Look at Finland’s education!

Since 2000, Finland has won the title as the best education system outperforming Japan and South Korea. I wonder, if Finland has been the top world ranking education system in the world, why every country in the world doesn’t drop what they are doing and adopt their system?

Part of me knows the answer to that question – there are two sides to every story, but hear me out on this one.

Education is not for Profit

Most nations run their educational systems through the government. Most government officials are not educators. Educators in government agencies, not politicians, run the school systems In Finland. Also, in Finland, education for profit is not an option. Therefore, those wealthy and educated parents who often opt out of public education, because they can, have to invest and commit to the public-school system. If all citizens participate in one public school system, the demand for a good product will increase. Since profit from schooling is illegal, all schools are equal in quality.

Equal Education for all

This aligns with Finland’s school structure as well. All pupils, regardless of their ability, learn in the same classroom. There are no advanced or remedial classes. Therefore, “the gap between the weakest and the strongest pupils is the smallest in the world.” LynNell Hancock at Smithsonian says there are no comparisons or competition between students, schools or regions. That means no mandated standardized tests, rankings, comparisons or competition between students, schools or regions. Students receive the same quality education no matter where they live because Finland has the same national educational goals and they all pool from the same pool of university-trained educators.

Educated Educators

A lot of Finland’s success has to do with the status of their teachers who society reveres as much as lawyers and doctors. Finland requires and funds its teachers to have a Master’s degree in education, with a specialization in research and classroom practice. Finland selects its teachers from the top 10 percent of the country’s graduates. Teachers spend two hours pursuing professional development and four hours a day in the classrooms.

The Competitive Approach to Education

Educational ranking systems measure early-childhood enrollment, test scores in math science and reading for lower and upper primary and high school and graduation rates. Finnish students rank in the top 10 in science, reading, and math; 93% graduate from academic or vocational school and 66 percent go to higher education. The competitive approach to education in Finland, however, does not exist. Students only take one mandatory test at age 16. There are no class rankings.  Students don’t even get grades until they reach grade 4, and there is no homework in primary school.

The Human Aspect of Education

Timo Heikkinen, a Helsinki principal with 24 years of teaching experience, says “if you only measure the statistics, you miss the human aspect.”   Educators in Finland give students more time to be kids. Primary students spend 20 hours a week in school. Finland schools have the shortest daily and yearly schedule in the western world. Less is more is the adage where education is student-centered and focuses on the happiness and well-being of the student. Finland gives their students more time to be kids. They start school at age 7, and for every hour of their five-hour day, they get 15-minute play breaks in which they explore the world naturally.

Educational Skepticism

There are many sides to every argument for the betterment of education. Some skeptics shake their heads at Finland’s practice of teaching with patience, moving slowly to investigate fewer subjects than many, or their student-centered, hands-on, problem-solving approach.

Still, I wonder why anyone can be skeptical of an educational system that continues to rank in the top 10.