May 25, 2012 Leave a comment
My Finnish friend (though, by choice, not birth) posted this Independent essay arguing that the Brits (and presumably Americans, too) have a lot to learn from Finland. This is especially true in the realm of education:
Finland may feature consistently in the world suicide rate top 20, but according to the recent UN World Happiness Report, it’s actually the second-”happiest” country in the world (after nearby Denmark), based not only on wealth, but on political freedom, strong social networks and an absence of corruption. The 2011 Failed States Index, compiled by Washington think tank the Fund for Peace, ranked it the globe’s most “successful” country socially, economically and politically.
Its students are also the best in the West, achieving extraordinarily high scores in a triennial survey for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). According to Anu Partanen, a Finnish journalist writing in The Atlantic: “Decades ago, when the Finnish school system was badly in need of reform, the goal of the programme that Finland instituted, resulting in so much success today, was never excellence. It was equity.”
Finland rivals East Asian educational hothouses such as Singapore and South Korea, but without those countries’ high-pressure homework expectations. There are no nationally standardised tests, inspections or league tables, no private schools or private universities, and no fees. Competition is frowned upon; co-operation is king.
Alright! Suicide aside (which I believe can substantially be blamed on the limited sunlight during much of the year) sounds about perfect. I especially love how their success in education has come through the emphasis on equity (and unmentioned here, very high teacher quality) rather than through testing our killing the kids with homework (the Asian model).
Based on what I’ve read before on Finnish education, I’ve been telling David about it for a while when we discuss problems with American education (among other social science issues) on our afternoon walks of the dog. Thus, David was quite excited to draw Finland for his country to do a report on for Social Studies this week. He definitely thinks America needs to be more like Finland (he was pretty shocked to learn that Finland has a 100% literacy rate while the U.S. does not). Anyway, part of his project was to create a “glog” (graphical weblog, I think) on Finland. It is from there that I have taken the title of this post. Check it out. (The link is interactive, the image below is just a preview). I know I’ve got a disproportionate share of Finnish readers (yeah, Finland!) I’d love to hear if you really think your country is this great.