A coworker told me she had heard on the news that Finland topped first in education. Curious about the subject, I found out that Finlandâ€™s style of teaching is amazingly the opposite of that from United States. I was also able to confirm that when it came to International results Finlandâ€™s Schools scored consistently at the top.
While checking the â€śOrganization for Economic Co-operation and Economic Development,â€ť OECD and looking for the â€śProgram for International Student Assessment.â€ť PISA results I found out the following. Finland and Asian countries were among the top ten. The United States rank 17 in reading, 23 in Science, just one notch above the average score, and dropped below the OECD average in mathematics ranking 32 in 2009.
Could it be possible that longer days and school years is a solution to our low performance? Could it be that shortening summer vacation helps children do better in school? HISD has now developed a new teacher evaluation system called EVAAS â€śEvaluating Value-Added Models for Teacher Accountabilityâ€ť which measure the growth of students at the classroom level. They also have a program called ASPIRE that helps determine teacher and campus awards based on EVAAS results and data.
Be ready to be puzzled by what the Finns do and please let me know what you think about it when you are done reading. Â I was baffled by our differences.
Finland topped the first PISA test in 2000 and kept its rank in every category until the year of 2009. They believe in equality and equity for all students. Finland improves its schools not by privatizing or constantly testing its students but by strengthening the education profession and investing in teacher preparation and support. Good teachers in the teaching profession get University paid Masters. All teachers are required to have a bachelorâ€™s degree, a masterâ€™s degree and one year of pedagogical training. Most other qualifying education is free of charge for the students, including postgraduate education at universities.
Their profession in Finland is held as high as that of a lawyer or doctors. It is revered and highly valued. I was amazed to hear on an interview with Pasi Sahlberg where he mentioned that the word accountability does not exist in the Finnish language; therefore there is no accountability evaluation by outsiders on the teachers. Teachers are made responsible for their successes and can be reported in many different ways. Teachers have total autonomy in their classroom. This is what he says in his Blog â€śFinnish authorities, in this regard, have defied international convention. They have not endorsed student testing and school ranking as the path to improvement, but rather focused on teacher preparation and retention; collaboration with teachers and their union representatives; early and regular intervention for children with learning disabilities; well-rounded curricula; and equitable funding of schools throughout the country.â€ť
Finnish culture believes in extended childhood. Parents have access to pre-kindergarten services but there are no educational elements before the age of 7. Parents believe in playtime and play as an important role in their childâ€™s success with small lessons at home.
Children do not officially start school until the age of 7. School days are shorter, classes are longer and they get three months of summer vacation. Children barely get any homework and are rarely tested. Classes are longer and they allow children to stay on task as long as they need to succeed. Children learn and work at their own pace. When a student falls behind, he gets individualized teacher attention to help him progress. Students are not tested and results are only compared against their own capabilities. There can be several teachers in one classroom working on different areas guaranteeing the students success.
After viewing a video from BBC news on YouTube I learned the following. When children go to school they take their shoes off and get ready to relax. They are welcomed by their teacher who they talk to by their first names. The teacher can be their teacher for most of their school life. Here, she expresses, on how being their teacher for so long, it has helped her understand her children better. She understands the problems that they had before and what needs to be done to help them proceed to the next level. She describes how after working with the same children for 5 years, she knows what works and what doesnâ€™t work with them, she calls herself â€śthe school motherâ€ť.
What is the secret to Finlandâ€™s education success?
Teachers and trust. Politicians have no say. They have given the decision making back to their teachers and Principals. Schools plan their own curriculums. Teachers are respected professionals and are rarely evaluated. They quickly receive tenure and have a strong union. They have worked hard at making teaching an attractive profession and choose generally some of the best students from high school to enter their teaching program.
Pasi Sahlberg in an interview with Cheryl Jackson made the following comment on the accountability system.
He said that theory behind holding teachers accountable and intensifying the testing of students moves potential good teachers away from the teaching field. Having teacherâ€™s salaries based on studentsâ€™ success pushes them away from what matters most and that is the children.â€ť
If youâ€™d like to read more on this, I recommend checking â€śThe National Board of Educationâ€ť website.
Did you know that Finland has more research per capita than any other country? What could we learn from them? How much money is spent on testing? Could it be possible that we may benefit more from investing training for our teachers?
Please visit on my next Blog part II of Educational Paradox were I will talk about how Chinese Public Schools operate. They have made it also in in the top 10 and were first in 2009.