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What Finland is really doing to improve its acclaimed schools

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Finland has been paid outsized attention in the education world since its students scored the highest among dozens of countries around the globe on an international test some 20 years ago.

And while it is no longer No. 1 — as the education sector was hurt in the 2008 recession, and budget cuts led to larger class sizes and fewer staff in schools — it is still regarded as one of the more successful systems in the world.

In an effort to improve, the Finnish government began taking some steps in recent years, and some of that reform has made for worldwide headlines. But as it turns out, some of that coverage just isn’t true.

A few years ago, for example, a change in curriculum sparked stories that Finland was giving up teaching traditional subjects. Nope .

You can find stories on the Internet saying Finnish kids don’t get any homework. Nope.

Even amid its difficulties, American author William Doyle, who lived there and sent his then-7-year-old son to a Finnish school, wrote in 2016 that they do a lot of things right:

What is Finland’s secret? A whole-child-centered, research-and-evidence based school system, run by highly professionalized teachers. These are global education best practices, not cultural quirks applicable only to Finland.

‘I have seen the school of tomorrow. It is here today, in Finland.’

Here is a piece looking at changes underway in Finnish schools by two people who know what is really going on. They are Pasi Sahlberg and Peter Johnson. Johnson is director of education of the Finnish city of Kokkola. Sahlberg is professor of education policy at the University of New South Wales in Sydney. He is one of the world’s leading experts on school reform and is the author of the best-selling “ Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn About Educational Change in Finland ?”

No, Finland isn’t ditching traditional school subjects. Here’s what’s really happening.

By Pasi Sahlberg and Peter Johnson

Finland has been in the spotlight of the education world since it appeared, against all odds, on the top of the rankings of an international test known as PISA , the Program for International Student Assessment, in the early 2000s. Tens of thousands visitors have traveled to the country to see how to improve their own schools. Hundreds of articles have been written to explain why Finnish education is so marvelous — or sometimes that it isn’t. Millions of tweets have been shared and read, often leading to debates about the real nature of Finland’s schools and about teaching and learning there.

We have learned a lot about why some education systems — such as Alberta, Ontario, Japan and Finland — perform better year after year than others in terms of quality and equity of student outcomes. We also understand now better why some other education systems — for example, England, Australia, the United States and Sweden — have not been able to improve their school systems regardless of politicians’ promises, large-scale reforms and truckloads of money spent on haphazard efforts to change schools during the past two decades.

Among these important lessons are:

  • Education systems and schools shouldn’t be managed like business corporations where tough competition, measurement-based accountability and performance-determined pay are common principles. Instead, successful education systems rely on collaboration, trust, and collegial responsibility in and between schools.
  • The teaching profession shouldn’t be perceived as a technical, temporary craft that anyone with a little guidance can do. Successful education systems rely on continuous professionalization of teaching and school leadership that requires advanced academic education, solid scientific and practical knowledge, and continuous on-the-job training.
  • The quality of education shouldn’t be judged by the level of literacy and numeracy test scores alone. Successful education systems are designed to emphasize whole-child development, equity of education outcomes, well being, and arts, music, drama and physical education as important elements of curriculum.

Besides these useful lessons about how and why education systems work as they do, there are misunderstandings, incorrect interpretations, myths and even deliberate lies about how to best improve education systems. Because Finland has been such a popular target of searching for the key to the betterment of education, there are also many stories about Finnish schools that are not true.

Part of the reason reporting and research often fail to paint bigger and more accurate picture of the actual situation is that most of the documents and resources that describe and define the Finnish education system are only available in Finnish and Swedish. Most foreign education observers and commentators are therefore unable to follow the conversations and debates taking place in the country.

For example, only very few of those who actively comment on education in Finland have ever read Finnish education law , the national core curriculum or any of thousands of curricula designed by municipalities and schools that explain and describe what schools ought to do and why.

The other reason many efforts to report about Finnish education remain incomplete — and sometimes incorrect — is that education is seen as an isolated island disconnected from other sectors and public policies. It is wrong to believe that what children learn or don’t learn in school could be explained by looking at only schools and what they do alone.

Most efforts to explain why Finland’s schools are better than others or why they do worse today than before fail to see these interdependencies in Finnish society that are essential in understanding education as an ecosystem.

Here are some of those common myths about Finnish schools.

First, in recent years there have been claims that the Finnish secret to educational greatness is that children don’t have homework.

Another commonly held belief is that Finnish authorities have decided to scrap subjects from school curriculum and replace them by interdisciplinary projects or themes.

And a more recent notion is that all schools in Finland are required to follow a national curriculum and implement the same teaching method called “phenomenon-based learning” (that is elsewhere known as “project-based learning”).

All of these are false.

In 2014, Finnish state authorities revised the national core curriculum (NCC) for basic education. The core curriculum provides a common direction and basis for renewing school education and instruction. Only a very few international commentators of Finnish school reform have read this central document. Unfortunately, not many parents in Finland are familiar with it, either. Still, many people seem to have strong opinions about the direction Finnish schools are moving — the wrong way, they say, without really understanding the roles and responsibilities of schools and teachers in their communities.

Before making any judgments about what is great or wrong in Finland, it is important to understand the fundamentals of Finnish school system. Here are some basics.

First, education providers, most districts in 311 municipalities, draw up local curricula and annual work plans on the basis of the NCC. Schools though actually take the lead in curriculum planning under the supervision of municipal authorities.

Second, the NCC is a fairly loose regulatory document in terms of what schools should teach, how they arrange their work and the desired outcomes. Schools have, therefore, a lot of flexibility and autonomy in curriculum design, and there may be significant variation in school curricula from one place to another.

Finally, because of this decentralized nature of authority in Finnish education system, schools in Finland can have different profiles and practical arrangements making the curriculum model unique in the world. It is incorrect to make any general conclusions based on what one or two schools do.

Current school reform in Finland aims at those same overall goals that the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development — which gives the PISA exams every three years to 15-year-olds in multiple countries — as well as governments and many students say are essential for them: to develop safe and collaborative school culture and to promote holistic approaches in teaching and learning. The NCC states that the specific aim at the school level is that children would:

  • understand the relationship and interdependencies between different learning contents;
  • be able to combine the knowledge and skills learned in different disciplines to form meaningful wholes; and
  • be able to apply knowledge and use it in collaborative learning settings.

All schools in Finland are required to revise their curricula according to this new framework. Some schools have taken only small steps from where they were before, while some others went on with much bolder plans. One of those is the Pontus School in Lappeenranta, a city in the eastern part of Finland.

The Pontus School is a new primary school and kindergarten for some 550 children from ages 1 to 12. It was built three years ago to support the pedagogy and spirit of the 2014 NCC. The Pontus School was in international news recently when the Finnish Broadcasting Company reported that parents have filed complaints over the “failure” of the new school.

But according to Lappeenranta education authorities, there have been only two complaints by parents, both being handled by Regional Authorities. That’s all. It is not enough to call that a failure.

What we can learn from Finland, again, is that it is important to make sure parents, children and media better understand the nature of school reforms underway.

“Some parents are not familiar with what schools are doing,” said Anu Liljestrom, superintendent of the education department in Lappeenranta. “We still have a lot of work to do to explain what, how and why teaching methods are different nowadays,” she said to a local newspaper. The Pontus School is a new school, and it decided to use the opportunity provided by new design to change pedagogy and learning.

Ultimately, it is wrong to think that reading, writing and arithmetic will disappear in Finnish classrooms.

For most of the school year, teaching in Finnish schools will continue to be based on subject-based curricula, including at the Pontus School.

What is new is that now all schools are required to design at least one week-long project for all students that is interdisciplinary and based on students’ interests. Some schools do that better more often than others, and some succeed sooner than others.

Yes, there are challenges in implementing the new ideas. We have seen many schools succeed at creating new opportunities for students to learn knowledge and skills they need in their lives.

It is too early to tell whether Finland’s current direction in education meets all expectations. What we know is that schools in Finland should take even bolder steps to meet the needs of the future as described in national goals and international strategies. Collaboration among schools, trust in teachers and visionary leadership are those building blocks that will make all that possible.

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Homework in Finland School

Homework in Finland School

How many parents are bracing themselves for nightly battles to get their kids to finish their homework every year with the beginning of a school year? Thousands and thousands of them. Though not in Finland. The truth is that there is nearly no homework in the country with one of the top education systems in the world. Finnish people believe that besides homework, there are many more things that can improve child’s performance in school, such as having dinner with their families, exercising or getting a good night’s sleep.

Do We Need Homework?

There are different homework policies around the world. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) keeps track of such policies and compares the amount of homework of students from different countries. For example, an average high school student in the US has to spend about 6 hours a day doing homework, while in Finland, the amount of time spent on after school learning is about 3 hours a day. Nevertheless, these are exactly Finnish students who lead the world in global scores for math and science. It means that despite the belief that homework increases student performance, OECD graph shows the opposite. Though there are some exceptions such as education system in Japan, South Korea, and some other Asian countries. In fact, according to OECD, the more time students spend on homework, the worse they perform in school.

Finnish education approach shows the world that when it comes to homework, less is more. It is worth to mention that the world has caught onto this idea and, according to the latest OECD report, the average number of hours spent by students doing their homework decreased in nearly all countries around the world.

So what Finland knows about homework that the rest of the world does not? There is no simple answer, as the success of education system in Finland is provided by many factors, starting from poverty rates in the country to parental leave policies to the availability of preschools. Nevertheless, one of the greatest secrets of the success of education system in Finland is the way Finns teach their children.

How to Teach Like The Finns?

There are three main points that have to be mentioned when it comes to the success of education system in Finland.

First of all, Finns teach their children in a “playful” manner and allow them to enjoy their childhood. For example, did you know that in average, students in Finland only have three to four classes a day? Furthermore, there are several breaks and recesses (15-20 minutes) during a school day when children can play outside whatever the weather. According to statistics, children need physical activity in order to learn better. Also, less time in the classroom allows Finnish teachers to think, plan and create more effective lessons.

Secondly, Finns pay high respect to teachers. That is why one of the most sought after positions in Finland is the position of a primary school teacher. Only 10% of applicants to the teaching programs are accepted. In addition to a high competition, each primary school teacher in Finland must earn a Master’s degree that provides Finnish teachers with the same status as doctors or lawyers.

High standards applied to applicants for the university teaching programs assure parents of a high quality of teaching and allow teachers to innovate without bureaucracy or excessive regulation.

Thirdly, there is a lot of individual attention for each student. Classes in Finland are smaller than in the most of other countries and for the first six years of study, teachers get to know their students, their individual needs, and learning styles. If there are some weaker students, they are provided by extra assistance. Overall, Finnish education system promotes warmth, collaboration, encouragement, and assessment which means that teachers in this country are ready to do their best to help students but not to gain more control over them.

The combination of these three fundamentals is the key to success of any education system in the world and Finns are exactly those people who proved by way of example that less is more, especially when it comes to the amount of homework.

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System of education in Finland

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Why Are Finland’s Schools Successful?

The country’s achievements in education have other nations, especially the United States, doing their homework

LynNell Hancock

Photographs by Stuart Conway

Kirkkojarvi School

It was the end of term at Kirkkojarvi Comprehensive School in Espoo, a sprawling suburb west of Helsinki, when Kari Louhivuori, a veteran teacher and the school’s principal, decided to try something extreme—by Finnish standards. One of his sixth-grade students, a Kosovo-Albanian boy, had drifted far off the learning grid, resisting his teacher’s best efforts. The school’s team of special educators—including a social worker, a nurse and a psychologist—convinced Louhivuori that laziness was not to blame. So he decided to hold the boy back a year, a measure so rare in Finland it’s practically obsolete.

Finland has vastly improved in reading, math and science literacy over the past decade in large part because its teachers are trusted to do whatever it takes to turn young lives around. This 13-year-old, Besart Kabashi, received something akin to royal tutoring.

“I took Besart on that year as my private student,” Louhivuori told me in his office, which boasted a Beatles “Yellow Submarine” poster on the wall and an electric guitar in the closet. When Besart was not studying science, geography and math, he was parked next to Louhivuori’s desk at the front of his class of 9- and 10-year- olds, cracking open books from a tall stack, slowly reading one, then another, then devouring them by the dozens. By the end of the year, the son of Kosovo war refugees had conquered his adopted country’s vowel-rich language and arrived at the realization that he could, in fact, learn .

Years later, a 20-year-old Besart showed up at Kirkkojarvi’s Christmas party with a bottle of Cognac and a big grin. “You helped me,” he told his former teacher. Besart had opened his own car repair firm and a cleaning company. “No big fuss,” Louhivuori told me. “This is what we do every day, prepare kids for life.”

This tale of a single rescued child hints at some of the reasons for the tiny Nordic nation’s staggering record of education success, a phenomenon that has inspired, baffled and even irked many of America’s parents and educators. Finnish schooling became an unlikely hot topic after the 2010 documentary film Waiting for “Superman” contrasted it with America’s troubled public schools.

“Whatever it takes” is an attitude that drives not just Kirkkojarvi’s 30 teachers, but most of Finland’s 62,000 educators in 3,500 schools from Lapland to Turku—professionals selected from the top 10 percent of the nation’s graduates to earn a required master’s degree in education. Many schools are small enough so that teachers know every student. If one method fails, teachers consult with colleagues to try something else. They seem to relish the challenges. Nearly 30 percent of Finland’s children receive some kind of special help during their first nine years of school. The school where Louhivuori teaches served 240 first through ninth graders last year; and in contrast with Finland’s reputation for ethnic homogeneity, more than half of its 150 elementary-level students are immigrants—from Somalia, Iraq, Russia, Bangladesh, Estonia and Ethiopia, among other nations. “Children from wealthy families with lots of education can be taught by stupid teachers,” Louhivuori said, smiling. “We try to catch the weak students. It’s deep in our thinking.”

The transformation of the Finns’ education system began some 40 years ago as the key propellent of the country’s economic recovery plan. Educators had little idea it was so successful until 2000, when the first results from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), a standardized test given to 15-year-olds in more than 40 global venues, revealed Finnish youth to be the best young readers in the world. Three years later, they led in math. By 2006, Finland was first out of 57 countries (and a few cities) in science. In the 2009 PISA scores released last year, the nation came in second in science, third in reading and sixth in math among nearly half a million students worldwide. “I’m still surprised,” said Arjariita Heikkinen, principal of a Helsinki comprehensive school. “I didn’t realize we were that good.”

In the United States, which has muddled along in the middle for the past decade, government officials have attempted to introduce marketplace competition into public schools. In recent years, a group of Wall Street financiers and philanthropists such as Bill Gates have put money behind private-sector ideas, such as vouchers, data-driven curriculum and charter schools, which have doubled in number in the past decade. President Obama, too, has apparently bet on compe­tition. His Race to the Top initiative invites states to compete for federal dollars using tests and other methods to measure teachers, a philosophy that would not fly in Finland. “I think, in fact, teachers would tear off their shirts,” said Timo Heikkinen, a Helsinki principal with 24 years of teaching experience. “If you only measure the statistics, you miss the human aspect.”

There are no mandated standardized tests in Finland, apart from one exam at the end of students’ senior year in high school. There are no rankings, no comparisons or competition between students, schools or regions. Finland’s schools are publicly funded. The people in the government agencies running them, from national officials to local authorities, are educators, not business people, military leaders or career politicians. Every school has the same national goals and draws from the same pool of university-trained educators. The result is that a Finnish child has a good shot at getting the same quality education no matter whether he or she lives in a rural village or a university town. The differences between weakest and strongest students are the smallest in the world, according to the most recent survey by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). “Equality is the most important word in Finnish education. All political parties on the right and left agree on this,” said Olli Luukkainen, president of Finland’s powerful teachers union.

Ninety-three percent of Finns graduate from academic or vocational high schools, 17.5 percentage points higher than the United States, and 66 percent go on to higher education, the highest rate in the European Union. Yet Finland spends about 30 percent less per student than the United States.

Still, there is a distinct absence of chest-thumping among the famously reticent Finns. They are eager to celebrate their recent world hockey championship, but PISA scores, not so much. “We prepare children to learn how to learn, not how to take a test,” said Pasi Sahlberg, a former math and physics teacher who is now in Finland’s Ministry of Education and Culture. “We are not much interested in PISA. It’s not what we are about.”

Maija Rintola stood before her chattering class of twenty-three 7- and 8-year-olds one late April day in Kirkkojarven Koulu. A tangle of multicolored threads topped her copper hair like a painted wig. The 20-year teacher was trying out her look for Vappu, the day teachers and children come to school in riotous costumes to celebrate May Day. The morning sun poured through the slate and lemon linen shades onto containers of Easter grass growing on the wooden sills. Rintola smiled and held up her open hand at a slant—her time-tested “silent giraffe,” which signaled the kids to be quiet. Little hats, coats, shoes stowed in their cubbies, the children wiggled next to their desks in their stocking feet, waiting for a turn to tell their tale from the playground. They had just returned from their regular 15 minutes of playtime outdoors between lessons. “Play is important at this age,” Rintola would later say. “We value play.”

With their wiggles unwound, the students took from their desks little bags of buttons, beans and laminated cards numbered 1 through 20. A teacher’s aide passed around yellow strips representing units of ten. At a smart board at the front of the room, Rintola ushered the class through the principles of base ten. One girl wore cat ears on her head, for no apparent reason. Another kept a stuffed mouse on her desk to remind her of home. Rintola roamed the room helping each child grasp the concepts. Those who finished early played an advanced “nut puzzle” game. After 40 minutes it was time for a hot lunch in the cathedral-like cafeteria.

Teachers in Finland spend fewer hours at school each day and spend less time in classrooms than American teachers. Teachers use the extra time to build curriculums and assess their students. Children spend far more time playing outside, even in the depths of winter. Homework is minimal. Compulsory schooling does not begin until age 7. “We have no hurry,” said Louhivuori. “Children learn better when they are ready. Why stress them out?”

It’s almost unheard of for a child to show up hungry or homeless. Finland provides three years of maternity leave and subsidized day care to parents, and preschool for all 5-year-olds, where the emphasis is on play and socializing. In addition, the state subsidizes parents, paying them around 150 euros per month for every child until he or she turns 17. Ninety-seven percent of 6-year-olds attend public preschool, where children begin some academics. Schools provide food, medical care, counseling and taxi service if needed. Stu­dent health care is free.

Even so, Rintola said her children arrived last August miles apart in reading and language levels. By April, nearly every child in the class was reading, and most were writing. Boys had been coaxed into literature with books like Kapteeni Kalsarin (“Captain Underpants”). The school’s special education teacher teamed up with Rintola to teach five children with a variety of behavioral and learning problems. The national goal for the past five years has been to mainstream all children. The only time Rintola’s children are pulled out is for Finnish as a Second Language classes, taught by a teacher with 30 years’ experience and graduate school training.

There are exceptions, though, however rare. One first-grade girl was not in Rintola’s class. The wispy 7-year-old had recently arrived from Thailand speaking not a word of Finnish. She was studying math down the hall in a special “preparing class” taught by an expert in multicultural learning. It is designed to help children keep up with their subjects while they conquer the language. Kirkkojarvi’s teachers have learned to deal with their unusually large number of immigrant students. The city of Espoo helps them out with an extra 82,000 euros a year in “positive discrimination” funds to pay for things like special resource teachers, counselors and six special needs classes.

finland homework

Rintola will teach the same children next year and possibly the next five years, depending on the needs of the school. “It’s a good system. I can make strong connections with the children,” said Rintola, who was handpicked by Louhivuori 20 years ago. “I understand who they are.” Besides Finnish, math and science, the first graders take music, art, sports, religion and textile handcrafts. English begins in third grade, Swedish in fourth. By fifth grade the children have added biology, geography, history, physics and chemistry.

Not until sixth grade will kids have the option to sit for a district-wide exam, and then only if the classroom teacher agrees to participate. Most do, out of curiosity. Results are not publicized. Finnish educators have a hard time understanding the United States’ fascination with standardized tests. “Americans like all these bars and graphs and colored charts,” Louhivuori teased, as he rummaged through his closet looking for past years’ results. “Looks like we did better than average two years ago,” he said after he found the reports. “It’s nonsense. We know much more about the children than these tests can tell us.”

I had come to Kirkkojarvi to see how the Finnish approach works with students who are not stereotypically blond, blue-eyed and Lutheran. But I wondered if Kirkkojarvi’s success against the odds might be a fluke. Some of the more vocal conservative reformers in America have grown weary of the “We-Love-Finland crowd” or so-called Finnish Envy. They argue that the United States has little to learn from a country of only 5.4 million people—4 percent of them foreign born. Yet the Finns seem to be onto something. Neighboring Norway, a country of similar size, embraces education policies similar to those in the United States. It employs standardized exams and teachers without master’s degrees. And like America, Norway’s PISA scores have been stalled in the middle ranges for the better part of a decade.

To get a second sampling, I headed east from Espoo to Helsinki and a rough neighborhood called Siilitie, Finnish for “Hedgehog Road” and known for having the oldest low-income housing project in Finland. The 50-year-old boxy school building sat in a wooded area, around the corner from a subway stop flanked by gas stations and convenience stores. Half of its 200 first- through ninth-grade students have learning disabilities. All but the most severely impaired are mixed with the general education children, in keeping with Finnish policies.

A class of first graders scampered among nearby pine and birch trees, each holding a stack of the teacher’s homemade laminated “outdoor math” cards. “Find a stick as big as your foot,” one read. “Gather 50 rocks and acorns and lay them out in groups of ten,” read another. Working in teams, the 7- and 8-year-olds raced to see how quickly they could carry out their tasks. Aleksi Gustafsson, whose master’s degree is from Helsinki University, developed the exercise after attending one of the many workshops available free to teachers. “I did research on how useful this is for kids,” he said. “It’s fun for the children to work outside. They really learn with it.”

Gustafsson’s sister, Nana Germeroth, teaches a class of mostly learning-impaired children; Gustafsson’s students have no learning or behavioral issues. The two combined most of their classes this year to mix their ideas and abilities along with the children’s varying levels. “We know each other really well,” said Germeroth, who is ten years older. “I know what Aleksi is thinking.”

The school receives 47,000 euros a year in positive discrimination money to hire aides and special education teachers, who are paid slightly higher salaries than classroom teachers because of their required sixth year of university training and the demands of their jobs. There is one teacher (or assistant) in Siilitie for every seven students.

In another classroom, two special education teachers had come up with a different kind of team teaching. Last year, Kaisa Summa, a teacher with five years’ experience, was having trouble keeping a gaggle of first-grade boys under control. She had looked longingly into Paivi Kangasvieri’s quiet second-grade room next door, wondering what secrets the 25-year-veteran colleague could share. Each had students of wide-ranging abilities and special needs. Summa asked Kangasvieri if they might combine gymnastics classes in hopes good behavior might be contagious. It worked. This year, the two decided to merge for 16 hours a week. “We complement each other,” said Kangasvieri, who describes herself as a calm and firm “father” to Summa’s warm mothering. “It is cooperative teaching at its best,” she says.

Every so often, principal Arjariita Heikkinen told me, the Helsinki district tries to close the school because the surrounding area has fewer and fewer children, only to have people in the community rise up to save it. After all, nearly 100 percent of the school’s ninth graders go on to high schools. Even many of the most severely disabled will find a place in Finland’s expanded system of vocational high schools, which are attended by 43 percent of Finnish high-school students, who prepare to work in restaurants, hospitals, construction sites and offices. “We help situate them in the right high school,” said then deputy principal Anne Roselius. “We are interested in what will become of them in life.”

Finland’s schools were not always a wonder. Until the late 1960s, Finns were still emerging from the cocoon of Soviet influence. Most children left public school after six years. (The rest went to private schools, academic grammar schools or folk schools, which tended to be less rigorous.) Only the privileged or lucky got a quality education.

The landscape changed when Finland began trying to remold its bloody, fractured past into a unified future. For hundreds of years, these fiercely independent people had been wedged between two rival powers—the Swedish monarchy to the west and the Russian czar to the east. Neither Scandinavian nor Baltic, Finns were proud of their Nordic roots and a unique language only they could love (or pronounce). In 1809, Finland was ceded to Russia by the Swedes, who had ruled its people some 600 years. The czar created the Grand Duchy of Finland, a quasi-state with constitutional ties to the empire. He moved the capital from Turku, near Stockholm, to Helsinki, closer to St. Petersburg. After the czar fell to the Bolsheviks in 1917, Finland declared its independence, pitching the country into civil war. Three more wars between 1939 and 1945—two with the Soviets, one with Germany—left the country scarred by bitter divisions and a punishing debt owed to the Russians. “Still we managed to keep our freedom,” said Pasi Sahlberg, a director general in the Ministry of Education and Culture.

In 1963, the Finnish Parliament made the bold decision to choose public education as its best shot at economic recovery. “I call this the Big Dream of Finnish education,” said Sahlberg, whose upcoming book,  Finnish Lessons , is scheduled for release in October. “It was simply the idea that every child would have a very good public school. If we want to be competitive, we need to educate everybody. It all came out of a need to survive."

Practically speaking—and Finns are nothing if not practical—the decision meant that goal would not be allowed to dissipate into rhetoric. Lawmakers landed on a deceptively simple plan that formed the foundation for everything to come. Public schools would be organized into one system of comprehensive schools, or  peruskoulu , for ages 7 through 16. Teachers from all over the nation contributed to a national curriculum that provided guidelines, not prescriptions. Besides Finnish and Swedish (the country’s second official language), children would learn a third language (English is a favorite) usually beginning at age 9. Resources were distributed equally. As the comprehensive schools improved, so did the upper secondary schools (grades 10 through 12). The second critical decision came in 1979, when reformers required that every teacher earn a fifth-year master’s degree in theory and practice at one of eight state universities—at state expense. From then on, teachers were effectively granted equal status with doctors and lawyers. Applicants began flooding teaching programs, not because the salaries were so high but because autonomy and respect made the job attractive. In 2010, some 6,600 applicants vied for 660 primary school training slots, according to Sahlberg. By the mid-1980s, a final set of initiatives shook the classrooms free from the last vestiges of top-down regulation. Control over policies shifted to town councils. The national curriculum was distilled into broad guidelines. National math goals for grades one through nine, for example, were reduced to a neat ten pages. Sifting and sorting children into so-called ability groupings was eliminated. All children—clever or less so—were to be taught in the same classrooms, with lots of special teacher help available to make sure no child really would be left behind. The inspectorate closed its doors in the early ’90s, turning accountability and inspection over to teachers and principals. “We have our own motivation to succeed because we love the work,” said Louhivuori. “Our incentives come from inside.”

To be sure, it was only in the past decade that Finland’s international science scores rose. In fact, the country’s earliest efforts could be called somewhat Stalinistic. The first national curriculum, developed in the early ’70s, weighed in at 700 stultifying pages. Timo Heikkinen, who began teaching in Finland’s public schools in 1980 and is now principal of Kallahti Comprehensive School in eastern Helsinki, remembers when most of his high-school teachers sat at their desks dictating to the open notebooks of compliant children.

And there are still challenges. Finland’s crippling financial collapse in the early ’90s brought fresh economic challenges to this “confident and assertive Eurostate,” as David Kirby calls it in  A Concise History of Finland . At the same time, immigrants poured into the country, clustering in low-income housing projects and placing added strain on schools. A recent report by the Academy of Finland warned that some schools in the country’s large cities were becoming more skewed by race and class as affluent, white Finns choose schools with fewer poor, immigrant populations.

A few years ago, Kallahti principal Timo Heikkinen began noticing that, increasingly, affluent Finnish parents, perhaps worried about the rising number of Somali children at Kallahti, began sending their children to one of two other schools nearby. In response, Heikkinen and his teachers designed new environmental science courses that take advantage of the school’s proximity to the forest. And a new biology lab with 3-D technology allows older students to observe blood flowing inside the human body.

It has yet to catch on, Heikkinen admits. Then he added: “But we are always looking for ways to improve.”

In other words, whatever it takes.

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LynNell Hancock | READ MORE

LynNell Hancock writes about education and teaches at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.

Stuart Conway | READ MORE

Stuart Conway is a photographer based in southeast England.

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No Tests, No Homework! Here's How Finland Has Emerged As A Global Example Of Quality, Inclusive Education

Mrinalini Kaushik

Writer: Mrinalini Kaushik  (Remote Intern) 

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She is a student of journalism, keen on learning new ways to unlearn, deconstructing news and life. Interested in exploring new media as medium is the message. Avid follower of sports and politics

Others/World,  15 May 2022 3:40 AM GMT

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Student-oriented approach to education in finland has been recognised as the most well-developed educational system in the world and ranks third in education worldwide..

"A quality education grants us the ability to fight the war on ignorance and poverty," - Charles Rangel

The uniqueness of the Finnish education model is encapsulated in its values of neither giving homework to students every day nor conducting regular tests and exams. Instead, it is listening to what the kids want and treating them as independent thinkers of society.

In Finland, the aim is to let students be happy and respect themselves and others.

Goodbye Standardised Exams

There is absolutely no program of nationwide standard testing, such as in India or the U.S, where those exams are the decisive points of one's admission to higher education like Board Examinations or Common Entrance Tests.

In an event organised by Shiksha Sanskriti Utthan Nyas, RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat remarked, "It is because they teach their children to face life struggles and not score in an examination," reported The Print .

Students in Finland are graded based on individual performance and evaluation criteria decided by their teachers themselves. Overall progress is tracked by their government's Ministry of Education, where they sample groups of students across schools in Finland.

Value-Based Education

They are primarily focused on making school a safe and equal space as children learn from the environment.

All Finland schools have offered since the 1980s free school meals, access to healthcare, a focus on mental health through psychological counselling for everyone and guidance sessions for each student to understand their wants and needs.

Education in Finland is not about marks or ranks but about creating an atmosphere of social equality, harmony and happiness for the students to ease learning experiences.

Most of the students spend half an hour at home after school to work on their studies. They mostly get everything done in the duration of the school timings as they only have a few classes every day. They are given several 15 -20 minutes breaks to eat, do recreational activities, relax, and do other work. There is no regiment in school or a rigid timetable, thus, causing less stress as given in the World Economic Forum .

Everyone Is Equal - Cooperate, Not Compete

The schools do not put pressure on ranking students, schools, or competitions, and they believe that a real winner doesn't compete; they help others come up to their level to make everyone on par.

Even though individualism is promoted during evaluation based on every student's needs, collectivity and fostering cooperation among students and teachers are deemed crucial.

While most schools worldwide believe in Charles Darwin's survival of the fittest, Finland follows the opposite but still comes out at the top.

Student-Oriented Model

The school teachers believe in a simple thumb rule; students are children who need to be happy when they attend school to learn and give their best. Focus is put upon teaching students to be critical thinkers of what they know, engage in society, and decide for themselves what they want.

In various schools, playgrounds are created by children's input as the architect talks to the children about what they want or what they feel like playing before setting up the playground.

Compared To The Indian Education Model

Firstly, Finnish children enrol in schools at the age of six rather than in India, where the school age is usually three or four years old. Their childhood is free from constricting education or forced work, and they are given free rein over how they socialise and participate in society.

Secondly, all schools in Finland are free of tuition fees as there are no private schools. Thus, education is not treated as a business. Even tuition outside schools is not allowed or needed, leaving no scope for commodifying education, unlike in India, where multiple coaching centres and private schools require exorbitant fees.

Thirdly, the school hours in Finland do not start early morning at 6 am, or 7 am as done in India. Finland schools begin from 9.30 am as research in World Economic Forum has indicated that schools starting at an early age is detrimental to their health and maturation. The school ends by mostly 2 pm.

Lastly, there is no homework or surprise test given to students in Finland. Teachers believe that the time wasted on assignments can be used to perform hobbies, art, sports, or cooking. This can teach life lessons and have a therapeutic stress-relieving effect on children. Indian schools tend to give a lot of homework to prove their commitment to studying and constantly revise what they learn in school.

Delhi Govt's Focus On Education

The Delhi model of education transformed under the Aam Aadmi Party's (AAP) tenure in the capital. In line with the Finnish model, Delhi government schools have adopted 'Happiness Classes' to ensure students' mental wellness through courses on mindfulness, problem-solving, social and emotional relationships, etc., from 1st to 8th classes.

Delhi government also introduced 'Entrepreneurial Mindset Classes' in 2019 to instil business and critical thinking skills among students of 9th to 12th classes. The practical approach in this class is indicated in the 'Business Blasters', a competition started by the Delhi government to encourage students to come up with start-up ideas and students were provided with ₹1000. Approximately 51,000 students participated in the first edition of the competition, according to Citizen Matters .

Through these endeavours, India is steadily investing in creating human resources that can get employment and generate employment for themselves.

India is at its demographic dividend stage; more than half of its population is within the working-age group of 14 to 60 years. Education is an essential factor in utilising this considerable advantage to grow economically and socially. Finland's education model is how India can strive closer to its goal and progress as a nation.

Also Read: Connaissance! Delhi Board of School Education Pens MoU To Add French In Government Schools

finland homework

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Education Corner

27 Surprising Finnish Education System Facts and Statistics

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There has been a lot of press recently about how the education system in Finland is one of the best in the world and how they are using radical (compared with the UK and the US) ideas to help achieve their status as one of the best.

Anywhere you look the proof doesn’t seem to lie, yet how exactly is the Finnish Education system achieving such greatness? Their students outperform students in the US and the UK in most, if not all areas and their teachers enjoy a much better work life balance. Let’s take a dive into some of the things the Finnish are doing.

The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) , a survey taken every three years by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) routinely releases data which shows that Americans and British students are seriously lagging behind in many educational performance assessments.

The Finnish Education System

#1 Finnish children enter education at a later age than in many countries. They start school at age 7 and believe that “starting children in school before they’re naturally developmentally ready has no scientifically proven long-term advantage”.

#2 Prior to age 7, Finnish school children can attend day care/nursery school but they do not have formal education whilst there, Instead, they focus on creative play . “They need time to play and be physically active. It’s a time for creativity”. says Tiina Marjoniemi, head of Franzenia daycare center in Helsinki. The Guardian

#3 For every 45 minutes of learning, students enjoy 15 minutes of play.

#4 School is only compulsory for 11 years, meaning students can leave education at age 18. Everything after that is optional. This idea is thought to prepare Finnish students for the real world.

#5 Finish students are not measured at all for the first six years of their education.

#6 Students in Finland only have to sit for a centralized exam (National Matriculation Exam) at the age of 18-19 years old (after 12 years of school).

Finland School Hours

#7 Finnish students do the least number of class hours per week in the developed world, yet get the best results in the long term. The school day starts between 8-9am and is finished by 2pm.

Finland Education Ranking

#8 The schools in Finland are not ranked in any way, there are no comparisons made between schools, regions, teachers or even students. They believe that cooperation is the key to success, not competition.

#9 Finnish Teachers are some of the most qualified in the world. The requirements for becoming a teacher in Finland are set very high, only around the top 10% of applicants are successful and all of those have a masters degree (which incidentally is fully subsidised!).

#10 Finnish teachers have the same status as doctors and lawyers. ( I wish that was the case in the UK! )

#11 Finnish Teachers are not graded. This is probably a direct result of their rigorous selection process and because of this, in Finland, they don’t feel the need to constantly assess and grade their teachers. If a teacher isn’t performing satisfactorily, it is up to the schools principal/head to deal with it. Pasi Sahlberg, director of the Finnish Ministry of Education and writer of Finnish Lessons, said this about teachers’ accountability:

“There’s no word for accountability in Finnish… Accountability is something that is left when responsibility has been subtracted.”

#12 Schools are not inspected. School inspections were actually abolished in Finland in the early 1990s. They have the ideology that they can help direct and assist through support and funding. Again, they trust the professionalism of teachers and school leaders. Schools are encouraged to self-evaluate along.

#13 There are no selective schools or private schools. One of the reasons why there is no competition between Finnish schools is that all schools are funded through public funds. No competition = level playing field.

#14 All Finnish school children receive free school meals, all of them, all the way through school!. There has been a healthy hot lunch served to all students been since 1943 for the whole 9 years at school. ( )

#15 Finnish students all have access to support that is individually based on their specific needs from the start of their school career. They believe that every child has some special needs and therefore special education is for everyone.

#16 The Basics are the priority. Rather than focus on increasing test scores and dominating in math, science and English, the Finnish education system focus on creating a healthy and harmonious environment for students and learning. The ideology of the Finnish education system is that education should be an “ instrument to balance out social inequality “.

#17 Finnish students have the same teacher for up to 6 years of their school career. This is one of the pillars of their harmonious education environment ideology. It allows student/teacher relationships to grow year on year, allowing a much deeper level of trust and respect than only having one year.

Finland Education Curriculum

#18 Finnish Students have less homework than any other student on the planet. Even with fewer school hours, they are still getting everything they need to be done whilst at school. This, in turn, builds on a Finnish child’s ability to grow and learn into a happy and responsible adult.

#19 All classes are mixed ability. This is unpopular in a lot of education systems in the UK and the US (I know, my own school recently adopted this policy (Personally, I love it) and there can be a lot of teachers that don’t like it. However, some of the most successful education systems have mixed ability classes, so it does work!

#20 Finnish Students learn more languages. They learn Finnish from their first day at school. At age 9 they start learning their second language (which is usually English). By age 11 they start learning Swedish, which is Finland’s second language. Many students even start learning a fourth language when they are 13. They are only tested on their first two languages in the final exam at the end of high school.

#21 Teachers only generally spend 4 hours a day in the classroom and have 2 hours every week for professional development , thus reducing teacher stress.

#22 The Finnish national curriculum is a broadly based guideline, allowing teachers to use their own style and ideas in the classroom. This builds on the trust that the Finnish education system has in its teachers.

Finland Education Statistics

#23 93% of students graduate from high school. More than in the US.

#24 66% of high school students go on to further education (college or vocational courses).

#25 Finland spends about 30% less per student than the US, the UK, Japan and Germany. ( OECD Indicators )

#26 Just under 100% of 9th-grade students in Finland go on to high school. This figure includes most of the severely disabled children ( )

#27 43% of those students in further education (16+) attend vocational school.

So there we have it, Finnish students and teachers are part of a great system. Having worked with several Finnish teachers, I can tell you that their ideology and these strategies work, very well!

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2 thoughts on “27 Surprising Finnish Education System Facts and Statistics”

As a student in Finland I realized some of this information is outdated. #1 – It states that children start their education at the age of 7. This is no longer correct because they can start is at the ages of 5, 6 or 7. Typically they do at ages 6 or 7. #3 – It is very school based. some schools do not follow this and it depends a lot. A school can have 45 minute lessons and a 5 min break. #4 – Over resent years it has changed into 9 years of compulsory education (basic education) 2-4 years of upper secondary studies/vocational application. #6 – the matriculation examination is at the age of 18 (typically the last two years of upper secondary studies). Not all students do this because they choose to go to vocational school. #7 – It is again very school based because some schools follow periods (certain subjects for 6 weeks and then the timetable changes). Most schools and students most likely have days from 8am-3pm. It depends a lot what day it is. #16 – To apply to upper secondary school and vocational schools they calculate the average of math, English, Finnish, Swedish, history, civics, religion/ethics, physics, chemistry, biology, geography, health education. #17 – Pert of this is true. Best case scenario they do have the same teacher for six years, but most of the time teachers are only qualified to teach certain grade levels. #18 – The amount of homework totally depends on the teacher. It depends how much the teacher wants them to do. Most times homework is tasks that they did not get done on lessons or ones that deepen the meaning of the subject. #20 – there are a lot of confusing things about this. In most schools the child starts learning Finnish from first grade onwards. From grade 3 onwards they start learning English. From grade 5 onwards they can decide if the want another language (typically French, German or Spanish). From grade 6 onwards they start learning Swedish. In the matriculation examinations the test Finnish and a second home language so either Swedish or English. #21 – Subject teachers can have as many hours a day as the pupils. This all depends how many subjects they are qualified to teach.

According to the Bildung Review the Finnish educational system is failing. Not testing and focusing only on cooperation seems to have failed. I hope Finland will shift in the proper educational focus.

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Unlocking Finland’s Secret: A Revolutionary Approach to Homework and Testing

Finland education system

  • June 26, 2023

Did you know in recent years Finland has been hailed as a global leader in education? Well, yes Finland is consistently achieving top rankings in international assessments such as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). One of the key aspects that sets Finland apart from other countries is its unique approach to homework and testing. Unlike traditional systems that emphasize heavy workloads and high-stakes examinations, Finland’s educational philosophy promotes a balanced and holistic learning experience. In this blog post, we will explore Finland’s innovative strategies regarding homework and testing, and discuss how these approaches contribute to the remarkable success of the Finland education system .

1. The Role of Homework in Finland:

Finland takes a remarkably different approach to homework compared to many other countries. In Finnish schools, the emphasis is not on the quantity but on the quality of homework. Instead of assigning excessive amounts of homework, Finnish educators focus on promoting meaningful and purposeful assignments that reinforce classroom learning. Homework is viewed as a tool for self-reflection, consolidation of knowledge, and promoting independent thinking. Additionally, the Finnish system recognizes the importance of free time for children to engage in recreational activities, develop social skills, and maintain a healthy work-life balance. Consequently, Finnish students have significantly less homework compared to their peers in other nations, allowing them ample time for rest, relaxation, and pursuing extracurricular interests.

Also read: What is Finnish education System?

2. Assessments in Finland:

Moving Beyond Standardized Testing: Unlike many countries that heavily rely on standardized testing as a measure of student performance, Finland adopts a more comprehensive and holistic approach to assessments. The Finnish education system prioritizes continuous evaluation and formative assessments over high-stakes exams. Teachers regularly assess students’ progress through a combination of observation, classroom discussions, project work, and practical assignments. This student-centered approach allows teachers to understand each student’s unique learning style and adapt instruction accordingly. By focusing on individual growth and providing constructive feedback, Finnish educators foster a supportive and nurturing learning environment, free from the stress and pressure associated with high-stakes testing.

3. The Benefits of Finland’s Approach:

Finland’s approach to homework and testing has several notable benefits. Firstly, by reducing the emphasis on homework, Finnish students experience less academic stress and have more time for relaxation and extracurricular activities. This balanced approach promotes overall well-being and fosters the development of well-rounded individuals. Secondly, the shift away from standardized testing allows for a more comprehensive evaluation of students’ abilities, including their critical thinking, problem-solving, and collaborative skills. This holistic assessment aligns with the needs of the 21st-century workforce, which values creativity, adaptability, and teamwork. Additionally, the focus on formative assessments provides students with regular feedback, allowing them to understand their strengths and areas for improvement, and promoting a growth mindset.


Finland has revolutionized the conventional notions of education through its unique approach to homework and testing. By emphasizing purposeful homework and prioritizing holistic assessments, Finland has cultivated an educational system that nurtures well-rounded individuals, fosters critical thinking, and instills a genuine passion for learning. While every educational system faces its own challenges, Finland’s remarkable success serves as an inspiration for other nations to reassess their approaches to homework and testing. By adopting a more balanced and student-centered methodology, countries can establish educational environments that prioritize well-being, stimulate creativity, and effectively prepare students for the demands of the future. Finland’s educational paradigm shift stands as a testament to the transformative power of reimagining traditional education systems, emphasizing the vital importance of continually questioning and improving our approaches to teaching and learning. If you are interested in providing your child with a Finnish education curriculum, look no further than – your comprehensive resource for all your needs.

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What US Schools Can Learn From Finland’s Approach to Education

Four strategies for creating a positive school culture that focuses on the whole student and fosters long-term, holistic well-being.

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By Vanessa Wilkins & Emily Corrigan Nov. 6, 2019

finland homework

What happens when a country decides that one of its most precious natural resources is its children? Finland’s educational system provides a clue. New scores on the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD’s) Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) test are set for release in December 2019 and will draw the attention of education leaders as a measure of which countries best educate their children. American students ranked 31st on the most recent iteration of the exam, which tests 15-year-olds around the world on multiple subjects. Finland, on the other hand, has won international acclaim since it first topped PISA’s charts in 2000. Not only did it remain there several rankings in a row, but also its students displayed remarkably low variability across schools ( 8 percent versus 30 percent OECD-wide ) and within schools. In other words, even Finland’s below-average schools still prepare students to succeed in their personal and professional lives.

How Finland has achieved these results makes it particularly relevant for US reformers. Rather than focusing efforts on new schools, programs, and technology, it has taken a sustainable approach that leverages education infrastructure and spending similar to that of the United States. In 2016, the Finnish National Education Agency reported that Finland spent the equivalent of about $10,000 per student on basic education— less than the US average and about half of what top-spending states dole out. Furthermore, Finland’s success cannot be attributed solely to societal differences. As Columbia University’s Samuel Abrams has noted , Finland’s scores have surpassed those of other Nordic countries despite similar levels of child welfare, social support, and homogeneity. Improvements within the last few decades are products of sound policy and practices.

Finland has approached education reform as a strategy to leverage the country’s scarce natural resources. As one Finn put it, “We have only our forests and our people.” Accordingly, its approach has been holistic, student-centered, and focused on teachers as the main driver of quality. It has defined education as a way to “support pupils’ growth into humanity and into ethically responsible membership of society and to provide them with knowledge and skills needed in life.” Culturally, this manifests in a focus on student well-being in all of its facets. American education reform, on the other hand, has focused on increasing standards and accountability measures ever since the 1983 Nation at Risk report identified failing schools as a primary threat to American economic dominance.

On the surface, Finnish schools don’t look very different from the traditional American model. Students, grouped by age, visit a brick-and-mortar building and learn from a teacher in a classroom for a defined period of time. Yet underlying the Finnish system are fundamental differences in policy that produce better outcomes for students. Ironically, many of these effective practices stem from American research and thought leadership, at least according to Finnish education expert Pasi Sahlberg . Finland can therefore provide a helpful blueprint to implement what we already know works within the schools we have now, while American innovators continue to experiment with new models for the future.

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In November 2018, our organization, Future School Lab , organized an expert-led tour of Finnish schools and meetings with education leaders as part of HundrED’s Education Innovation Summit . When we reflected on the experience, we came away with four main reforms any US state or school could implement to make sustainable improvements within the current system.

1. Articulate a Target Profile for Graduates That Informs Education Policy

Finnish education is based on a clearly stated vision of target abilities, rather than prescriptive, content-based curriculum. In 2016, following a co-creation process that included public input and 30 working groups, the Finnish government defined seven transversal skills and knowledge areas important to students’ success in life:

  • Thinking and learning to learn
  • Cultural competence, interaction, and self-expression
  • Taking care of oneself and managing daily life
  • Multi-literacy
  • Information and communications technology competence
  • Working life competence and entrepreneurship
  • Participation, involvement, and building a sustainable future

These competencies are aspirational rather than fixed benchmarks; they define a relevant vision of how all students can function in society, rather than specific content knowledge. Local municipalities and schools adapt this curriculum to their context and classrooms, and since there are no national achievement tests, the Finnish National Agency for Education can focus on effectively integrating this shared vision into curriculum and school policy, rather than on accountability.

In the United States, some schools, districts, and even a few states are beginning to reorient education toward the development of a more-holistic set of skills, similar to Finland. The Mastery Transcript Consortium , founded by a group of elite private schools with increasing public school membership, for example, is cocreating a digital transcript that reflects each student’s skills, strengths, and interests far beyond the course completion version schools use today. And to help schools looking to articulate a more-holistic vision for their graduates and engage communities in a visioning process, Transcend Education (with which the authors are affiliated) has created a database that provides research-based measures to evaluate learning outcomes for social-emotional skills like empathy and sense of purpose.

2. Recruit Talented Teachers, Train Them Well, Then Give Them Autonomy

Finland attributes its success in education to getting the right people to become teachers, developing them into effective instructors, and putting systems and supports in place to ensure that all children benefit from excellent instruction. Teacher training programs are competitive (admitting about 1 in 10 students) and rigorous. The profession is highly regarded despite average pay as compared to other OECD countries, and according to the Finnish National Agency for Education , 90 percent of teachers report being satisfied with their job.

These high marks are due in part to the trust and autonomy Finnish teachers have. Local governance elevates their voices in policymaking. School boards must, by law, include teachers alongside parents, classified staff, and students. Freed from teaching to the test, teachers can focus on project-based learning (called “phenomenon-based learning” in Finland), and other, deeper learning approaches that we know work for students but that American teachers sometimes avoid for fear of sacrificing content standards.

Finnish teachers also have more time. Because school days are shorter and teachers spend fewer hours in classroom instruction— about 55 percent of US teachers’ annual hours —they devote more time to preparing lessons, collaborating with colleagues to create engaging projects, and meeting with parents and kids.

In the United States, on the other hand, districts struggle to recruit and retain qualified teachers. Recent teacher walkouts reflect frustration over more than pay and insufficient school funding. Seventy-one percent of teachers in a 2015/2016 survey reported a lack of influence over what they teach, 50 percent said they lacked support and encouragement from administration, and 62 percent didn’t experience a great deal of cooperation among colleagues.

finland homework

To develop a larger pool of qualified teachers, schools can make use of alternative pathways to certification by recruiting high-potential teachers with skills and lived experiences that are relevant to students. For example, Roosevelt High School in Portland, Oregon, recruited award-winning journalist S. Renee Mitchell through a professional track that leveraged her career experience but required college courses to learn classroom skills. Mitchell quickly became an important role model and impactful educator. She entered the school, one of Oregon’s most diverse, as its only black teacher, and created the nationally recognized I Am M.O.R.E. program to elevate the voices of students who have experienced trauma. In the longer term, policy makers need to create and fully fund career pathway programs for promising teachers from all backgrounds. Beyond recruitment, we need to invest in ongoing training and support systems, and give teachers time and autonomy to collaborate and integrate new methods and ideas.

3. Give Students Rights and Agency Over Their Own Learning

In Finland, the 1998 Basic Education Act entitles students to pre-primary education, a safe learning environment, and instruction that includes guidance counseling and learning support. In our experience, teachers and administrators routinely referenced children’s rights to explain shorter days, healthier lunches, less homework, and 15 minutes of physical activity for every 45 minutes of class. Legislation based explicitly on students’ rights not only informs practices, but also supports underlying expectations of how education should work. This model places students at the center, creating a decision-making framework that prioritizes their learning and interests over pleasing parents or reporting high test scores. It also justifies giving students more of a say in the policies that affect them. After all, who better to advocate for student interests than students themselves? As a result, students in Finland have real responsibility, including authority over parent-teacher meetings and positions on school boards, and teachers expect students to be the primary agents in their own educational journeys.

finland homework

In the United States, a missing parent permission slip can exclude a child from the best field trip of the year or an important learning opportunity in class. Such policies reflect the expectation that students should receive the education given to them, rather than take a proactive role in it. Perhaps one way to engage students and encourage them to take ownership of their own education and school experience is to quite literally give them ownership. Some districts, such as Los Angeles, have already introduced ballot measures that would lower the legal voting age to 16 for school board elections. Others have given students voting positions on school boards and site councils. In Maryland, student board members have advocated for their young constituents by introducing resolutions to dismantle student ranking systems and diversify schools by redrawing boundaries. Absent legislative changes, individual schools can develop student ownership by giving students voice and choice in how they learn. The Achievement Gap Institute at Harvard University’s “ The Influence of Teaching ” provides a useful study of teaching practices that drive student agency.

finland homework

4. Align Schools and Social Support Services

In Finland, education legislation guarantees free pupil welfare, meaning it integrates health care referred to in the Public Health Act, and mental and social services referred to in the Child Welfare Act. This legislation forms the basis for Student Welfare Committees comprised of principals, special education teachers, nurses, psychologists, social workers, and counselors. Committees meet regularly to discuss individual students and staff, and to create personalized support plans. These may include emotional or academic support services or intensive supplemental support, which benefits 10 percent of Finnish students. While a similar 14 percent of students receive special education services in the United States, what’s unique in Finland is the integration of health and welfare into the school day for both students and staff. School psychologists and social workers on the Welfare Committees meet with students individually and then make referrals to outside services as needed. During school, all students and staff eat free, healthy meals prepared on site, and active, outdoor play and social breaks throughout the day are the norm.

Many schools and programs in the United States, such as Communities in Schools , have already created successful local partnerships with social service providers. However, the onus is on schools to find and partner with community resources and creatively meet students’ needs. Funders and policy makers should support the coordination and development of wrap-around services to take the burden off of schools, and foster community and family engagement, which we know helps students succeed.

A Path Forward for All Kids

Educators and policy makers interested in adapting Finnish approaches to the American context must be mindful to create culturally competent learning environments that serve all children. Finnish policies are intended to promote equity by balancing socio-economic diversity across school boundaries, providing native language services to immigrants, and reducing barriers to nutritious food, health, and social services that contribute to disparities in the United States. However, student rights in Finland prevent the disaggregation of data to determine whether these inclusive measures truly do result in better outcomes for immigrants and historically underserved populations. Any effort to improve educational outcomes must include data-driven equity practices and community-led solutions.

Finally, reforms to our current system must coincide with new solutions for excellence and equity. In the United States, collaboration between public and private sectors, and a cultural emphasis on leadership and entrepreneurship have led to the creation of completely new school models in small pockets across the country. The best of these models may help determine the future of education and better prepare kids for the demands of a rapidly changing workforce. However, until we can test and scale them, they are only a drop in the ocean of the American school system. We need to simultaneously make improvements within our current system to better serve all students.

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What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland's School Success

The Scandinavian country is an education superpower because it values equality more than excellence.


Everyone agrees the United States needs to improve its education system dramatically, but how? One of the hottest trends in education reform lately is looking at the stunning success of the West's reigning education superpower, Finland. Trouble is, when it comes to the lessons that Finnish schools have to offer, most of the discussion seems to be missing the point.

The small Nordic country of Finland used to be known -- if it was known for anything at all -- as the home of Nokia, the mobile phone giant. But lately Finland has been attracting attention on global surveys of quality of life -- Newsweek ranked it number one last year -- and Finland's national education system has been receiving particular praise, because in recent years Finnish students have been turning in some of the highest test scores in the world.

Finland's schools owe their newfound fame primarily to one study: the PISA survey , conducted every three years by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The survey compares 15-year-olds in different countries in reading, math, and science. Finland has ranked at or near the top in all three competencies on every survey since 2000, neck and neck with superachievers such as South Korea and Singapore. In the most recent survey in 2009 Finland slipped slightly, with students in Shanghai, China, taking the best scores, but the Finns are still near the very top. Throughout the same period, the PISA performance of the United States has been middling, at best.

Compared with the stereotype of the East Asian model -- long hours of exhaustive cramming and rote memorization -- Finland's success is especially intriguing because Finnish schools assign less homework and engage children in more creative play. All this has led to a continuous stream of foreign delegations making the pilgrimage to Finland to visit schools and talk with the nation's education experts, and constant coverage in the worldwide media marveling at the Finnish miracle.

So there was considerable interest in a recent visit to the U.S. by one of the leading Finnish authorities on education reform, Pasi Sahlberg, director of the Finnish Ministry of Education's Center for International Mobility and author of the new book Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland? Earlier this month, Sahlberg stopped by the Dwight School in New York City to speak with educators and students, and his visit received national media attention and generated much discussion.

And yet it wasn't clear that Sahlberg's message was actually getting through. As Sahlberg put it to me later, there are certain things nobody in America really wants to talk about.

During the afternoon that Sahlberg spent at the Dwight School, a photographer from the New York Times jockeyed for position with Dan Rather's TV crew as Sahlberg participated in a roundtable chat with students. The subsequent article in the Times about the event would focus on Finland as an "intriguing school-reform model."

Yet one of the most significant things Sahlberg said passed practically unnoticed. "Oh," he mentioned at one point, "and there are no private schools in Finland."

This notion may seem difficult for an American to digest, but it's true. Only a small number of independent schools exist in Finland, and even they are all publicly financed. None is allowed to charge tuition fees. There are no private universities, either. This means that practically every person in Finland attends public school, whether for pre-K or a Ph.D.

The irony of Sahlberg's making this comment during a talk at the Dwight School seemed obvious. Like many of America's best schools, Dwight is a private institution that costs high-school students upward of $35,000 a year to attend -- not to mention that Dwight, in particular, is run for profit, an increasing trend in the U.S. Yet no one in the room commented on Sahlberg's statement. I found this surprising. Sahlberg himself did not.

Sahlberg knows what Americans like to talk about when it comes to education, because he's become their go-to guy in Finland. The son of two teachers, he grew up in a Finnish school. He taught mathematics and physics in a junior high school in Helsinki, worked his way through a variety of positions in the Finnish Ministry of Education, and spent years as an education expert at the OECD, the World Bank, and other international organizations.

Now, in addition to his other duties, Sahlberg hosts about a hundred visits a year by foreign educators, including many Americans, who want to know the secret of Finland's success. Sahlberg's new book is partly an attempt to help answer the questions he always gets asked.

From his point of view, Americans are consistently obsessed with certain questions: How can you keep track of students' performance if you don't test them constantly? How can you improve teaching if you have no accountability for bad teachers or merit pay for good teachers? How do you foster competition and engage the private sector? How do you provide school choice?

The answers Finland provides seem to run counter to just about everything America's school reformers are trying to do.

For starters, Finland has no standardized tests. The only exception is what's called the National Matriculation Exam, which everyone takes at the end of a voluntary upper-secondary school, roughly the equivalent of American high school.

Instead, the public school system's teachers are trained to assess children in classrooms using independent tests they create themselves. All children receive a report card at the end of each semester, but these reports are based on individualized grading by each teacher. Periodically, the Ministry of Education tracks national progress by testing a few sample groups across a range of different schools.

As for accountability of teachers and administrators, Sahlberg shrugs. "There's no word for accountability in Finnish," he later told an audience at the Teachers College of Columbia University. "Accountability is something that is left when responsibility has been subtracted."

For Sahlberg what matters is that in Finland all teachers and administrators are given prestige, decent pay, and a lot of responsibility. A master's degree is required to enter the profession, and teacher training programs are among the most selective professional schools in the country. If a teacher is bad, it is the principal's responsibility to notice and deal with it.

And while Americans love to talk about competition, Sahlberg points out that nothing makes Finns more uncomfortable. In his book Sahlberg quotes a line from Finnish writer named Samuli Paronen: "Real winners do not compete." It's hard to think of a more un-American idea, but when it comes to education, Finland's success shows that the Finnish attitude might have merits. There are no lists of best schools or teachers in Finland. The main driver of education policy is not competition between teachers and between schools, but cooperation.

Finally, in Finland, school choice is noticeably not a priority, nor is engaging the private sector at all. Which brings us back to the silence after Sahlberg's comment at the Dwight School that schools like Dwight don't exist in Finland.

"Here in America," Sahlberg said at the Teachers College, "parents can choose to take their kids to private schools. It's the same idea of a marketplace that applies to, say, shops. Schools are a shop and parents can buy what ever they want. In Finland parents can also choose. But the options are all the same."

Herein lay the real shocker. As Sahlberg continued, his core message emerged, whether or not anyone in his American audience heard it.

Decades ago, when the Finnish school system was badly in need of reform, the goal of the program that Finland instituted, resulting in so much success today, was never excellence. It was equity.

Since the 1980s, the main driver of Finnish education policy has been the idea that every child should have exactly the same opportunity to learn, regardless of family background, income, or geographic location. Education has been seen first and foremost not as a way to produce star performers, but as an instrument to even out social inequality.

In the Finnish view, as Sahlberg describes it, this means that schools should be healthy, safe environments for children. This starts with the basics. Finland offers all pupils free school meals, easy access to health care, psychological counseling, and individualized student guidance.

In fact, since academic excellence wasn't a particular priority on the Finnish to-do list, when Finland's students scored so high on the first PISA survey in 2001, many Finns thought the results must be a mistake. But subsequent PISA tests confirmed that Finland -- unlike, say, very similar countries such as Norway -- was producing academic excellence through its particular policy focus on equity.

That this point is almost always ignored or brushed aside in the U.S. seems especially poignant at the moment, after the financial crisis and Occupy Wall Street movement have brought the problems of inequality in America into such sharp focus. The chasm between those who can afford $35,000 in tuition per child per year -- or even just the price of a house in a good public school district -- and the other "99 percent" is painfully plain to see.

Pasi Sahlberg goes out of his way to emphasize that his book Finnish Lessons is not meant as a how-to guide for fixing the education systems of other countries. All countries are different, and as many Americans point out, Finland is a small nation with a much more homogeneous population than the United States.

Yet Sahlberg doesn't think that questions of size or homogeneity should give Americans reason to dismiss the Finnish example. Finland is a relatively homogeneous country -- as of 2010, just 4.6 percent of Finnish residents had been born in another country, compared with 12.7 percent in the United States. But the number of foreign-born residents in Finland doubled during the decade leading up to 2010, and the country didn't lose its edge in education. Immigrants tended to concentrate in certain areas, causing some schools to become much more mixed than others, yet there has not been much change in the remarkable lack of variation between Finnish schools in the PISA surveys across the same period.

Samuel Abrams, a visiting scholar at Columbia University's Teachers College, has addressed the effects of size and homogeneity on a nation's education performance by comparing Finland with another Nordic country: Norway. Like Finland, Norway is small and not especially diverse overall, but unlike Finland it has taken an approach to education that is more American than Finnish. The result? Mediocre performance in the PISA survey. Educational policy, Abrams suggests, is probably more important to the success of a country's school system than the nation's size or ethnic makeup.

Indeed, Finland's population of 5.4 million can be compared to many an American state -- after all, most American education is managed at the state level. According to the Migration Policy Institute , a research organization in Washington, there were 18 states in the U.S. in 2010 with an identical or significantly smaller percentage of foreign-born residents than Finland.

What's more, despite their many differences, Finland and the U.S. have an educational goal in common. When Finnish policymakers decided to reform the country's education system in the 1970s, they did so because they realized that to be competitive, Finland couldn't rely on manufacturing or its scant natural resources and instead had to invest in a knowledge-based economy.

With America's manufacturing industries now in decline, the goal of educational policy in the U.S. -- as articulated by most everyone from President Obama on down -- is to preserve American competitiveness by doing the same thing. Finland's experience suggests that to win at that game, a country has to prepare not just some of its population well, but all of its population well, for the new economy. To possess some of the best schools in the world might still not be good enough if there are children being left behind.

Is that an impossible goal? Sahlberg says that while his book isn't meant to be a how-to manual, it is meant to be a "pamphlet of hope."

"When President Kennedy was making his appeal for advancing American science and technology by putting a man on the moon by the end of the 1960's, many said it couldn't be done," Sahlberg said during his visit to New York. "But he had a dream. Just like Martin Luther King a few years later had a dream. Those dreams came true. Finland's dream was that we want to have a good public education for every child regardless of where they go to school or what kind of families they come from, and many even in Finland said it couldn't be done."

Clearly, many were wrong. It is possible to create equality. And perhaps even more important -- as a challenge to the American way of thinking about education reform -- Finland's experience shows that it is possible to achieve excellence by focusing not on competition, but on cooperation, and not on choice, but on equity.

The problem facing education in America isn't the ethnic diversity of the population but the economic inequality of society, and this is precisely the problem that Finnish education reform addressed. More equity at home might just be what America needs to be more competitive abroad.

Finland has one of the world's best education systems. Here's how it compares to the US

Coloured pencils are pictured in a wooden box at a nursery school in Eichenau near Munich June 18, 2012.   REUTERS/Michaela Rehle (GERMANY  - Tags: EDUCATION SOCIETY) - RTR33VKH

Finland is renowned for its approach to schooling. Image:  REUTERS/Michaela Rehle

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Finland is an innovative country when it comes to education, and its innovation yields results.

It's consistently one of the highest performing developed countries on the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), an important tool for measuring education systems worldwide.

While Finland's ranking dropped to 12 in the most recent PISA ranking, it's still a lot higher than the US ranking of 36.

Here are some things Finland does differently — and arguably better — than the US when it comes to education:

1. Better standardized tests

Finnish students only take one standardized test during their entire primary and secondary schooling.

By contrast, the US, driven by No Child Left Behind and Common Core mandates, requires students in third through eighth grade to take annual standardized tests to track their performance. Critics claim constant testing doesn't make students any smarter but instead creates a "teaching to the test" environment in schools.

Karen Magee, the president of the largest teachers union in New York, went so far as to urge parents to boycott standardized tests recently.

The Finnish test, called the National Matriculation Examination, is taken at the end of high school and graded by teachers, not computers, as Pasi Sahlberg a professor and former director general at the Finland Ministry of Education, explained to the Washington Post in 2014. The test also doesn't shy away from controversial or complex topics.

Here are some typical questions, according to Sahlberg:

"In what sense are happiness, good life and well-being ethical concepts?"

"Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels predicted that a socialist revolution would first happen in countries like Great Britain. What made Marx and Engels claim that and why did a socialist revolution happen in Russia?"

Sahlberg added, in the Washington Post, "Students are regularly asked to show their ability to cope with issues related to evolution, losing a job, dieting, political issues, violence, war, ethics in sports, junk food, sex, drugs, and popular music. Such issues span across subject areas and often require multi-disciplinary knowledge and skills."

2. More time for play

Students in Finland spend relatively little time on homework, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). A 2014 study of 15-year-olds around the world by the OECD said that on average, Finnish students spend 2.8 hours a week on homework. This contrasts noticeably from the 6.1 hours American students spend per week.

Finns place a lot of value on free time and play. By law, teachers must give students a 15-minute break for every 45 minutes of instruction.

It's a different story in the US where kids typically get less than half an hour of recess every day .

This "deficit of play" for US students may lead to additional anxiety and other mental health issues, the psychologist and research professor Peter Gray has written.

3. College is free

In Finland, not only are bachelor degree programs completely free of tuition fees , so are master and doctoral programs. Students pursue higher education goals without the mountains of student loan debt that many American students face . And the same goes for foreign students. Tuition is free for any student accepted into a college or graduate program in Finland.

This contrasts greatly with the US, where the average student loan debt now approaches $30,000, according to the Institute for College Access and Success's 2014 report.

4. Elevated teaching profession

In Finland, teaching is one of the most revered professions with a relatively high barrier to entry.

 Hours per year teachers required to spend teaching for 2012.

Only one in 10 students who apply to teacher education programs are admitted, according to the Center on International Education Benchmarkin g (CIEB) .

Teachers in Finland are treated like professors at universities, and they teach fewer hours during the day than US teachers, with more time devoted to lesson planning.

They also get paid slightly more in Finland. The average teacher in the US makes about $41,000 a year, compared to $43,000 in Finland, according to OECD data .

And while teachers in the US make less money than many other countries, the OECD found that they work the longest hours of all.

It's easy to understand why America's teachers — who are overworked and get relatively little respect — might not be as effective as teachers in Finland.

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Study: Homework Matters More in Certain Countries

Homework is reinforcing the achievement gap between the rich and the poor, say authors of a new study.

Homework Matters, Depending on Your Country

For years, researchers have been trying to figure out just how important homework is to student achievement. Back in 2009, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development looked at homework hours around the world and found that there wasn’t much of a connection between how much homework students of a particular country do and how well their students score on tests.

Some top achieving countries, like Singapore, assign their students lots of homework. But Finland, for example, succeeds without much homework. On average, Finnish students do only about three hours of homework a week, yet in 2012 they scored sixth highest in the world in reading and 12th highest in math on the OECD’s international test, known as PISA or Programme for International Student Assessment.

But now, five years after the earlier homework study, OECD researchers have drilled down deeper into homework patterns, and they’re finding that homework does play an important role in student achievement within each country . Specifically, they found that homework hours vary by socioeconomic status. Higher income 15-year-olds tend to do more homework than lower income 15-year-olds in almost all of the 38 countries studied by the OECD*. Furthermore, the kids who are doing more homework also tend to get higher test scores. So the authors conclude that homework is reinforcing the achievement gap between the rich and the poor.

Hours of Homework 15 year olds do each week

Chart created by Jill Barshay | Hechinger Report; data from OECD

It’s not just that poor kids are more likely to skip their homework, or don’t have a quiet place at home to complete it. It’s also the case that schools serving poor kids often don’t assign as much homework as schools for the rich, especially private schools, explained Francesca Borgonovi, one of the authors of the study, titled “ Does Homework Perpetuate Inequities in Education? ”

“When you look within countries at students who are learning in the same educational system and they do more homework, then those students do much better,” said Borgonovi. “There is an advantage for putting extra hours in homework.”

A stark example of this rich-poor homework gap is in Singapore. Students in the top quarter of the socio-economic spectrum spend about 11 hours on homework a week, 3 hours more than low-income students in the bottom quarter of the socio-economic spectrum. Each extra hour of homework was associated with 18 more points on the PISA math exam. So three hours adds up to more than 50 points. That’s huge. To put that in perspective, if you added 50 points to the average U.S. math score, we’d be a top 10 nation instead of number 36.

A key factor is what Borgonovi said about “learning in the same educational system.” Some school systems are designed to rely on homework, perhaps using independent study as a substitute for what could otherwise be learned in school. “If you are prepared to change the system, that’s great,” said Borgonovi. “But until you do so, if the system is based on homework, then you should do more of it.”

“Does Homework Perpetuate Inequities in Education?” OECD

Students in Shanghai, a region in China that now leads the world in PISA test scores, do a whopping 14 hours of homework a week, on average. Wealthier students there do 16 hours. Poorer students do just under 11 hours. Interestingly, however, there was no association between the extra homework hours that the wealthier Shanghai kids put in and their PISA test scores. Perhaps that’s because there are diminishing marginal returns to homework after 11 hours of it!

Indeed, most countries around the world have been reducing the amount of homework assigned. Back in 2003, the average time spent on homework worldwide was about six hours a week. In 2012 that shrank to about five hours.

But the United States has been bucking this trend. The typical 15-year-old here does six hours a week, virtually unchanged from a decade ago and possibly rising. Wealthier students typically do eight hours of homework a week, about three hours more than low income students. But unlike in most countries, where more homework is associated with higher PISA test scores, that’s not the case here.

“For the United States, we don’t have homework reinforcing inequality,” Borgonovi said.

Another team of researchers, Ozkan Eren and Daniel J. Henderson, found mixed results for how effective homework is in the United States, in a 2011 study, “ Are we wasting our children’s time by giving them more homework? “ published in the Economics of Education Review. For math, there were huge benefits for the 25,000 eighth graders they studied. But not for English, science or history. And the math boost was much stronger for white students than for blacks. In other words, when a typical black student did more homework, his math test scores didn’t go up as much.

That’s perhaps a clue that even if you could magically get low-income children in other countries to do as much homework as their high-income peers, as the OECD researchers are suggesting, you might not raise their PISA test scores very much.

Indeed, Borgonovi isn’t really advocating for more homework. She says that high quality teachers and instruction are much more important to student outcomes than homework is. To be sure, some amount of homework is good, Borgonovi said, to teach kids how to plan ahead, set goals and work independently. But more than four hours of homework a week, she said, isn’t very beneficial.

“It would be better to redesign the system to have less homework,” said Borgonovi. “But that is hard to do.”

* The OECD looked at socio-economic status and not income exclusively. So the child of a university professor, for example, might still be in the high income category even if his parents don’t make very much money.

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Tags: education , K-12 education , students , Finland , Singapore

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Covering Innovation & Inequality in Education

OPINION: How Finland broke every rule — and created a top school system

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Finland's education system

Spend five minutes in Jussi Hietava’s fourth-grade math class in remote, rural Finland, and you may learn all you need to know about education reform – if you want results, try doing the opposite of what American “education reformers” think we should do in classrooms.

Instead of control, competition, stress, standardized testing, screen-based schools and loosened teacher qualifications, try warmth, collaboration, and highly professionalized, teacher-led encouragement and assessment.

At the University of Eastern Finland’s Normaalikoulu teacher training school in Joensuu, Finland, you can see Hietava’s students enjoying the cutting-edge concept of “personalized learning.”

Related: Everyone aspires to be Finland, but this country beats them in two out of three subjects

But this is not a tale of classroom computers. While the school has the latest technology, there isn’t a tablet or smartphone in sight, just a smart board and a teacher’s desktop.

Screens can only deliver simulations of personalized learning, this is the real thing, pushed to the absolute limit.

This is the story of the quiet, daily, flesh-and-blood miracles that are achieved by Hietava and teachers the world over, in countless face-to-face and over-the-shoulder interactions with schoolchildren.

Related: Ranking countries by worst students

Often, Hietava does two things simultaneously: both mentoring young student teachers and teaching his fourth grade class.

“Finland’s historic achievements in delivering educational excellence and equity to its children are the result of a national love of childhood, a profound respect for teachers as trusted professionals, and a deep understanding of how children learn best.”

Hieteva sets the classroom atmosphere. Children are allowed to slouch, wiggle and giggle from time to time if they want to, since that’s what children are biologically engineered to do, in Finland, America, Asia and everywhere else.

This is a flagship in the “ultimate charter school network” – Finland’s public schools.

Related: Why Americans should not be coming up with their own solutions to teacher preparation issues

Here, as in any other Finnish school, teachers are not strait-jacketed by bureaucrats, scripts or excessive regulations, but have the freedom to innovate and experiment as teams of trusted professionals.

Here, in contrast to the atmosphere in American public schools, Hietava and his colleagues are encouraged to constantly experiment with new approaches to improve learning.

Hietava’s latest innovations are with pilot-testing “self-assessments,” where his students write daily narratives on their learning and progress; and with “peer assessments,” a striking concept where children are carefully guided to offer positive feedback and constructive suggestions to each other.

Related: In Singapore, training teachers for the classroom of the future

The 37 year-old Hietava, a school dad and Finnish champion golfer in his spare time, has trained scores of teachers, Unlike in America, where thousands of teacher positions in inner cities are filled by candidates with five or six weeks of summer training, no teacher in Finland is allowed to lead a primary school class without a master’s degree in education, with specialization in research and classroom practice, from one of this small nation’s eleven elite graduate schools of education.

As a boy, Hietava dreamed of becoming a fighter pilot, but he grew so tall that he couldn’t safely eject from an aircraft without injuring his legs. So he entered an even more respected profession, teaching, which is the most admired job in Finland next to medical doctors.

I am “embedded” at this university as a Fulbright Scholar and university lecturer, as a classroom observer, and as the father of a second grader who attends this school.

Related: Schools exacerbate the growing achievement gap between rich and poor, a 33-country study finds

How did I wind up here in Europe’s biggest national forest, on the edge of the Western world in Joensuu, Finland, the last, farthest-east sizable town in the EU before you hit the guard towers of the Russian border?

In 2012, while helping civil rights hero James Meredith write his memoir “ A Mission From God ,” we interviewed a panel of America’s greatest education experts and asked them for their ideas on improving America’s public schools.

One of the experts, the famed Professor Howard Gardner of the Harvard University Graduate School of Education, told us, “Learn from Finland, which has the most effective schools and which does just about the opposite of what we are doing in the United States. You can read about what Finland has accomplished in ‘Finnish Lessons’ by Pasi Sahlberg.”

Related: While the U.S. struggles, Sweden pushes older students back to college

I read the book and met with Sahlberg, a former Finnish math teacher who is now also at Harvard’s education school as Visiting Professor.

After speaking with him I decided I had to give my own now-eight-year old child a public school experience in what seemed to be the most child-centered, most evidence-based, and most effective primary school system in the world.

Now, after watching Jussi Hietava and other Finnish educators in action for five months, I have come to realize that Finland’s historic achievements in delivering educational excellence and equity to its children are the result of a national love of childhood, a profound respect for teachers as trusted professionals, and a deep understanding of how children learn best.

Related: In Norway, where college is free, children of uneducated parents still don’t go

Children at this and other Finnish public schools are given not only basic subject instruction in math, language and science, but learning-through-play-based preschools and kindergartens, training in second languages, arts, crafts, music, physical education, ethics, and, amazingly, as many as four outdoor free-play breaks per day, each lasting 15 minutes between classes, no matter how cold or wet the weather is. Educators and parents here believe that these breaks are a powerful engine of learning that improves almost all the “metrics” that matter most for children in school – executive function, concentration and cognitive focus, behavior, well-being, attendance, physical health, and yes, test scores, too.

The homework load for children in Finland varies by teacher, but is lighter overall than most other developed countries. This insight is supported by research, which has found little academic benefit in childhood for any more than brief sessions of homework until around high school.

Related: Demark pushes to make students graduate on time

There are some who argue that since Finland has less socio-economic diversity than, for example, the United States, there’s little to learn here. But Finland’s success is not a “Nordic thing,” since Finland significantly out-achieves its “cultural control group” countries like Norway and Sweden on international benchmarks. And Finland’s size, immigration and income levels are roughly similar to those of a number of American states, where the bulk of education policy is implemented.

There are also those who would argue that this kind of approach wouldn’t work in America’s inner city schools, which instead need “no excuses,” boot-camp drilling-and-discipline, relentless standardized test prep, Stakhanovian workloads and stress-and-fear-based “rigor.”

But what if the opposite is true?

What if many of Finland’s educational practices are not cultural quirks or non-replicable national idiosyncrasies — but are instead bare-minimum global best practices that all our children urgently need, especially those children in high-poverty schools?

Related: China downturn, increased competition could affect supply of foreign students

Finland has, like any other nation, a unique culture. But it has identified, often by studying historical educational research and practices that originated in the United States, many fundamental childhood education insights that can inspire, and be tested and adapted by, any other nation.

As Pasi Sahlberg has pointed out, “If you come to Finland, you’ll see how great American schools could be.”

Finland’s education system is hardly perfect, and its schools and society are entering a period of huge budget and social pressures. Reading levels among children have dropped off. Some advanced learners feel bored in school. Finland has launched an expensive, high-risk national push toward universal digitalization and tabletization of childhood education that has little basis in evidence and flies in the face of a recent major OECD study that found very little academic benefit for school children from most classroom technology.

Related: In Brazil, fast-growing universities mirror the U.S. wealth divide

But as a parent or prospective parent, I have spent time in many of the most prestigious private schools in New York City and toured many of the city’s public school classrooms, in the largest public school system in the world. And I am convinced that the primary school education my child is getting in the Normaalikoulu in Joensuu is on a par with, or far surpasses, that available at any other school I’ve seen.

I have a suggestion for every philanthropist, parent, educator and policymaker in the world who wants to improve children’s education.

Start by coming to Finland. Spend some time sitting in the back of Jussi Hietava’s classroom, or any other Finnish classroom.

If you look closely and open your mind, you may see the School of Tomorrow.

William Doyle is a 2015-2016 Fulbright Scholar and New York Times bestselling author from New York City on the faculty of the University of Eastern Finland, and father of an eight year old who attends a Finnish public school.

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Enjoyed reading William Doyle’s piece on school education in Finland. Am independently developing a flexible, interdisciplinary, interactive, and affordable learning model for K-12 education in India that integrates concept learning, hands- on activities, and life skills. Look forward to read more on new thinking in learning and education!

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  • Study in Finland /

Finland Education System

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  • Updated on  
  • Nov 22, 2022

Finland Education System

Revered as the best education system in the world , Finland has meticulously curated an apparatus for academia and learning that is at par with almost all countries around the globe. Bordering Sweden , Norway , and Russia by land and Estonia by sea, the country is home to a unique mix of modern and natural with its clean and sophisticated towns blossoming with coniferous forests in the countryside. Emerging as an intellectual in the domain of education, the Finnish education system is meant to have cracked the code of imparting quality education and following the motto of eternal learning. Have you ever thought about why Finland has the best education system in the world? Through this blog, let’s explore what makes Finland’s education system unique as well as how it is designed. 

This Blog Includes:

Finland education system ranking, top 10 reasons why finland has the best education system, finland education system facts, finland education policy, schooling in finland, early childhood education and care (ecec), pre-primary education, basic education , upper secondary education, higher education (universities/universities of applied sciences), adult education, finland education statistics, free education in finland, restructuring of higher education in finland , finland education system ppt, list of popular universities in finland, top public universities in finland, cost of studying in finland, best cities in finland, student visas for finland .

Click here to download Finland Education System PDF!

Finland is, no doubt, one of the best countries to study. So, let’s check out some of the rankings that the country has received:

  • Finland is the 8th most educated country in the world.
  • In Education ranking by Countries, Finland has a total score of 1.631K ranking in 3rd position in 2021.
  • Finland has the highest ranking in High School Completion Rate.
  • World Economic Forum’s Global Competitive study ranks Finland as having the most well-developed education in the world.

Now being admired as the best of them all, the Finnish education system wasn’t always like this. If we go back in time, it happened almost 50 years ago when the Finnish government examined the education system and added better, progressive though untested reforms that would prove to be imperative in the future years. That’s when the whole structure was redeveloped going from the basic early education stage to the higher education level, it got recreated with the motto to equip students with incremental life skills.

Here are the top 10 reasons why Finland has the best education system in the world:

  • Free Education Access (from Pre-Primary to Higher) to Finnish Citizens as well as to those coming from EU /EEA countries because education is considered an equal right for everyone.
  • Implementation of a holistic teaching and learning environment that aims to emphasise equity over excellence.
  • No standardized testing system as students is graded individually with a grading system created by their teacher. Also, overall progress is mapped by the Ministry of Education by sampling groups of varied ranges of schools.
  • Finnish children begin their academic journey at an older age, i.e. only when they turn seven years old do they commence their schooling and before that learning is made free-flowing.
  • The “bar is higher for teachers”, i.e. only master’s degree holders (from specialised teaching schools) can opt for teaching positions and even then an individual principal is allotted to every teacher to keep a tab on their progress.
  • Exemption from the Artificial Parameters of Academic Progress by removing any kind of competition between academic institutions but rather cooperation is made the norm.
  • Better Alternatives to the Same-Old Degree those planning for a college education can choose from professional options, be it vocational schools, university education or training classes.
  • Focuses on fostering cooperation over competition in schools by inculcating the skills of teamwork, collaboration and team spirit in students.
  • Emphasis on foundational basics is an important reason why Finland has the best education system in the world because students are provided with the time and scope to build the best foundation and basics at their own pace.
  • Only 9 years of compulsory education are there in Finland’s education system and after that students are encouraged to find out what’s best for them academically and career-wise.

Explore New Zealand Education System !

Want to know why Finland has the best education system in the world? Well, here are the top characteristics of Finland’s Education System:

  • The minimum age for starting elementary education in Finland is 7 years thus Finnish kids get to enjoy their childhood and kickstart their learning with their families rather than spending excessive time in schools.
  • Finnish teachers formulate their grading systems for the students rather than relying on class exams and standardised tests.
  • The only mandatory test that Finnish students give is at the age of 16.
  • Finnish teachers only spend around 4 hours every day teaching in the classroom while they devote 2 hours every week to professional development.
  • The school system in Finland is wholly 100% state-funded.
  • Graduates from the top 10 percentile can only apply to become a Teacher in Finland.
  • Every teacher in Finland is a master’s degree holder which is completely subsidized by the country’s government.
  • On average, the starting salary of a teacher in Finland is somewhere around $29,000.
  • Teachers are considered equivalent in status to doctors and lawyers in Finland.
  • In 2018, the literacy rate in Finland was 99.0% .
  • Finnish students spend only 20 hours a week at school.
  • Every student in Finland can speak 2-3 languages .
  • No competition between Finnish schools since every academic institution has the same facilities as any other.
  • Students get to learn new things in schools from baking and industrial works to music and poetry .
  • For every 45 minutes of learning in schools , Finnish students get to spend every 15 minutes playing or doing leisure activities .
  • Finnish students receive free healthy meals from their schools.
  • Every Finnish student is provided special services that fit their special needs and requirements.
  • The Finland education system also fosters the teacher-student relationship as every student gets the same teacher for up to 6 years in their school.
  • The students get very less homework and almost finish up everything they get during school hours only.
  • The Finnish schools have mixed ability classes to nurture diverse interests and hobbies.

Click here to know all about Studying in Finland!

Finland Education Policy

The uniquely created Finland Education Policy is one of the key reasons why Finland has the best education system in the world. Here are the important features of Finland’s Education Policy:

  • The main aim of Finland’s Education policy is to ensure that every citizen has equal educational opportunities to avail.
  • The most important focus of the education policy is emphasised quality, efficiency, equity and internationalization.
  • It is founded on the principles of ‘Lifelong Learning and ‘Free Education.
  • Finnish teachers are provided with the autonomy they need but they are fully trained and shortlisted only with higher qualifications which are usually a master’s degree.
  • Teachers are also intensively involved in creating the best curricula as well as learning plans for students.
  • Finland’s education system fosters an environment of trust between educators as well as the community.
  • Students are motivated to work on collaborative projects especially through interdisciplinary projects and specialisations.

Finland Education System

The Finnish Education System contains nine years of compulsory basic education, early education and care, pre-primary education, upper secondary education, higher education, and finally adult education. The description of all these levels has been given below.

  • Early Childhood Education and Care (Provided to the students before the beginning of compulsory education)
  • Pre-Primary Education (1-year duration for 6-year-olds)
  • Basic Education (Compulsory 9-year education for children aged 7-16))
  • Upper Secondary Education (Vocational Education and Training / General Upper Secondary Education)
  • Higher Education (Education offered by Universities / Universities of Applied Sciences )

Now, let’s explore these levels of education in further detail:

This level of education aims to support the development, learning and well-being of a child while giving them plentiful learning opportunities. Local Authorities and Municipalities are tasked with the responsibility of regulating the mechanism of Early Children’s Education and Care. At this level of the Finland Education System, only municipal daycare cover is charged which mainly relies on family income as well as the number of children. Taking approval of the Finnish National Agency for Education, the National Curriculum Guidelines (NCG) is designed for the ECEC level and also constitute of open early childhood education activities which are conducted by municipalities for kids and their families.

Playing a vital role in the continuum expanding from ECEC, this stage aims to enhance the children’s opportunities for learning and development. For the children in the country, participation in pre-primary education has been made compulsory, since 2015. Also, another significant feature of the Finland education system under the stage of Pre-primary education is that the guardian of the kid must ensure their participation in different types of activities at this level. With the approval of the Finnish National Agency for Education, the National Core Curriculum for Pre-Primary Education guides the planning and implementation of the contents of Pre-Education.

In the Finland Education System, Comprehensive Schooling or Basic Education is where the compulsory education of 9 years begins for all children aged between 7 and 16. It strives to support the student’s growth towards becoming an ethically responsible member of society as well as imparting them the essential knowledge and skills needed in life. Further, all the schools providing basic education follow a national core curriculum which constitutes the objectives and core fundamentals of varied subjects, and the local authorities, such as municipalities and other education providers, maintain the Comprehensive Schools and often create their curricula as part of the national framework.

After the basic education stage of the Finland education system, students are given the choice between pursuing general and vocational education. General Education usually takes three years to complete and does not qualify students for pursuing any particular profession or occupation. After completing the General Upper Secondary Education, the students have to take the Finnish matriculation examination to be eligible for various educational universities or universities of applied sciences for bachelor’s degrees. 

The other route which students of Finland can choose is Vocational Upper Secondary Education and Training in which students are provided with basic skills required in their chosen field by allotting them to workplaces through an apprenticeship agreement or a training agreement. The institution facilitating the program curates a personal capability development plan for its students, drafting the content, schedule, and schemes of study. After concluding this level, the students are eligible to opt for further studies at universities or universities of applied sciences to enter the higher education stage in Finland’s education system.

Under the higher level of the Finland Education system, the academic institutions are bifurcated into regular universities and Universities of Applied Sciences. There are various postgraduate degrees as well in higher scientific and artistic education, i.e. licentiate and doctoral degrees. The time duration to complete a bachelor’s degree in regular universities is 3 years and the master’s program is of 2 years. Whereas, the students who pursue their higher education at Universities of Applied Sciences in Finland, are awarded UAS Bachelor’s and UAS Master’s degrees. 

In Finland’s education system, the degrees offered by the Universities of Applied Sciences usually take between 3.5 and 4.5 years to get completed. Those students who want to pursue UAS Master’s program in these universities must have completed their bachelor’s degree or any other suitable degree along with having 3 years of relevant work experience in their field.

Must Read: Finland Student Visa

Adult education and training in Finland’s Education System are added to provide education leading to a qualification, degree studies, apprenticeship training, further and continuing education updating and extending the professional skills, studies in different crafts and subjects on a recreational basis, and much more. For this stage of education, the training is either paid by the student or the employer facilitating apprenticeship training, staff development, or labour policy education. Adult education is provided by educational institutions mainly for working professionals, private companies, and workplaces.

Also Read: Japan Education System

Around 93% of graduates in Finland from academic or vocational high schools, 17.5% points higher than the US, and 66% of them choose to opt for higher education, the highest rate in the European Union. Yet Finland spends around 30% less per student than the US.

Finland does not just boast quality education but also offers free education for many students. The public universities in Finland are divided into regular universities and universities for applied sciences. These universities have no tuition fees for students coming from EU/EEA countries and Switzerland. Although Non-EU/EEA country students have to pay the tuition fees, programs taught in Finnish or Swedish are free for international students as well. 

The Ministry of Education has called for system-wide reorganisation as a result of globalisation and increased competition for dwindling younger age groups. Since 2006, all higher education institutions have started exchanging collaboration methods. Within 10–15 years, the total number of institutions is likely to shrink dramatically. The University of Eastern Finland was formed in 2010 when the University of Kuopio and the University of Joensuu merged to become the University of Eastern Finland. On August 1, 2009, three local institutions in Helsinki, notably the Helsinki University of Technology, Helsinki School of Economics, and Helsinki University of Art and Design, united to form Aalto University. Several applied science universities have also announced mergers. Within universities, new forms of collaboration such as consortia and federations have been introduced (e.g., the University of Turku and Turku School of Economics Consortium). Traditional institutions and universities of applied sciences are forming partnerships (e.g., the University of Kuopio and Savonia University of Applied Sciences formed the Northern Savonia Higher Education Consortium). In general, system-wide change in Central Europe , the United States , Spain , and Hungary follows a similar pattern.

Several universities in the country have earned international accreditation and are on the wish lists of many students. Examine the following list of universities in Finland, along with their respective QS Rankings for the year 2023:

Listed below are the top public universities offering academic degrees to international students –

  • University of Helsinki
  • Abo Akademi University
  • Aalto University
  • Tampere University
  • University of Jyväskylä

Finland’s public institutions did not charge tuition fees until 2017. However, there have been attempts at the government level since the 1990s to impose tuition fees on students from outside the European Union/EEA . Those ideas have been met with opposition from student organisations. Students from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) have had to pay at least 1,500 euros a year to study in Finland since the autumn semester of 2017, while students from the EEA continue to study for free. Non-European students’ tuition fees typically range from roughly EUR 6,000 to EUR 18,000 (INR 5.19 – INR 15.58 Lakhs) per year, depending on the university and programme.

While planning to pursue higher studies in Finland, students might be confused about the cities. Well, to help you with that, we have listed the best cities in Finland in this section, to help make your university selection process easier –

As an Indian student wanting to study in Finland, you need to have a valid passport and a visa to enter a new country. The Single-entry visa enabled entry to the Schengen zone once and for up to 90 days in any 180 days while the Double-entry visa increases your entry to twice. Other than this, there is a Multiple-entry visa granted for various consecutive visits to the Schengen area and the total duration of the stay cannot exceed 90 days in 180 days and this is valid for a maximum of 5 years. In case you wish to extend the validity of your visa while in Finland, you need to contact the local police authorities there.

Finland ranks third in the Education Ranking by Countries in 2021, with a total score of 1.631K. Finland has the highest rate of high school completion in the world. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report, Finland has the best-developed education system in the world.

Finland has been named one of the world’s happiest and most prosperous countries, and The Economist just named it the best country in the world for higher education.

In Finland, for example, students spend just around 5 hours per day in school and have little homework outside of school. Students in many Asian countries, however, attend school for longer days, and many attend private “cram schools” for hours each day outside of official school hours.

Regular universities and universities of applied sciences are the two types of public institutions in Finland. They are all tuition-free for students from the EU/EEA and Switzerland. Non-EU/EEA students enrolled in English-taught degrees must pay tuition.

The fact is that in a country with one of the best education systems in the world, there is hardly any homework. Finnish people think that, aside from homework, several other factors might improve a child’s academic achievement, such as eating supper with their family, exercising, or getting a good night’s sleep.

Thus, the Finland education system strives to emphasize equal educational opportunities imparting every pupil with the essential life skills and core knowledge of basic disciplines while giving them the necessary liberty at the latter stages to experiment, explore and follow their callings.

If you are intending to study in Finland but are confused about how to go about it, let our Leverage Edu experts guide you in finding a suitable program and university as well as kickstarting the application process promptly so that you get to embrace an incredible experience in the intellectual land of opportunities.

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  • Feb 18, 2019

Pasi Sahlberg: What Can We Learn From Finland About Education Reform?

By Sarah Kingstone

finland homework

This week, members of the EPPE program attended a talk by Finnish educator, author, and policy advisor, Pasi Sahlberg, on international and national assessment, professionalization, and equity in educational reform — themes that he made relevant to the Scottish education system and aspiring teacher candidates.

Main message

After waking everyone up with a video clip of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run,” Sahlberg opened his talk by contextualizing Finland’s (admittedly) surprising global fame following the introduction of PISA in 2001. In the spirit of comparative education exercises, Sahlberg aims to create a space to learn from other countries, perspectives, and approaches to education, not encourage replication of the Finnish system. He, only somewhat facetiously, joked that his work should be prefaced with a “do not try this at home” warning sticker.

Myth Busting

Following his introduction and warning, Sahlberg explicitly addressed the myths about Finnish education and Finnish educational success that have been crafted, peddled out of context, and distributed, by the media in particular. Mythologizing these inaccurate interpretations of the Finnish system can have harmful, though unintended, consequences for students, teachers, and education systems. It is important that we unpack those inaccuracies interpretations here.

finland homework

1. Finland is NOT ditching traditional subjects for topics/themes/projects

Sahlberg tackles this myth in his Washington Post article : Schools in Finland are continuing to teach traditional subjects, but educational reforms will provide students with learning periods that look at broader, cross-curricular, multi-disciplinary topics like climate change and more local micro-histories. These opportunities will look different from one school or region to another — with a decentralized education system, school municipalities have considerable freedom and autonomy to make decisions that align with the national guiding framework .

2. Finland has NOT done away with homework

Sahlberg clarified that as radically and appealing as this idea might be for many young people, homework has not been banned in Finnish schools. That being said, the ‘2 hours of homework’ standard that had been common in Finland was removed so that teachers no longer feel obligated to give students homework every night, regardless of relevance. Students now have considerably fewer hours of homework, in order to open up more time to engage in creative play.

3. Finland does NOT only employ the academically ‘best and brightest’ in the teaching profession.

Although many countries, including England, and the OECD* have moved to targeting the academically strongest applicants for the teaching profession, Finnish teacher education programs select a breadth of applicants based on consideration of academic performance, skills, and education-related experiences, which results in a cohort of aspiring teachers with Matriculation Examination scores spanning the full academic spectrum. Sahlberg reiterated that academic success in school does not predict teacher quality, but did accept the validity of Schleicher’s comments on the importance of quality initial teacher preparation programmes. In light of this fact, Finnish teacher education programs only accept 1 in 10 applicants and demand at least five years of study. This policy recognizes that “it is better to design initial teacher education in a way that will get the best from young people who have natural passion to teach for life.”

Research Questions

It was evident through the early portion of the presentation, that Sahlberg has spent a considerable amount of time and effort clarifying the misconceptions that have flourished through poorly researched media attention and the desire for governments to find a simple ‘secret’ to solve education’s ‘wicked’ problems.

Spoiler alert, there are no easy solutions. But understanding why some education systems are succeeding while others are continuing to struggle is an appropriate and effective place to start.

finland homework

Using data collected by the OECD, Sahlberg laid out the stark contrasts between successful and struggling education systems. This gave us all an opportunity to think about how our own national or state/provincial education systems compare. The research suggests that systems that have experienced limited growth or even failure place considerable emphasis on the standardization of excellence. They rank and measure student, teacher, and school success through test-based accountability and competition, and teacher professionalization and capacity-building is dismissed as irrelevant. Successful systems, on the other hand, approach education creatively — there is space in and around the classroom for collaboration; teachers are not overly evaluated or held accountable through bureaucratic mechanisms, but provided with trust-based responsibility; professionalism is ensured through high-quality teacher training and continuous professional development and upgrading programs and opportunities; and the system itself ultimately values equity above excellence.

finland homework

Keys to Better Education

Sahlberg argues that aspiring to an equitable system — that which can provide young people with what they individually need to achieve success — is necessary to effectively achieve high quality education. He closed by reviewing the 4 ‘keys’ to better education in any nation.

First, governments must invest fairly in all institutions for all students. For nations already divided by high levels of inequality and inequity, such as the United States, Canada, and Australia, initial investment should target the most vulnerable, marginalized, and disenfranchised parts of the population.

Second, special education in the broadest sense — for vulnerable or at-risk populations, students with learning differences, etc — must be strengthened, ultimately focusing on preventing the need for responsive or reparatory programs.

Third, teacher professionalism should be built through high quality teacher training and education programs and continuous professional development and upgrading programs that increase, enhance, and develop teacher knowledge, skills, and capacity.

Fourth, teacher and student well-being should be targeted in a way that takes a holistic approach to education, acknowledging the impact that external stressors have on the quality and effectiveness of the experience in the classroom. The final message that Sahlberg provided reiterated this point. Let the children play! Schools and teachers should be committed to providing children with the time and space to explore, reflect, and have fun the service of positive youth development. Especially relevant to us in the audience, Sahlberg announced that he is using Scotland as a positive case study in his latest book, Let The Children Play.

In his concluding remarks, Sahlberg reiterated the significance of context when discussing the reform of our education systems. Additionally, we should not get ahead of ourselves with idealistic thoughts of educational reform without remembering the powerful role political regimes play in strengthening or undermining equity.

*Andreas Schleicher, OECD Director of Education and Skills: “We need to attract the best and brightest to join the profession. Teachers are the key in today’s knowledge economy, where a good education is an essential foundation for every child’s future success. A quality initial teacher preparation programme, which prepares prospective teachers for the challenges of today’s classrooms, is essential to ensuring teacher quality”

Thanks to Sarah for her contribution this week. If you have any questions or comments in response to this presentation and post, please leave a message below or get in touch via our Twitter account.

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    Finland has approached education reform as a strategy to leverage the country's scarce natural resources. As one Finn put it, "We have only our forests and our people." Accordingly, its approach has been holistic, student-centered, and focused on teachers as the main driver of quality.

  10. What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland's School Success

    Educational policy, Abrams suggests, is probably more important to the success of a country's school system than the nation's size or ethnic makeup. Indeed, Finland's population of 5.4 million can ...

  11. Homework: Finland Does It Better (Learning World S4E1, 1/3)

    The Finnish school system has proven to be efficient and results in the Pisa tests conducted by OECD repetitively show that Finland is among the top 5 countr...

  12. Finland has one of the world's best education systems. Here's how it

    Students in Finland spend relatively little time on homework, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). A 2014 study of 15-year-olds around the world by the OECD said that on average, Finnish students spend 2.8 hours a week on homework. This contrasts noticeably from the 6.1 hours American students spend ...

  13. Study: Homework Matters More in Certain Countries

    Some top achieving countries, like Singapore, assign their students lots of homework. But Finland, for example, succeeds without much homework. On average, Finnish students do only about three ...

  14. Opinion: Finland's education system breaks every rule

    Children are allowed to slouch, wiggle and giggle from time to time if they want to, since that's what children are biologically engineered to do, in Finland, America, Asia and everywhere else. This is a flagship in the "ultimate charter school network" - Finland's public schools.

  15. Could subjects soon be a thing of the past in Finland?

    Finland is an education success story, so is it right to move away from old-style lessons? ... Why do Finnish pupils succeed with less homework? Published. 27 October 2016. Finns aren't what they ...

  16. Why Finland Education System is the Best in World?

    Team Leverage Edu Updated on Nov 22, 2022 13 minute read Revered as the best education system in the world, Finland has meticulously curated an apparatus for academia and learning that is at par with almost all countries around the globe.

  17. Why Finland's schools are top-notch (Opinion)

    Schooldays are also shorter in Finland than in the United States, and primary schools keep the homework load to a minimum so students have time for their own hobbies and friends when school is over.

  18. The Finnish education system

    31.01.2024 Finnish education is of high quality. Differences in the learning results of different schools are small and nearly all students complete comprehensive school within target time. Preschool education, comprehensive education and upper secondary education is free of charge and also higher education is for the most part free of charge.

  19. Education in Finland

    The educational system in Finland consists of daycare programmes (for babies and toddlers), a one-year "preschool" (age six), and an 11-year compulsory basic comprehensive school (age seven to age eighteen). Nowadays secondary general academic and vocational education, higher education and adult education are compulsory.

  20. The truth about Finnish schools

    5. There are no nationwide examinations or grading tests. 6. There are a total of 190 school days in a Finnish school year. School year starts in the middle of August and ends in May. Finnish kids have about 10 weeks of summer holiday as well as holidays in autumn, Christmas break and winter usually in February. 7.

  21. Why the U.S. can't replicate Finland's educational success

    When people triumph Finland's education system, they enumerate a laundry list of reforms aimed at radically altering the country's scholastic approach: no homework, no standardized tests ...

  22. The key to the nation's success

    Photo: Amanda Soila. In the modern world, a well-educated, skilful population forms the key to a country's success.The rise of Finnish society to the ranks of the world's richest countries in the second half of the 1900s stemmed largely from the population's demand for public education and the country's investment in it.

  23. Pasi Sahlberg: What Can We Learn From Finland About Education Reform?

    Keys to Better Education. Sahlberg argues that aspiring to an equitable system — that which can provide young people with what they individually need to achieve success — is necessary to effectively achieve high quality education. He closed by reviewing the 4 'keys' to better education in any nation. First, governments must invest ...