Learning from the Finnish model – Daily Times
What is so unique about the Finnish education system has become an intriguing question across the world. The Finnish model is universally recognized for its quality and standards. Finnish education has become a classic case study and a rare success story. It received its fair share of publicity around the world for being the “best”. In the recent past, Finland has also made headlines as the happiest country in the world. Many are puzzled as to how Finland became the happiest country in the world. It is widely believed to have a lot to do with its education system and the way it embodies the country’s intrinsic values of being honest, fair, down to earth and trusting others. The truth is that Finland is not part of all the PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment of the OECD) rankings, but in the latest ranking Finland is the only country where students have both high reading skills and high life satisfaction. This is strongly influenced by the fact that Finnish students have a healthy balance between school life and free time, which allows them to engage more in various extracurricular activities. This beautiful mix continues after they finish their studies, with a healthy work-life balance. It is widely pointed out that the resounding success of the Finnish education system is due to various factors. It comes from research and inspiration from other education systems, and educational policies have been developed with education authorities, teachers and municipalities with the voice of parents, researchers and business leaders. Finally, the main objective has remained constant, namely that all children should have equal learning opportunities to exploit their gross inherent human capital.
According to a study by Stanford researchers, increasing time spent outside the classroom actually creates a positive learning environment for all students.
Before deepening the understanding of the main contributory factors to this fabulous model of success, let us remember that money is not everything to ensure a quality education. In fact, some of the countries that spend the most on education, such as the United States, are not necessarily the countries that achieve the best results. But one country shows that providing quality education is more than just money. About 5% of Finland’s gross domestic product (GDP) is spent on education, which is lower than neighboring Norway and Sweden, as well as other countries like South Korea, Brazil and Colombia. This represents just over $10,000 per student, which is about the average for a country in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Nevertheless, Finland has built one of the most respected education systems in the world for two simple reasons: to focus on teachers and to focus on students. Needless to insist on the fact that education is one of the best means of eliminating extreme poverty. It’s a proven fact that increased access to education can lead to stronger economies, reduce inequality, and even trigger climate action. Combined, these are the three most important global goals for sustainable development, a set of 17 principles to end extreme poverty by 2030. Although the link between improving access to a quality and the eradication of poverty could not be clearer, the means to provide quality education to all students is not always so obvious. Therefore, Finland’s innovative approaches to education include reducing standardized testing, improving equity in all areas, and supporting teachers.
Moreover, some of the most obvious reasons have led to this phenomenal success. Although the Finnish school day starts around the same time as in any other country, the same cannot be said for primary school. In Finland, students do not start formal school until they are 7 years old. Instead, they spend the age of 3 to 6 in kindergarten, and since preschool education is required by law in Finland, this means that 97% of pupils aged three to six are enrolled. at school. By comparison, only four out of ten 4-year-olds in the United States were enrolled in publicly funded preschool programs. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), improving access to early childhood development can positively impact life expectancy, improve health indicators and lead to economic security later on. in life. “Every child has special needs,” wrote Janet English, former winner of the Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching Program, in an essay on the “secrets” of Finnish education. According to English, Finns have “designed an education system to optimize every child’s learning, regardless of a student’s educational needs.” All Finnish schools have a full-time special education teacher who works part-time with about 23% of pupils, as well as a group of staff who meet every two weeks to discuss pupil behavior in the classroom, which includes the principal, the school nurse, the special education teacher, the school psychologist, a social worker and the classroom teachers. According to multiple sources, Finnish teachers are among the best treated in the world. Not only are Finnish teachers paid more than American teachers on average, but they also work almost half the number of hours. In the classroom, teachers have been exempt from inspections since the 1990s. They are not required to prepare students for standardized tests, giving them more flexibility to teach students lessons they deem appropriate. Likewise, becoming a teacher in Finland is quite a competitive process, with nearly 7% of applicants accepted into the country’s top teaching program. Interestingly, Finnish students only have to take one standardized test throughout their teenage years, and it’s not scored by a computer, but by the educators themselves. Called the National Registration Examination, the exam is taken at the age of 16. Topics cover subject areas and often require multidisciplinary knowledge and skills. Removing the emphasis from testing and focusing on learning had positive effects on student development, including critical thinking skills. This does not affect the ability of Finnish students to succeed in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), which is offered in 40 developed countries. Finnish schools require all primary school students to have 15 minutes of recess for every 45 minutes of class.
According to a study by Stanford researchers, increasing time spent outside the classroom actually creates a positive learning environment for all students. “A positive school climate has been linked to a host of favorable student outcomes, from attendance to achievement,” the researchers found. In addition to their plentiful recess time, Finnish students are also not overloaded with after-school homework, spending about a third more time on after-school homework activities, on average. There are no private schools and students of different abilities are not separated into educational levels within the classroom. This has given Finland the distinction of being the most equitable school system in the world, with the smallest gap between its lowest and highest performing students, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report. Every Finnish child receives the same quality education whether they live in a rural village or a university town. While many developing countries have large gender gaps between male and female students in science education, with male students generally performing better in this area, Finland instead reverses the trend. In fact, according to the OECD, Finland is the only developed country where girls outnumber boys in science scores. The majority of top-performing science students are also girls. Educators in Finland attribute this to the country’s generous maternity leave policies, gender equality policies at all levels, and guidelines to ensure women’s representation in science.
To top it off, there are no rankings, comparisons or competition between students, schools or regions. Finnish schools are state-funded. The people in government agencies who run them, from national civil servants to local authorities, are educators, not career businessmen or politicians. Each school has the same national goals and draws from the same pool of university-educated educators. Therefore, every Finnish child receives the same quality education whether they live in a rural village or in a university town. The difference between the weakest and strongest students is the smallest in the world, according to the latest survey by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Equality is the most important word in Finnish education. Not surprisingly, all political parties in the country, right and left, agree on this overriding national goal. This unity of thought and action exhibited by the country’s political leaders has profoundly transformed Finland’s educational landscape into a global best practice, a buzzword in mainstream global media.
The writer is a civil servant by profession, a writer by choice and a motivational speaker by passion!