What are Finland's strengths? Education in Finland is a system with no tuition fees and with fully subsidised meals served to students. The present Finnish education system consists of daycare programs (for babies and toddlers) and a one-year "pre-school" (or kindergarten for six-year-olds); a nine-year compulsory basic comprehensive school(starting at age seven and ending at the age of fifteen); post-compulsory secondary general academic and vocational education; higher education (University and Polytechnic); and adult (lifelong, continuing) education.
So, here are some pointers that have helped the 'Finns' achieve their educational feat.
- Finland does not give their kids standardized tests.
- Individual schools have curriculum autonomy; individual teachers have classroom autonomy.
- It is not mandatory to give students grades until they are in the 8th grade.
- All teachers are required to have a master's degree.
- 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.
- 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.
- Finland has no private schools.
- Education emphasis is "equal opportunity to all."They value equality over excellence.
- 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.
- 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.
- Finnish schools don't assign homework, because it is assumed that mastery is attained in the classroom.
- Finnish schools have sports, but no sports teams. Competition is not valued.
- 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.
- Compulsory school in Finland doesn't begin until children are 7 years old.
What can we learn from Finland? Two things stand out for me; the higher qualification required to be a teacher at any level and the fact that this phenomenon is driven by government-owned schools. I have always spoken for non-profit schooling as a platform for driving real change and development in the country!
Please tell us what you think.