Sunday, March 02, 2008

What Educators Everywhere Can Learn from Finland

Posted, too, at SM:
Unlike the U.S., the Finns do not believe in beginning the social sorting in kindergarten with high-stakes tests. Unlike the U.S., the Finns are not committed to crushing the teaching profession and the public schools. Unlike the U.S., the Finns believe in the importance of play and personal autonomy.

So how come they are doing so great on international tests?

From the Wall Street Journal (not blocked to non-subscribers):
Finland's teens score extraordinarily high on an international test. American educators are trying to figure out why.
February 29, 2008; Page W1
Helsinki, Finland

High-school students here rarely get more than a half-hour of homework a night. They have no school uniforms, no honor societies, no valedictorians, no tardy bells and no classes for the gifted. There is little standardized testing, few parents agonize over college and kids don't start school until age 7.

Yet by one international measure, Finnish teenagers are among the smartest in the world. They earned some of the top scores by 15-year-old students who were tested in 57 countries. American teens finished among the world's C students even as U.S. educators piled on more homework, standards and rules. Finnish youth, like their U.S. counterparts, also waste hours online. They dye their hair, love sarcasm and listen to rap and heavy metal. But by ninth grade they're way ahead in math, science and reading -- on track to keeping Finns among the world's most productive workers. . . . .

. . . . The Norssi School is run like a teaching hospital, with about 800 teacher trainees each year. Graduate students work with kids while instructors evaluate from the sidelines. Teachers must hold master's degrees, and the profession is highly competitive: More than 40 people may apply for a single job. Their salaries are similar to those of U.S. teachers, but they generally have more freedom.

Finnish teachers pick books and customize lessons as they shape students to national standards. "In most countries, education feels like a car factory. In Finland, the teachers are the entrepreneurs," says Mr. Schleicher, of the Paris-based OECD, which began the international student test in 2000.

One explanation for the Finns' success is their love of reading. Parents of newborns receive a government-paid gift pack that includes a picture book. Some libraries are attached to shopping malls, and a book bus travels to more remote neighborhoods like a Good Humor truck. . . .

Check out the video from WSJ:


philip said... my secondary "methods" course, my students are spending 50 hours observing and teaching in a "failing" school.

I like to think of myself as a guide on the sidelines.

At some point in time, I want to talk about tenure though because I am seeing some horrible teaching from the sidelines...

Anonymous said...

If you are seeing some horrible teaching, are you having discussions with those teachers regarding it? If someone comes into my classroom and sees me doing something horrible, I want them to tell me. Why would I want to waste my students' and my own time doing something that just doesn't work? Don't we owe that to each other as professionals?

Corey Bunje Bower said...

Not that this is the main reason they succeed, but I wonder about the bit about tv shows being subtitled, instead of dubbed, in Finnish and the effect that has on reading ability at an early age. Also interesting is the fact that this is the opposite of how we watch movies in foreign language classes here (we always watched German movies with English subtitles and I always thoughts that English movies with German subtitles might help more).