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Finnish Lessons: What Can We Learn From Them?

Just finished reading:

Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland? by Pasi Sahlberg is indeed thought provoking.  Finnish students have performed at the top in international science comparisons (PISA) for three successive examination starting at the end of the 1990s. Finland’s bedrock of success has been defined by a focus on personal development and equality instead of accountability characterized by a diet of standardized testing (note: that too with a short school day and year).  It seems the common U.S. reaction to the Finnish success is that: Finland is small, homogeneous, rich; and hence, their success cannot be replicated.  But as usual, Americans don’t care to see the most significant area that has contributed to this success: teacher education.

Today teaching is one of the highest-status professions in Finland and schools of education draw from the top 10% of their applicants.  Teachers are well respected and well paid, so teacher retention is almost 100%.  All teachers have research-based master’s degrees and teach within their areas of expertise.  Should this be a wakeup call for the U.S.? Really.  Further four factors have contributed to excellent teacher candidates:

1) Teaching attracts competent people in Finland, because it is viewed as a moral and important effort.

2) There is collaboration between subject matter teachers and schools of education, so that training is intertwined and is constantly recharged.

3) Teacher education is research-based so that teachers are engaged in action research constantly and also follows worldwide educational research.

4) Teachers are trusted by their principals and parents, and they view their work both in pragmatic and moral terms.

Thus, this book presents a strong argument to trying other alternatives to merely increasing levels of accountability, more school and teacher control, harassing capable teachers, more testing to twist scores, treating the education system as if they were business models, and micromanaging learning goals.

Could America ever show this kind of patience and planning going forward? Only time can tell….

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