Date: Dec 4, 2012 1:02 PM
Author: Jerry P. Becker
Subject: What can the world learn from educ'l change in Finland?
From Bob Kansky. Our thanks to him for providing this. He reduced the
167 pages of the book Finnish Lessons: What can the world learn from
educational change in Finland? by Pasi Sahlberg, Director General of
the Centre for International Mobility and Cooperation at the Finnish
Ministry of Education (2011), to 9 pages that make the attachment.
This follows the posting Tuesday, November 27, 2012 on "Why Finland's
Unorthodox Education System Is The Best In The World" to which there
was an enthusiastic response - as Bob writes, this puts flesh on the
27 interesting slides found at the Business Insider given in the
Introduction to Finnish Lessons: What can the world learn from
educational change in Finland?
In the course of about three decades (1980-2010), the national
education system of Finland progressed from one which was "nothing
special" to one that produces students whose academic achievement is
so consistently outstanding that Finland's system is often referred
to as the best in the world. This book describes how Finland
achieved that transformation.
In Finnish Lessons, Pasi Sahlberg Director General of the Centre for
International Mobility and Cooperation at the Finnish Ministry of
Education, details the policy decisions that guided that
transformation. He documents the choice of policies that chose not
to embrace "tougher competition, more data, abolishing teacher
unions, opening more charter schools, or employing corporate-world
management models in education systems." To the contrary, Finnish
policies focused on "improving the teaching force, limiting student
testing to a necessary minimum, placing responsibility and trust
before accountability, and handing over school- and district-level
leadership to education professionals." The result is an educational
system that "lacks school inspection, standardized curriculum,
high-stakes student assessments, test-based accountability, and a
race-to-the-top mentality with regard to educational change."
Sahlberg characterizes the policies of the current system as (a)
having a vision of education committed to building a publicly
financed and locally governed basic school for every child, (b)
building on educational ideas from other nations to produce the
unique "Finnish Way" that "preserves the best of traditions and
present good practices," and (c) systematically developing respectful
and interesting working conditions for teachers and leaders in
Finnish schools. The Finnish experience in building an education
system in which all students learn well is one that has focused on
equity and cooperation rather than choice and competition and that
rejects the paying of teachers based on students' test scores or
converting public schools to private schools.
The text of Finnish Lessons details ten underlying notions.
1. The current Finnish system of education is one in which students
learn well and performance differences among schools are small.
2. The above has not always been so.
3. Teaching is widely viewed as a prestigious profession.
4. Finland has one of the world's most competitive
5. Finnish teachers have a great deal of professional autonomy and
lifelong access to purposeful professional development.
6. Those who become teachers typically are "teachers for life."
7. Almost half of the students completing the Finnish nine-year
comprehensive school (the peruskoulu) have experienced some sort of
8. Finnish teachers invest less time in teaching and Finnish
students spend less time in studying than do their peers in other
9. Finnish schools do not engage in standardized testing, test
preparation, or private tutoring.
10. The policies and practices of Finnish education are contrary to
those of those of most other countries of the world -- specifically,
those of the United States.
The current, and highly effective Finnish system of education is the
result of decades of determined and continuous refinement of policies
and practices. Finland did not attempt to simply transplant the
ideas of education into the Finnish system; rather it modified
promising ideas to fit the Finnish context. Neither did the process
for improving education Finland jump from one "big idea" to another;
rather, it committed to informed, long-term refinement of policies
and practices based upon educators' evaluation of the effects of
those policies and practices on student learning.
Go to the attachment for Bob Kansky's pages.
Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
625 Wham Drive
Mail Code 4610
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610
Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O]
(618) 457-8903 [H]
Fax: (618) 453-4244