Learning from Finland: Putting Equality before Competition
Throughout the past year, we have shared some interesting stories and interviews about what is working well in education. One of the interviewees who comes to mind for me is Andreas Schleicher. Schleicher’s work with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and it’s global PISA testing, has led the way in using data to guide policy-makers struggling to prepare students for the demands of the 21st century. PISA testing not only shows which countries perform well, but perhaps more important, why some countries perform better than others. If you haven’t yet, check out Schleicher’s TED talk that we featured earlier this month.
One country that has consistently performed well on the PISA testing is Finland, a country we’ve featured numerous times in interviews with teachers and government officials. You can learn more with this recent article in The Atlantic.
According to author Anu Partinen, Finland’s focus on equality in education is what has set them apart. Yet, Partinen argues, Americans would like to ignore this fact, as it can “seem to run counter to just about everything America’s school reformers are trying to do. There are no lists of best schools or teachers in Finland. The main driver of education policy is not competition between teachers and between schools, but cooperation.”
Additionally, the article calls out that nearly all schools in Finland – including universities – are public. And, importantly, “…all teachers and administrators are given prestige, decent pay, and a lot of responsibility. A master’s degree is required to enter the profession, and teacher training programs are among the most selective professional schools in the country. If a teacher is bad, it is the principal’s responsibility to notice and deal with it.”
To be sure, the challenges facing America’s schools (as well as many other schools around the world) cannot be fixed with a one-size-fits-all solution. However, Finland’s success is indisputable. We surely can learn something from what they have accomplished.
What do you think? What can we learn from Finland? Is it possible to implement their style of education outside of Finland ?