The Finland education system is the best in the world by almost every measure, in all sorts of rankings. How do they do it? To get more information, I watched The Finland Phenomenon:Inside the World’s Most Surprising School System, from the Robert Compton Documentary series on Global Education, directed by Sean T. Faust. In my last post, I looked at the differences between Finland’s school system and our school system.
Regardless of whether or not we could completely copy the Finnish school system, what can be learn from it? How is the Finnish educational system structured? In addition to some small new pieces of information, I found that if I listened between the lines and looked at what was I saw in the video, I picked up on a few more nuances.
The Finnish Educational System
Teacher training in Finland
There are high entrance requirements to even start teacher training, much less get your certification, which is a masters degree. They have a higher retention rate for teachers than the US. But what I heard in this film that was new, was teachers viewing their classrooms as a place of research, to constantly research and learn new and better ways to teach. Maybe this mindset partially comes from masters degree training. But teachers also do a lot of student teaching, observing, and group critiquing of other teachers as part of their degree. Because of the high level for entrance requirements and preparation, there’s also less oversight and more trust once a teacher earns their credentials. It’s hard to know if this the cause or effect of Finland being one of the five least corrupt countries in the world, but worth thinking about.
Finland High School Structure
In high school in Finland, 40-45% enter a technical non-academic track and are trained to start a job right out of high school.
About 50% enter the academic track and go to university.
But both tracks are considered successful and they don’t limit the academic track to only high performers.
Added to that, not only can you take classes from the other track, but even after you complete the technical track you can still change your mind and go to university.
They compared this to Germany, where they said the non-technical track was considered the lesser route, the academic track was only open to high performing students, and not ending up on the academic track is used as a stick to motivate students. This sounds similar to what I’ve been reading about “right” and “wrong” ways to motivate your kids. Motivating with a “stick” rarely gets long term results.
There is a national core curriculum. But even though this is a country only the size of Minnesota, the core curriculum is brief. Schools develop a lot of their own curriculum.
Does a national policy, or document, being brief remind you of anything? Like the Constitution of the United States? Our founding fathers, even when there were only thirteen colonies, understood the importance of local control and flexibility. This is one thing that makes me think that letting states having more control over their own curriculum has more upsides than downsides.
Maybe being from Texas fuels my individual thinking, but I would always err on the side of more local control. (However, not only could the Texas Constitution be shortened, but the education curriculum in Texas is extremely long as well. At least, theoretically, it is easier to correct that on a state, rather than a national, level. For the most part, I’m in favor of communities and individual schools have more control over their curriculum.)
I’ll look at some more differences between the Finish and US school system in my next post.
So what do you think? Should there be more local, or more national, control of education?