There are many reasons why Finland has the best education system in the world, but here in the United States, we still love to brag about being number one.
Except when it comes to education. To learn about the state of education in the US, it would help to speak with an expert in government.
In education, the US regularly ranks around 37th in the world. Frankly, many of us are lucky we can spell USA well enough to chant it in sporting events!
But Finland consistently rates among the best in the world in education. The small Nordic country best known for giving the world Nokia phones, angry birds, and heavy metal music is actually a leader in world education.
Not only does Finland have the highest high school graduation rate in Europe but on International tests, Finnish students regularly rank near the top in reading, math and science.
And the Finns do this without overloading kids with endless hours of homework or turning school into mindless drudgery.
So why does Finland have the best educational system on earth (or maybe Singapore too)?
Here are the 5 reasons that set Finland apart:
Reason number 1: No child gets left behind
Finland provides all families, particularly low-income families, with a huge social safety net. The Finish government sends a baby box of supplies to every family with a newborn child. From then on, childcare is heavily subsidized. This allows most families to send their children to some form of early childhood education.
Finland’s public schools also concentrate on making sure that every student achieves basic proficiency in the subjects that they study. This is one of the reasons why the achievement gap that exists between the rich and poor is so low in Finland.
Reason number 2: They’re way more relaxed
Finnish children don’t even start school until they turn 7. Once they’re in school, they get almost triple the amount of recess time as American students. They’re rarely assigned homework until high school and they almost never take standardized tests. In fact, Finnish students are only required to take one standardized test and that’s not until the end of high school.
Reason number 3: Teachers are actually respected
Becoming a teacher isn’t easy in Finland. There are only 8 universities that offer the Master’s programs required to earn a teaching credential. Furthermore, only one in ten applicants get accepted to the programs, so it’s no surprise that teachers in Finland receive roughly the same level of respect as doctors and lawyers. Thanks to powerful unions, Finnish teachers only spent 4 hours a day in the classroom and take 2 hours a week for professional development. They also don’t have to deal with merit pay.
Reason number 4: Finns believe that less is more
When it comes to education, patience, hands-on learning, and focusing on problem-solving are more important than listening to lectures, mindless test preparations, and memorization of information that students will probably forget as soon as they leave the exam room. Finnish teachers don’t race through lessons to cram as much information as possible into student’s heads so that the students can then spit that information back out on a standardized test. Instead they give a priority to moving slowly and taking as much time as necessary to thoroughly investigate fewer topics but in much greater depth.
Reason number 5: Finns have fewer social problems
Finland may not be a socialist paradise, but it’s pretty close. Almost everyone in Finland is middle class, so income inequality is a big issue. Almost all Finnish kids come to school well fed, rested, and ready to learn. There are no metal detectors and no cops patrolling the school hallways. Finland also has far fewer immigrant students. Only one in forty students in Finnish schools have immigrant parents compared to US public schools where one in five have immigrant parents.
That means there are not nearly as many kids in Finland schools who are trying to learn math, science and history in a completely new language while also trying to learn that new language itself.
What can Americans learn from this?
So should we in the US just admit that the Finns know education better than we do and go ahead and abandon our system and adopt theirs?
That would be quite difficult.
There are plenty of ways to learn from countries like Finland that do things very differently but have a proven track record of achieving better results. Our role is to be more open to what educational innovators are doing around the globe. If we could stop shouting ‘We’re number one” long enough to listen, that will be a great start.
Content courtesy of The Young Turks