Posts Tagged ‘Dr Pisa Sahlberg’

I am currently reading the book by Pisa Sahlberg titled ‘Finish Lessons: What the world can learn from educational change in Finland’. It is a very interesting and compelling book aimed at system leaders, policy makers and an politicians alike. Though the main focus is on teacher education and the quality of this, as discussed in my previous post ‘The Profession of Teaching’, it does shed light on some important aspects to the education system in Finland. These being:

1. There are no private schools.

I can only applaud the ability of the Finnish government to go down this path. It allows for equality. Yet, it can be attributed to the high tax rate that is paid in the country servicing education, health care and public transport (to name a few). I could not under good consciousness advise a developed country to undergo this path. The choice of education provided by private sectors reduces the burden on governments and their ultimate expenditure of the annual GDP (as demonstrated in Australia). However, for a small developing country it can be shown to reap dividends overtime.

2. All administrators have worked as teachers.

‘To lead by example’, comes to mind. Having those who do not have the experience or knowledge to lead the complexities of educational change is organisational suicide. It is perplexing to see governments who choose Ministers of Education, making educational decisions, who do not have the background necessary.

3. They don’t focus on tests or testing.

The competitiveness of industry which once drove the traditional anglo-saxon education system has now changed. The want and need of business today from their employees is very different, as discussed in ‘Re-imaging 21st Century Schooling‘. ‘Competitiveness’ is seen by the Finnish as a hinderance to the education of their children.

4. Teaching is a revered profession, and they trust teachers.

It was stated by Pisa Salhberg in the New York Times that; ‘At least 25% of students on graduation from their formal education elect education as a profession which they which to pursue’.  The package offered to teachers, as well as the job entitlements are attractive to the Finnish. Teachers are also well regarded and  suported in Finland as a whole.

5.  Foreign students are integrated.

The integration of foreign students posed a problem for the Finnish education system early on. However, the Finnish, I believe have found an extremely effective solution, where there is a value placed on the student’s mother tongue, and where the government pays for two hours a week of learning in the student’s  indigenous language.

To read a brief overview of Pisa Sahlberg’s work click here.


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Prior to the holiday season I was reading a very intriguing article in the New York Times about Dr Pisa Sahlberg. Dr Sahlberg is an international keynote speaker on education and a published author. His latest book; “Finnish Lessons; What can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland?” is a bestseller in educational literature (December, 2011).

Dr Sahlberg in the article discusses the need for teaching to be a highly revered profession. In examining the latest OECD PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) report (2009), the findings are as follows:

It can only be assumed that the new report with findings, to be released later in 2012, will be somewhat similar (possibly with only China to watch). Dr Sahlberg has a very interesting point about student achievement in relation to highly; qualified, creative, paid, and satisfied teachers. He directly relates professional standards to the success of his country’s achievements. In the article it was stated that Dr Sahlberg said:

…Teachers typically spend about four hours a day in the classroom, and are paid to spend two hours a week on professional development. At the University of Helsinki, 2,400 people competed last year for 120 slots in the (fully subsidized [five year]) master’s program for schoolteachers – It’s more difficult getting into teacher education than law or medicine.

It become obvious why the International Baccalaureate Organisation recently moved all operations to Helsinki. However, this aside, the report itself does not just measure Literacy, Mathematics and Science attainment levels. In context it measures so much more…

I was saddened to hear on a radio news broadcast only last week that there needed to be at least 100 more teachers sacked in England to ensure that the teaching standard was upheld! Though this comment came primarily around the need for Head Teachers to have more power to dismiss under performing teachers, it was still idiotic. The context of education in; England, many parts of Europe, and on a large scale in the United States, sees teaching being chosen as a profession, as a last resort. Many of the rigorous teaching degrees have now been removed and replaced with a Bachelor of Arts and a three to six month conversion for teaching. The quality of teaching can, and will, only get worse, as too will the leadership and ultimately the country’s performance, economic growth and competitiveness as a whole.

According to This is Money website, teachers in the UK rank 80th in terms of UK Salaries, which from review is extremely poor.  It gives food for thought…. How do and should we value teachers given the evidence?

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