What can we learn from the success of the Finnish school system?
Finland, by many measures, is one of the most successful school systems in the world. It has ranked at the top, or near to the top, in international rankings. But much more importantly it succeeds on so many other more fundamental measures. Vocational training is highly respected and effective within its system and totally integrated with the academic options. The gap between high and lower achieving students is the smallest in the world. There are no educational dead ends or drop outs, unlike the huge numbers failed within the UK system.
Media coverage has described it as unorthodox and surprising, perhaps because we are so accustomed to equating education with a rigid regime of testing and increasingly earlier introduction of formal education.
“Since it implemented huge education reforms 40 years ago, Finland’s school system has consistently come at the top for the international rankings for education systems. So how do they do it? It’s simple — by going against the evaluation-driven, centralized model that much of the Western world uses.”
“In Finland there are no standardized tests. In fact, there is really very little testing at all. Finnish teachers are not monitored or rated based on test scores, and teachers (as well as their students) have a great deal of autonomy. It is a system built on trust, and the film really drives home the notion that trust – rather than faux accountability – leads to real results, leads to teachers and students and members of government all wanting to live up to the trust given to them rather than simply scraping by.”
“Teachers in Finland are given a great deal of responsibility and are allowed unfettered flexibility in what and how they teach. Performance isn’t observed and graded. Instead, annual development discussions with school leaders provide feedback on a teacher’s own assessment of their strengths and weaknesses. Detailed plans are not expected either. The notion that a teacher should provide evidence to prove what they’ve done is ludicrous. Each teacher marks work when it benefits them or the student, but not for anyone else’s sake.”
“While most six-year-olds in the UK are subject to national tests, those in Finland haven’t even started formal schooling yet. When they do, the teacher’s judgment alone is trusted in assessing students. “