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.