Friday, December 30, 2011

World's Best Schools: Finland

Over the past decade Finland has achieved an international reputation for educational excellence. Pasi Sahlberg is director of the Finnish Ministry of Education's Center for International Mobility and author of Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland? , published this past NovemberThe following quote is from an article in the 12-29-11 Atlantic Monthly, What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland's School Success  
"When President Kennedy was making his appeal for advancing American science and technology by putting a man on the moon by the end of the 1960's, many said it couldn't be done," Sahlberg said during his visit to New York. "But he had a dream. Just like Martin Luther King a few years later had a dream. Those dreams came true. Finland's dream was that we want to have a good public education for every child regardless of where they go to school or what kind of families they come from, and many even in Finland said it couldn't be done."

Clearly, many were wrong. It is possible to create equality. And perhaps even more important -- as a challenge to the American way of thinking about education reform -- Finland's experience shows that it is possible to achieve excellence by focusing not on competition, but on cooperation, and not on choice, but on equity.

The problem facing education in America isn't the ethnic diversity of the population but the economic inequality of society, and this is precisely the problem that Finnish education reform addressed. More equity at home might just be what America needs to be more competitive abroad."
"More equity at home might just be what America needs to be more competitive abroad."

Well said!

But here in Dallas, and apparently in many locations in the U.S., you will repeatedly hear statements dismissing Finland's experience that include: “These other countries educate just a few and we educate everyone. The sampling procedures are clearly wrong. They are totally homogeneous country. We are very diverse.”  If you have heard, or made, such statements you need to read the following article: Is the secret to Finnish schools Finns or is there something for America to learn?

Until the remnants of a "separate but equal" mindset disappear in the U.S., we will not be open to the lessons in equity from Finland.  Until the US embraces the potential power in unionization, as 95% of teachers in Finland are union members, we will not tap the power in a dedicated union of teachers actively focused every school day on student achievement. Until the US understands the damage from unnecessary transitions in our K-12 grade configurations, and the need for fewer and more seamless transitions, we will waste critical time, energy, and opportunities. 

Our children pay dearly every day for these failures in the U.S. educational system.  Our students will need to struggle more as adults to fit into an expanding international economy.  The US is no longer the best education system in the world.  Finland has shown it does not take more money and time invested in school to secure that first place.  They have shown the way through the efficiency found in equity for all.