In a recent blog entry Joe Bower summarizes from the book "Finnish Lessons" Pasi Sahlberg's ten big ideas on Finland. Here's the list:
- Finland has an education system in which young people learn well and performance differences among schools are small -- and all with reasonable cost and human effort
- This has not always been so.
- In Finland, teaching is a prestigious profession, and many students aspire to be teachers.
- Therefore, the Finns have probably the most competitive teacher education system in the world.
- As a consequence, teachers in Finland have a great deal of professional autonomy and access to purposeful professional development throughout their careers.
- Those who are lucky enough to become teachers normally are teachers for life.
- Almost half of the 16-year olds, when they leave comprehensive school have been engaged in some sort of special education, personalized help, or individual guidance.
- In Finland, teachers teach less and students spend less time studying both in and out of school than their peers in other countries.
- Finnish schools lack the standardized testing, test-preparation, and private tutoring of the United States and much of the world.
- All of the factors that are behind the Finnish success seem to be the opposite of what is taking place in the United States and much of the rest of the world, where competition, test-based accountability, standardization, and privatization seem to dominate.
It's a nice myopic view of a small, homogeneous country that got their act together. It would be lovely if we could be like them, but we are not. The US is something more creative, interesting and risky - an experiment that has been going on for over 200 years and continues to this day. Sahlberg's list of ideals is not something new that Finland discovered, we've been experimenting with these ideas it seems like forever. Rather than criticize our deficiencies in these areas we should be concentrating more on the many success stories we have in this country of how school communities are achieving these 10 big ideas because of our unique, local way we run our schools. If it were possible to put all these "points of light" communities together in one geographic area it would be much, much larger than Finland where their entire population could live comfortably in an area the size of New York City. We need to promote these US style of education success stories better otherwise we become complacent and start to believe that all or most of our schools need to be revamped according to some foreign model that is probably impossible to do.
Do we really want to be first in world in math and science like in Seoul, Korea? What price will we pay to become that? Take a look at Zareed Fakara's GPS video segment on Seoul's schools "Education in South Korea" and judge for yourself. And if that's not enough, then watch the documentary "Race to Nowhere" (Preview clips here) which makes it all too clear.