Finland's Education System: 10 Important Facts Americans Shouldn't Ignore

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  1. teacherman1

    teacherman1 Devotee

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    Mar 18, 2014

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  3. stephenpe

    stephenpe Connoisseur

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    America is too focused on making money and pretending to be full of rugged independent individuals that hate government. Teachers are the leaders in "govt. schools". Schools do not make money. They take money away from hardworking Americans over taxed already. My elected officials say they all want vouchers to send them to the good safe schools. Finland? Must be some liberal feel good European fantasy land..........
    (the author of this is in full cynical/sarcasm mood as he looks at the 55th rainy day PE in a row)
     
  4. GTB4GT

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    as a high school teacher I really like the part where kids can opt out into a vocational track at 16. Give the students a choice in their education. My school is rural - the idea that all students are going to go to college after h.s. is nonsense.
     
  5. gr3teacher

    gr3teacher Phenom

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    I love how consistently people in the "reform" movement talk about success in places like Finland, and then strive to do the exact opposite of what Finland does.
     
  6. teacherman1

    teacherman1 Devotee

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    A couple of other facts about Finland

    *The education is equal and it's free to everyone - no matter what your socioeconomic background is. If you are in a poor higher-need school they provide more financial support - not less.

    *All kids get free breakfast, lunch and health care.

    *Teachers are trusted to find the best ways to teach what needs to be taught. No evaluations, no one watching your every move.
    Trust, trust, trust... You hear it over and over again in first 5 minutes of Part 4 of the Finland Phenomena

    *College is free although many (close to 50%) choose not to go. They choose to go into vocational training in High School which prepares them to go straight into a good job after graduation.
     
  7. teacherman1

    teacherman1 Devotee

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    That's what really impressed me the most.... it's like we in America are doing the exact opposite of what's proving to work for them....
     
  8. orangetea

    orangetea Connoisseur

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    I love the idea of eliminating tracking and having extra students for struggling students. I hate tracking and this seems like a good way around it.
     
  9. gr3teacher

    gr3teacher Phenom

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    As a gifted teacher, I consider some tracking to be a necessary evil (without actually seeing how Finland does things, at least). Research tends to bear out that gifted kids don't get what they need out of school from general education classes. I think it's all too easy for teachers to fall into the trap of spending all their time with the low and middle kids because the high kids "already get it." Even as a gifted teacher, I have to constantly remind myself that the top students in my class need my time, too!
     
  10. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    A poster wrote, "*Teachers are trusted to find the best ways to teach what needs to be taught. No evaluations, no one watching your every move.
    Trust, trust, trust... You hear it over and over again in first 5 minutes of Part 4 of the Finland Phenomena
    "

    I'm quoting the way I did because my comment below is because of the topic of trust regardless of who posted the comment.

    There is a reason teachers in Finland are trusted at the level they are, and it isn't because they chose the profession of teaching. It is because of how highly selective and how intensely trained teachers are before they ever have their own classroom.

    I expect teachers in Finland 40 years ago did not have the respect teachers in Finland enjoy today. Those teachers from 40 years ago are long gone and replaced by teachers selected and developed in a completely different manner. It is the selection and the development that created professionals that across the board are more qualified than the past. Because of this, they are more trusted. The video said it took 25 years to trust teachers. At min 49 it is explained without the way teachers are selected and trained they could not have the trust.

    Expecting massive improvements in the quality and effectiveness of public education if the public just trusted teachers is something I believe we wouldn't see.
     
  11. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    This was an interesting video. What I would also love to see, which I think is extremely important is something similar about early education and elementary education. You can't have what is shown in this video without having the proper elementary education.
     
  12. teacherman1

    teacherman1 Devotee

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    A couple of other "facts" in this video about Finland's Revolutionary Education System
    The Young Turks
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qlOfZL_J5fo

    * Finland never set out to be the "best" (surprised them) in the world
    * No private schools
    * No competition
    * No compulsory school until age 7 (see explanation below)

    "But, while Finnish children don’t begin formal schooling until age 7, that doesn’t mean they’re lacking for education before that. In fact, Finnish children have access to very high-quality, affordable child care that meets most of the standards for what we in the United States would call preschool.

    Since 1996, Finnish children under age 7 have had, by law, a “subjective right to child care,” regardless of family income or parental employment. If a child’s parents want him or her to attend a child care center (commonly known as “kindergartens” in Finland), the municipality in which they live (municipalities are the local government units responsible for the delivery of most education and social services in Finland) is obligated to provide them with a slot in either municipal kindergarten or a private child care program (including family home care). Child care isn’t free for parents, but it is heavily subsidized: Parents pay according to a sliding scale based on income, with a maximum monthly payment of 235 euros per month (about $3,850 a year, compared to over $10,000 annual cost of center-based childcare for a 4-year-old in the United States). About 15 percent of municipalities’ total spending on child care comes from parent fees.

    Finnish 6-year-olds also have the right to free, half-day preschool programs, which place a slightly greater emphasis on academic preparation and language development than typical child care, and can be offered in child care centers to provide a full day of care that meets families’ child care needs. Over 97 percent of Finnish 6-year-olds attend these programs."
    From How Finland educates it's Youngest Childrenhttp://www.newamerica.net/blog/early-ed-watch/2008/how-finland-educates-youngest-children-9029
     
  13. Honest_Teacher

    Honest_Teacher Comrade

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    Excellent, excellent post. Just "trusting teachers more" without requiring more rigorous selection and evaluation of prospective teachers will accomplish nothing. Unfortunately, no one has the patience to raise standards and pay the new, effective teachers more and then wait for any ineffective teachers to retire, because of course we can't compare them to their peers to gauge who should and shouldn't be a teacher.
     
  14. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    The school system in Hungary (and I suspect in most of Europe) is very similar to the Finnish system.
    We had 8 grade mandatory, after that you can go to A: vocational school, 3 years, B: high school, 4 years, or C: vocation + high school in one, 4 years.
    That's the only one I didn't like. I think everyone should have a high school education, although I suspect in their vocational schools students may have gotten more out of than in some high schools here. The down side is that it's extremely hard to get into a high school, especially to the ones with great reputation.
    And the other downside: extremely hard if not impossible to get into college. It's free, so it's only about the grades and may about who you know. A lot of students wait 3-4 years to get into a college, they work in the meantime, and apply every year.
    That, in my opinion is crazy.
    With my grades, I would have never gotten into college in Hungary, and definitely not at the age of 32. And yet, here I am with a Master's Degree.

    Other than that, the education there is really great, the expectations are much higher. I was never good at math and had average grades. Yet, almost 20 years after highschool (and not using math other than in the daily life) I tested out at a level that I was able to take any class in college, calculus, etc. That's how well my high school math prepared me.
     
  15. teacherman1

    teacherman1 Devotee

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    So are you saying that the "educational crisis" in the United States is primarily due to poor teacher quality?

    It sounds like you're saying that if we could have "more rigorous selection and evaluation of prospective teachers" and if we could somehow force "any ineffective teachers to retire" (or quit or get fired) then our problems would be solved.
     
  16. Honest_Teacher

    Honest_Teacher Comrade

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    It sounds as if you aren't reading closely; we're focused on a specific aspect of your post and expounding upon that. Nobody is suggesting a panacea.
     
  17. teacherman1

    teacherman1 Devotee

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    Okay, so let's focus in on that specific aspect of my post -
    the issue of trust.

    Are we current American teachers not to be "trusted" because we are somehow inferior to those in Finland?

    By "requiring more rigorous selection and evaluation of prospective teachers" and somehow getting rid of the "ineffective" ones, then we would then become more trustable?
     
  18. Honest_Teacher

    Honest_Teacher Comrade

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    Do you trust someone more who has undergone a rigorous, competitive academic program to become a licensed professional as compared to someone who has not undergone a rigorous, competitive academic program to become a licensed professional?
     
  19. teacherman1

    teacherman1 Devotee

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    Isn't that what we went through to get licensed (certified) as professional teachers? (except, perhaps, TFA)

    And even if the process wasn't as rigorous and competitive as it could have been for some of us, the 50% attrition rate over the first 5 years must get rid of most of the inferior ones, wouldn't you think?
     
  20. Honest_Teacher

    Honest_Teacher Comrade

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    1) No. Teacher preparation programs in America are notorious for not being rigorous. Are there exceptions? Surely. Are they exceptions? Absolutely. Look at any of the recent statistics on the composition of entrants into education programs at four-year colleges.

    2) Speculation on the cause of that 50% attrition rate based on a simple percentage is ridiculous, though I think you know that. If you have some actual research that this attrition is actually weeding out ineffective teachers, please post it.
     
  21. teacherman1

    teacherman1 Devotee

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    Could you provide me with those recent statistics, please? I'm not doubting you, but I'm not familiar with them.
     
  22. Honest_Teacher

    Honest_Teacher Comrade

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    Here's The Nation's Easiest College Major


    Last Updated Jun 21, 2011 8:23 PM EDT

    A college degree is just about essential to make a lot of money in a career, but what if you don't want to work all that hard to get a diploma?

    Slackers wanting to earn the country's easiest college major, should major in education.

    It's easy to get "A's" if you're an education major. Maybe that's why one out of 10 college graduates major in education.

    Research over the years has indicated that education majors, who enter college with the lowest average SAT scores, leave with the highest grades. Some of academic evidence documenting easy A's for future teachers goes back more than 50 years!

    The latest damning report on the ease of majoring in education comes from research at the University of Missouri, my alma mater. The study, conducted by economist Cory Koedel shows that education majors receive "substantially higher" grades than students in every other department.

    Puff GPA's

    Koedel examined the grades earned by undergraduates during the 2007-2008 school year at three large state universities that include sizable education programs -- University of Missouri, Miami (OH) University and Indiana University. The researcher compared the grades earned by education majors with the grades earned by students in 12 other majors including biology, economics, English, history, philosophy, mathematics, chemistry, psychology and sociology.

    Education majors enjoyed grade point averages that were .5 to .8 grade points higher than students in the other college majors. At the University of Missouri, for instance, the average education major has a 3.80 GPA versus 2.99 GPA (science, math, econ majors), 3.12 GPA (social science majors) and 3.16 GPA (humanities majors).

    Consequences of Easy Grades for Education Majors

    Why should we care if education majors, who must survive classes like "kiddie lit," coast through school?

    For starters, easy grading can prompt students to slack off. If you can earn an "A" with little effort why exert yourself? What's more, if most students are getting A's then how can employers distinguish the future teaching stars from the academic slugs?

    Koedel also suggests that the low academic standards required of education majors can extend to low expectation of teachers after they leave college.

    Low grading standards in education departments may contribute to the culture of low evaluation standards in education more generally. Although the existence of such a link is merely speculative at this point, there is a striking similarity between the favorable grades awarded to prospective teachers during university training and the favorable evaluations that teachers receive in K-12 schools.

    It sounds like the only ones who are flunking these days are the education professors, who are handing out all these easy A's. These profs should spend time with teachers in departments like chemistry and economics to see how real grading works.

    http://www.cbsnews.com/news/heres-the-nations-easiest-college-major/
     
  23. gr3teacher

    gr3teacher Phenom

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    One change I really wish colleges would do is mandate a full, public-school-year student teaching experience. There's no real way that a student teaching experience can fully replicate being a teacher, but I think a full year experience would go a long way towards really prepping teachers for what they are up against. I had two, eight-week student teaching experiences. I wasn't even able to meaningfully participate in report card preparation, since report cards went out two weeks after I started my second experience.

    I don't know if that would fix all "too easy" complaints, but it would also be a step in the right direction. I'd also like to see student teaching be a more rigorous experience, and I'd like to see student teachers NOT passing their student teaching experiences be reserved for something other than ridiculous situations.
     
  24. Honest_Teacher

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    I agree with just about all of this; education programs should be more selective (though with the profit motive of higher education, that may never happen). They should also provide paid, full-year internships to those selectively chosen students and make sure that students are aware that "showing up" to student teaching isn't enough to pass the assignment and become licensed.
     
  25. gr3teacher

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    Agreed with the "showing up" part. My supervisor for my second placement flat out told me on the day I met her that I'd pass the placement as long as I showed up. I still busted my ass because I wanted a good recommendation from that principal (and because this was an incredibly needy group that needed every adult that came in contact with them to bust ass), but it would have been easy to phone it in.
     
  26. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    This means that current teachers that take on student teachers are complicit in the quality of new teachers. It also makes me wonder if you were taught what you would have been taught by a teacher that felt more strongly about the importance of accurately assessing and mentoring a student teacher.
     
  27. gr3teacher

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    Not my cooperating teacher... she worked my finger to the bone. She expected me to write out full lesson plans for every lesson I taught, and I had to show them to her at least a full day before I expected to teach them... I meant my college supervisor.
     
  28. teacherman1

    teacherman1 Devotee

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    Thanks for the info, HT, and here's a link I just found to The Teacher Prep Review which rates basically all the teacher prep programs in the U.S. :http://www.nctq.org/dmsView/Teacher_Prep_Review_2013_Report

    The school I graduated from did pretty well (2 1/2 stars out of 4) but the one I went to for most of my ed courses (Rhode Island College) only got 1 star!:eek:
     
  29. Honest_Teacher

    Honest_Teacher Comrade

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    I do believe it goes beyond just the student teaching experience as well. This quote in particular intrigued me:

    "For starters, easy grading can prompt students to slack off. If you can earn an "A" with little effort why exert yourself? What's more, if most students are getting A's then how can employers distinguish the future teaching stars from the academic slugs?

    Koedel also suggests that the low academic standards required of education majors can extend to low expectation of teachers after they leave college.

    Low grading standards in education departments may contribute to the culture of low evaluation standards in education more generally. Although the existence of such a link is merely speculative at this point, there is a striking similarity between the favorable grades awarded to prospective teachers during university training and the favorable evaluations that teachers receive in K-12 schools."
     
  30. teacherintexas

    teacherintexas Maven

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    One of my friends in college was from Finland. He said our taxes are significantly lower than their taxes. I don't remember how much lower he said they were.
     
  31. Go Blue!

    Go Blue! Connoisseur

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    I always see this used as an excuse for why poorer/urban districts are performing below their wealthier and/or suburban counter parts. But, I remember in grad school I did a lot of research on Detroit PS since I worked for them and the Per Pupil Spending in DPS was one the highest in the state by far (2008). This idea that urban students/districts are receiving less funding is not always true. In fact, in many cases, they receive more because the state is trying to help them out by giving them a lot more funding that other districts.

    The problem is irresponsible spending by the district and the city. I've found that cities that are chaotic and corrupt at the top (political) level also have chaotic/corrupt/failing school districts. Here in Baltimore, our newly hired CEO got a $290,000 annual contract, $25,000 to cover moving expenses and opportunities for "annual undisclosed bonuses." Now, I know that these numbers are normal for Superintendents in large, urban districts but our new CEO is replacing one who has been accused of fleecing the district before he "ran off in the middle of the night" leaving the district no better than when he left.

    The people running the show in a lot of these large urban districts are not being held accountable for anything. The district and the city and their irresponsible spending habits are sinking these districts, not lack of funds (per se).
     
  32. GTB4GT

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    reading this thread with great interest. quite a conundrum here....seems like teachers are being taught by the worst teachers (i.e lowest standards). How to break this cycle? You can't be more selective given the pay structure of the profession. the best and brightest are drawn to the fields where they can be rewarded for their skillset.
     
  33. readingrules12

    readingrules12 Aficionado

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    Teacherman, I like this post. It is good to find out more about their country's educational system. Once again teachers are ones who are making the main difference at schools.
     
  34. teacherman1

    teacherman1 Devotee

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    Why thank you, RR12....
    Now just to make things a bit more interesting, here's a recent article that says Finland has actually fallen in the PISA standings over the last few years: http://www.businessinsider.com/why-finland-fell-in-the-pisa-rankings-2013-12

    Now that brings up a couple of new questions....
    *Did Finland actually "fall" or did other countries simply get better?
    *Have we started a new international "Race to the Top" where even idyllic Finland has to force their kid's and teacher's noses to the grindstone?
     
  35. Honest_Teacher

    Honest_Teacher Comrade

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    Honestly, I believe a three-pronged approach would be take a huge step towards breaking the cycle, but it actually requires patience; patience is something politicians and the public generally are lacking.

    1) Increase pay for educators SIGNIFICANTLY with the following stipulations:

    2) More rigorous selection from undergraduate and professional pools for entrance into teacher preparation programs, accompanied with a more rigorous curriculum and grading system.

    3) A clear, transparent system of teacher evaluation and accountability that is not reliant solely upon observations by administration that have no incentive to "rock the boat," since getting rid of subpar teachers who haven't committed a crime is a very difficult thing to do in many states/districts.

    Once teaching ranks turn over, you can expect to see a hire quality teacher, on average, in the classroom. It will likely take 8-10 years at minimum to see a substantial shift, however.
     
  36. gr3teacher

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    I could agree with all of that. The only thing I disagree with you on substantially is the idea of a single high-stakes test, which I don't feel is appropriate for 8 year olds.
     
  37. teacherman1

    teacherman1 Devotee

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    All good suggestions, HT, but what about the other issues - especially equity? I personally think that if the other things changed then our current teacher force would rise to the occasion and be able to do a great job...

    Below is a top ten list via Cooperative Catalyst via via Parenting magazine's Mom Congress 2012 summarizing the traits of the much admired and controversial Finnish education. The Finns seem to do exactly opposite the growing U.S. education agenda:

    *Finland does not give their kids standardized tests.
    *Individual schools have curriculum autonomy; individual teachers have classroom autonomy.
    *It is not mandatory to give students grades until they are in the 8th grade.
    *All teachers are required to have a master's degree.
    *Finland does not have a culture of negative accountability for their teachers. According to Partanen, "bad" teachers receive more professional development; they are not threatened with being fired.
    *Finland has a culture of collaboration between schools, not competition. Most schools, according to Partanen, perform at the same level, so there is no status in attending a particular facility.
    *Finland has no private schools.
    *Education emphasis is "equal opportunity to all."They value equality over excellence.
    *A much higher percentage of Finland's educational budget goes directly into the classroom than it does in the US, as administrators make approximately the same salary as teachers. This also makes Finland's education more affordable than it is in the US.
    *Finnish culture values childhood independence; one example: children mostly get themselves to school on their own, by walking or bicycling, etc. Helicopter parenting isn't really in their vocabulary.
    *Finnish schools don't assign homework, because it is assumed that mastery is attained in the classroom.
    *Finnish schools have sports, but no sports teams. Competition is not valued.
    *The focus is on the individual child. If a child is falling behind, the highly trained teaching staff recognizes this need and immediately creates a plan to address the child's individual needs. Likewise, if a child is soaring ahead and bored, the staff is trained and prepared to appropriately address this as well.
    *Partanen correlated the methods and success of their public schools to US private schools. We already have a model right here at home.
    *Compulsory school in Finland doesn't begin until children are 7 years old.
     
  38. GTB4GT

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    a reasonable approach. however, given the nature of the process (overseen by a constantly changing administration at the local, state and federal level) unlikely to occur. no one is in place long enough to "say the course". Which I think leads to a lot of 'angst" in the profession - we all want to "fix" things (maybe with some disagreement on methods) but understand that there is no foundation in place to do so due to lack of patience as you point out and constant turnover/instability at key leadership positions.
     
  39. teacherman1

    teacherman1 Devotee

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    Interesting fact mentioned in the first 30 seconds of this video about why Singapore's Schools (#2 PISA scores) are so successful -

    *In Singapore the schools are State run and, while the children come from different economic and social levels, they are all offered the same quality of instruction. Fully 20% of the national budget is spent on education.

    The video also goes on to explain how well the teachers are prepared to teach.



    And as far as Shanghai goes (#1 PISA scores), it is just one city in China, and the schools in this one city are all top notch. The rest of the country doesn't come close, as this video explains: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5WO3aIZKQoI
     
  40. DrivingPigeon

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    *I did not read all of the replies.*

    I used to be very infatuated with the educational system in Finland. I think they are doing some great things. However, my infatuation ended when gr3teacher shared this with me: http://shaunpjohnson.files.wordpress.com/2013/12/img_0001.jpeg?w=660

    Obviously, the U.S. is doing many things right as far as curriculum is concerned. I think we need to focus more on how we service children in poverty, and how our educational system isn't always equal.
     
  41. greendream

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    Finland has the population of Minnesota.

    I always bristle when someone compares the United States to a country with a fraction of the population, completely different demographics, and a much lower poverty rate.

    We can't be compared to Finland or Sweden or even France. The United States is more comparable to Russia or China than to these small, largely homogeneous European countries with lower poverty rates.

    We can't just "do what they do."
     
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