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

CJ Westerberg, October 12, 2017 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








  • Rebecca Smith

    Outstanding. I like the fact that the more focus we do on education, the better society we will be able to produce.
    https://infoginx.com/finnis...

  • When my kids heard for a first time that there are no homeworks in Finland they asked me to move there :D
    Now i know that it is not like that

  • I really loved this learning system. This system is created many important creativity and essential thing. Actually everywhere this learned system doesn't see. The education system is really admire and Lessons to be learned. I can't compare this learning system other countries.

  • 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.

  • Michael Wagner

    Good gathering of resources. I think we should look to the Finnish example to learn from but not adopt completely. We need to adjust for cultural differences and make it unique. However some "common core" principals can be teased from the great education systems and those are the ones that should be replicated and emphasized.

    One thing I didn't see mentioned here (I didn't read every single article linked though) is the status of teachers in Finland. I think that is one big factor holding US Education back. In Finland the "qualified" Master's degree holding teachers are respected in society and earn equivalent pay comparatively to other top professions (like a lawyer here). In the US, teacher training varies widely and is generally subpar at best. There should be a more meaningful apprenticeship role involved and a cultural shift to show teachers the respect they deserve.

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