Finland's Schools Are Some of the Best in the WorldAnd students spend the least time in the classroom. What is their secret? This article from the BBC examines some of the reasons. Are there...

Finland's Schools Are Some of the Best in the World

And students spend the least time in the classroom. What is their secret? This article from the BBC examines some of the reasons. Are there lessons from Finland that would apply to the US?

Expert Answers
brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It's true of a lot of European education systems, where the emphasis is on learning and not necessarily on time in a seat in a class.  They have been more flexible in their approach for decades.

For one, they have high stakes testing just like us.  End of year or end of course comprehensive exams.  Sometimes you'll take a final exam at the end of a two year course of study.  If you don't score well, you're done, and cannot rise higher into the university system, or not as easily anyway.  So the impetus is placed solely on the students. The teachers are there for opportunity.

In addition, Finland, like most European countries has free university, paid with public tax dollars.  So you have an additional motivation to do well, because no matter who you are or what your parents do for a living, college is covered.  So from the first day I'm in school, I'd be more willing to take challenging courses and work harder because any goal is possible.

For that to work here, we'd have to change our funding system, for one.  Two, when a student did not do well on end of year exams, we'd have to have the spine to say to that kid, "You're done", as opposed to letting them retake it endlessly, remediating, or just passing them along regardless.

Despite all the criticism of America's educaiton system, at the end of the day, every parent wants their kid to graduate, even if they didn't do well.

kapokkid eNotes educator| Certified Educator

We joked a little while ago about moving to Norway, but obviously there are advantages and disadvantages to every system.  What is most frustrating is that we cannot learn from other systems and adapt to be more like them (or less like them) instead of just assuming that our way is the best way and charging forward.

We are in the midst of moving towards more and more testing and often more time in school and Japan is in the midst of running screaming from their high-stakes test and suggesting they need less time in school.  Clearly we could learn something from them, even if it isn't just sticking with what we have now, but why must we make the same mistakes others have already made?  Is it just pure arrogance?  Obviously I don't have the answers.

What I think was somewhat fascinating is the idea of teachers being available as opportunities for students to learn from them, not being held responsible for whether or not their students learn.  We do have a few schools like that here in the US, but it is hard to hear about them because the public school model has such a monopoly on both the resources and the media.  Check out if you want to see a different model working here in the US.

mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with "brettd" in that seat time is a problem.  Americans handle education using in an old, traditional, punitive model.  They through two things at it all the time: money and time.

Students aren't doing well?  Let's extend the school day.  Extend the year.  More classes.  More electives.  More, more, more.  And it ends up being more bureaucracy, more micromanagement, more burnout.

Low test scores?  Let's hire better teachers by raising their salaries just enough to keep them in the profession longer.  Let's put more money into state testing.  More time remediating.  More administrators.  More, more, more.

It's never less, less, less.

The problem with high schools is that they are too much like high schools.  And not enough like colleges.

Finland's high schools are very much like our colleges.  There's less time in the classroom, more time for independent study.  Fewer classes, more retention.  Fewer teachers, better quality of teaching.  Fewer bureaucracy, less stress.

engtchr5 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It seems like every few years, a handful of experts decide which country is the "nation du jour" to follow in the realm of education. Just a few years ago, I attended the ICLE's conference and heard Willard Daggett tell everyone in attendance that India and China were the countries that we should model our schools after -- they had longer school days, year-round schooling, more vocational training with fewer academic subjects sprinkled in, and produced cookie-cutter students who were, by their culture's standards, "successful." Now the nation du jour seems to be Finland. As Americans, we need to step back and look at every facet of a country before we start trying to imitate them, in education or in any other way, for that matter. 

ask996 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A couple of things that might contribute to this: parent involvement, not excluding the lower classes—but finding a way to make all socio-economic levels feel they have an investment in their education, maybe opening up the doors of education and giving students a little more say in what they would really like to learn and how they might like to learn it. Hands on always seems to be a plus.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of the keys to Finland's success seems to be that formal education only commences at age 7 and reading is only taught at that age. Before then education is based on structured play. I am a massive fan of these ideas, as I do think particularly for boys kids are made to start school too early and would benefit from more time "out" before starting formal schooling.

besure77 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Parents are incredibly important when analyzing student success. Parents who are involved in their child's education usually have children who are more motivated to do well.

It is also important to help children to perceive that learning is fun. If they think it is a chore then they don't look forward to obtaining more knowledge.

M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Certainly makes a case in favor to asking for a transfer to Finland! :)  I seriously think our American school system is going through a serious misfire. We are trying to accomplish goals which are a bit ridiculous with testing and pre-requisites that aim at nothing.

That's final:  I am moving to Finland.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I don't know... It looks like a fair amount of their success is possibly related to demographics and parenting.  I mean, I wonder how we would do in the testing if it were only our middle class and up kids who were testing.  Do we know how this segment compares with the rest of the world?

lrwilliams eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The article leads us to believe that part of the success is the parents involvement in their children's education. I would say that if we could get more parental involvement in our students we might see improved test scores.

epollock | Student

It is one of the secrets that I give many students at might school. I show them how to be great students and we go over what I call student optimization methods to help them spend as little time as possible on assignments to do more of what they want to do.

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