Marja-Leena Rathje
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education in Finland


Finland's education system has received a lot of international attention from educators the last decade or so. I've read much of it with great interest, being a Finn, a former teacher as well as a parent. I'm also a product of the Canadian education system which is rated as fairly good but has much room for improvement especially in education for immigrants, first nations and the learning-challenged even as constant cuts in funding of education take place.

Besides the excellent results of 'no child left behind', most remarkable is that all teachers have at least a masters degree, have freedom to teach as they wish and have the highest support and respect from governments and parents, unlike here in Canada and the USA, and yet education still costs less in Finland.

There's much more so please read this article in the Smithsonian magazine. It is the best in-depth one that I have seen and I recommend it to anyone interested in education. Is education not the most important thing each country needs to provide for its young people and immigrants, and the best investment for the country's future? Many thanks to Gabriolan for the link.

Related links:

Finland Diary by Robert G. Kaiser for the Washington Post in 2005, which I wrote about here.

Addendum: We purchased and read Pasi Sahlberg's Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland? Excellent - well worth a read if you are interested in education. The main conclusion would be that there would have to be quite a cultural change in order to achieve a major transformation in the education system in Canada, USA and many other countries. Private schools, charter schools and the like are not the answer.

Marja-Leena | 29/08/2011 | 7 comments
themes: Culture, Finland, Estonia & Finno-Ugric


7 comments

This is of interest to me as a teacher and grandparent. Thanks.

Oh yes! The greatest gift we can give to our kids is a good education. But not just in school, also at home where we teach them our values and to be good people and in the wider world where we teach them to be adventurous and enquiring.

'no child left behind' should be the mantra of all teachers as well as 'bring out the best'

The French system is full of teachers who are very well-qualified, in France diplomas and degrees are essential if one wishes to get on in life, but sadly the curriculum is very rigid and constrained.

One of my happiest memories of The Rags schooling was the day I went in, armed with home-made amulets and trinkets and bandages and mummified a little girl called Anna Konig, with the assistance of a class of nine year olds.

That would never be permitted in France

Hattie, glad it's of interest, and hope it's also of help if any discussions come up.

Mouse, I certainly agree with you about parenting. However it upsets me when parents undermine the teachers of their children, and I've seen this happen much too often. Sorry to hear about the French curriculum. And what a lovely memory you have from your children's school days.

I have a difficult time feeling comfortable with the phrase 'No Child Left Behind' because of the failures I saw manifested in the US when the Bush Administration proposed that public school funds would be used to pay private and religious schools. Previously, students at failing schools had the ability to transfer to another public school or receive tutoring at the school's expense.

All of the major teacher's unions in the US opposed the Act because of flaws and bias in standardized tests. The requirement for stricter teacher qualifications just made the teaching force weaker rather than providing assistance for more students.

I know nothing about how it was applied in Canada but I have to believe (from what I've seen) that Canadian students are still being better served by the education system than those in the US.

Susan, I was aware of the failures of the 'no child left behind' policy in the US when I read that phrase in the article, which was written by an American of course. I wonder if this report will result in any improvements. Here in Canada, there are private schools, some religious, many exclusive upper class. Though variable the public schools are generally good, except for the deficiencies I mentioned in the post. One issue not mentioned is the literacy level, almost 100% amongst native Finns, but not so good in Canada.

It's sad that standards have dropped so much but it's also absolutely essential that children know that parents and teachers respect one another. Children can be masters of 'divide and conquer' but they're not known to apply the technique for other than immediate reward.

Susan, you are absolutely right!