The Parent-Teacher-Child Connection: On Finnish Schools

Thursday, October 6, 2011

On Finnish Schools

For public school teachers in NJ, I encourage you to read the article entitled "Why are Finland's Schools Successful?" in the October 2011 NJEA Review. (Now that I'm retired, I have time for such a luxury as reading a magazine!)  For my readers who are outside the state of NJ or too busy to read the article, here is a synopsis:

Schools in Finland focus on the student rather than the test scores.  What a novel approach to education! 
  • They have no mandated standardized tests, except for one exit exam at the end of senior year in high school. (They don't have to teach to the test??)  
  • There are no rankings, competitions, or comparisons between students.  (Your child isn't 117 out of 285 students in her class??) 
  • The people in government who fund the schools are educators. (What - politicians don't control the schools??) 
  • Every school draws from the same pool of university-trained educators.  (Students in small villages and larger cities have the same advantage!)
According to the Finnish Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, "Equality is the most important word in Finnish education."  All political parties agree on the direction of the children's education.  And yes, Finland does have teacher's unions, but they all agree that children come first before funding, testing, and any other distraction to education.

Ninety-three percent of Finnish children graduate form high school.  Compare that with the seventy-five percent of American children.  Sixty-six percent go on to higher education, the highest rate in the European Union.  Now here's the kicker:  Finland spends thirty percent less per student than in the United States.

What does this all tell us?  That teachers need to focus on the student, rather than the test scores.  Because when you focus on the well-being of the student, you will find that the test scores of those students will also increase.  Why?  Because when the student feels wanted and needed by the teachers, they will strive to succeed.

So, the next time you see a student failing, take the time to really get to know that student rather than giving him more work to do to pull up his grade.  Find out what he likes and dislikes; what life is like at home.  When you do that, you'll reach the child on a personal level, which in turn will cause that student to self-motivate, which is a life skill many adults failed to learn when they were in school.

Happy Teachingt!!

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