 hour days and my teacher was there all the time.5.. Although teachers are highly regarded, they are not regarded as highly as doctors and lawyers. Especially if you teach Swedish in Junior High School.

    *Arto Pekkanen Lately the Finnish education system has started to fail, .... Now there are too many students in a single class, and individual students cannot get the support they need. There are a lot of misbehaving kids in schools, since there are too many kids and too few teachers and councellors. That's my take on our education system anyways ...
    *

    Meer weergeven
    Five U.S. innovations that helped Finland’s schools improve but that American reformers now ignore
    www.washingtonpost.com
    Finnish educator and scholar Pasi Sahlberg explains in an important post.

blog comments powered by Disqus
I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think.
Socrates
Follow The Daily Riff on Follow TDR on Twitter

find us on facebook

question.red.jpg

Would You Hire Your Own Kids? 7 Skills Schools Should Be Teaching Them

CJ Westerberg, 01.23.2015

Tony Wagner, Former HS teacher, Principal & Co-Director At Harvard School Of Education Posts. "The Ability To Ask The Right Questions Is The Single Most Important Skill."

Read Post | Comments

Riffing good stories

maui.surfers.JSB.jpg

Shaping Serendipity for Learning: Conversations with John Seely Brown

CJ Westerberg, 01.22.2015

"Conventional wisdom holds that different people learn in different ways. Something is missing from that idea, however, so we offer a corollary: Different People, when presented with exactly the same information in exactly the same way, will learn different things.

Read Post | Comments
recipe.7.john.holt.jpg

Seven Questions: Is your child a recipe-follower or a real learner?

CJ Westerberg, 01.21.2015

"It may help to have in our minds a picture of what we mean by understanding . . . "-John Holt, Why Children Fail, p. 177by C.J. WesterbergI recently had a loooong conversation with a parent about whether his child...

Read Post | Comments
HowardGardner6pg.jpg

If I were trying to select a school system for my children . . ."

CJ Westerberg, 01.21.2015

"If I were trying to select a school system for my children or grandchildren, I'd beware of . . . ." - Howard Gardner, Harvard School of Education

Read Post | Comments
explosion.jpg

The Day I Abolished Grading

CJ Westerberg, 01.21.2015

"There was no love for learning. It was a game that I was perpetuating - and I was done perpetuating it." Joe Bower

Read Post | Comments
litebulbkids2.jpg

Is This The Best High School in America?

CJ Westerberg, 01.02.2015

WATCH: How These Six Minutes May Change Your Idea of Innovative Education (dramatically). Phillips Exeter, Harvard Westlake & Lawrenceville may be taking notes from this charter school leading the next wave. Does your High School look anything like it?

Read Post | Comments
Finland. Finnishflag.BobCompton.jpg

The Finland Phenomenon: Inside the World's Most Surprising School System

CJ Westerberg, 12.17.2014

New update December 2, 2013 which includes Yong Zhao link and comments PLUS CNN videos

Read Post | Comments
bug.Peter-Drucker.Jim-Collins.jpg

Ten To-Do's for Young People to Consider

CJ Westerberg, 12.16.2014

#1 - Build a "Personal Board of Directors"

Read Post | Comments
brain.mouse.cage.homework.jpg

Mind Overload! from Technology & "Societal Exhaustion"

CJ Westerberg, 12.16.2014

Mindfulness: "I've seen it transform classrooms . . . "

Read Post | Comments

More Featured Posts