Information Age Education Blog
Education in Finland and the United States
We have all heard about how well the educational system is doing in Finland relative to the educational system in the United States. A summary of some important reasons for this is available at:
Abrams, S.E. (1/28/2011). The children must play: What the United States could learn from Finland about education reform. The New Republic. Retrieved 1/30/2011 from http://www.tnr.com/article/politics/82329/education-reform-Finland-US.
Here are the first two paragraphs of the article:
While observing recess outside the Kallahti Comprehensive School on the eastern edge of Helsinki on a chilly day in April 2009, I asked Principal Timo Heikkinen if students go out when it’s very cold. Heikkinen said they do. I then asked Heikkinen if they go out when it’s very, very cold. Heikkinen smiled and said, “If minus 15 [Celsius] and windy, maybe not, but otherwise, yes. The children can’t learn if they don’t play. The children must play.”
In comparison to the United States and many other industrialized nations, the Finns have implemented a radically different model of educational reform—based on a balanced curriculum and professionalization, not testing. Not only do Finnish educational authorities provide students with far more recess than their U.S. counterparts—75 minutes a day in Finnish elementary schools versus an average of 27 minutes in the U.S.—but they also mandate lots of arts and crafts, more learning by doing, rigorous standards for teacher certification, higher teacher pay, and attractive working conditions. This is a far cry from the U.S. concentration on testing in reading and math since the enactment of No Child Left Behind in 2002, which has led school districts across the country, according to a survey by the Center on Education Policy, to significantly narrow their curricula. And the Finns’ efforts are paying off: In December, the results from the 2009 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), an exam in reading, math, and science given every three years since 2000 to approximately 5,000 15-year-olds per nation around the world, revealed that, for the fourth consecutive time, Finnish students posted stellar scores. The United States, meanwhile, lagged in the middle of the pack. [Bold added for emphasis.]
The article covers a number of differences between the U.S. and the Finnish educational systems. Of course, there is a lot of literature on how and why Finland and the United States are different, and arguments that the United States will not benefit by trying to implement the Finnish system. Still, there is plenty of food for thought in this two-page article.
Here is one more quote that I find particularly interesting.
…perhaps most striking on the list of what makes Finland’s school system unique is that the country has deliberately rejected the prevailing standardization movement. While nations around the world introduced heavy standardized testing regimes in the 1990s, the Finnish National Board of Education concluded that such tests would consume too much instructional time, cost too much to construct, proctor, and grade, and generate undue stress.
Spend a bit of time reflecting on what you have just read. How does the information fit in with your current knowledge, beliefs, and activities? How can you make use of the information to help improve our informal and formal educational systems? Who do you know that might benefit from reading this IAE Blog entry?
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What You Can Do
You know that the message sent is not necessarily the message received. You, for example, have “constructed” a personal meaning to my message given above. My overall intent is to provide you with some information and ideas that you will act upon in a manner that leads to improving our informal and formal educational systems.
So, pause for a few seconds and think about the meaning you have constructed from my message and some possible action that you might take based on this meaning. What occurs to you that you, personally, will try out in your quest to improve our educational system?
As an example, perhaps you disagree with the emphasis we are placing on state and national tests. Do you spend quite a bit of time teaching to the tests? Can you think of better ways to use your time and your students' time?
Hayes, M.F. (2/1/2011). Five Elements of Personalized Learning in Finland. ASCD Blog. Retrieved 2/2/2011 from http://ascd.typepad.com/blog/2011/02/mary-forte-hayes.html.
Suggested Readings from IAE and Other Publications
You can use Google to search all of the IAE publications. Click here to begin. Then click in the IAE Search box that is provided, insert your search terms, and click on the Search button.
Click here to search the entire collection of IAE Blog entries.
Here are some examples of publications that might interest you.
ASCD (August, 2014). Test Scores ≠ Economc Performance. ASCD Policy Points. Retrieved 9/1/2014 from http://www.ascd.org/ASCD/pdf/siteASCD/publications/policypoints/Test-Scores-Economic-Performance-Aug-14.pdf.
Assessing Student Achievement in Difficult to Assess Curricular Areas: Social Knowledge and Skills. IAE Newsletter - Issue 57, January, 2011.
Discussion about US Education Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's recent statement: “I fundamentally believe that our school day is too short, our school week is too short, and our school year is too short.” IAE Newsletter - Issue 15, April 2009.
Improving Education: A Political Agenda. IAE Newsletter - Issue 29, November 2009.
The quality of our educational system. IAE Newsletter - Issue # 43 June 2010.
Written by Dave Moursund, January 30, 2011.
Educational researchers and practitioners know a great deal about how to improve our educational system. The challenge is to do a high fidelity implementation of these ideas on a wide scale.
As I have noted many times, we have a problem of top-down versus bottom-up approaches. We are doing poorly in giving students and their teachers the power needed for a successful bottom-up approach.