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

Discussion in 'Debate & Marathon Threads Archive' started by teacherman1, Mar 18, 2014.

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  1. teacherman1

    teacherman1 Devotee

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    Mar 19, 2014

    Interesting link, DP .....
    I tend to agree with Diane Ravitch that poverty is the biggest factor affecting school performance. It was true 40 years ago when I was studying to be a teacher, and it's just as true today.
     
  2. teacherbatman

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    Mar 19, 2014

    Fair point, and I've heard both sides of the story before. That said, we can still take the Finn's model of education as a good example, and draw certain "morals" from this story.

    Essentially, what I get out of it is this:
    The Finns have a high cultural value placed on education. The U.S., on the other hand, rather values competition, $$$$, and politics. How many people in the U.S. truly value education? Actually, much less than it would seem from peoples' words. Out of the people who say they value education (that is to say, actually learning stuff for its own sake), I would guess that most of those people simply value test scores (competition) and workplace qualifications.

    I believe changing our whole mindset and approach to education could easily push us in Finland's direction. It begins with different values. Of course, there are many more cogs in the U.S. machine, so a change of direction is much more difficult, and takes a longer time. And since the U.S. has become less economically stable, people are often more concerned about survival and employment than true education. But it is certainly doable...

    I guess it helps to ask this question -- who does education really serve in this country?
    In Finland, the answer is much, much closer to "the students."
     
  3. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    I'm not sure that people don't value learning. People learn all of the time. People have hobbies for which they know a lot about. Some love current events. Some learn how to work their neighborhood. Now, when it comes to academic learning, learning for learning's sake would be suicide. The educational system isn't set up to do so. It requires conformity and grades is what will get you to the next level. You can know so much, but if you don't conform in school, your grades will be horrible. The system thrives on grades. They are used as rewards and punishments for knowledge and behavior. They are used as threats. They are used for shame. So, is there any reason why people in the country see grades as the ultimate goal.

    The reality is, grades show little about learning, but are used as a weapon and control.

    Honestly, I believe that grades show less about learning than standardized tests because grades are so subjective.

    So, I wouldn't say society drives grades over learning, I feel it was schools that caused this.
     
  4. DrivingPigeon

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    Mar 19, 2014

    I agree...There is such an achievement gap between the "haves" and the "have-nots." It's so tough to get children out of the cycle, too. I'm watching it happen in my own family: my brother had a child at 18, and my niece's mom's side of the family has so many issues. Her mom has 3 children with 3 different men, and her fiance just got out of prison for coke possession and domestic battery. Her side of the family is just so crazy...Half siblings with different moms, different dads, tons of kids, everyone is in and out of jail. Such a mess. I'm just glad that my niece has my side of the family to help keep her level-headed. When she graduates from high school, she will be one of the first on her mom's side of the family to do so. :(

    Now that I've rambled on...It almost seems like children from poverty have to have intrinsic motivation to get out, because there are so many other factors against them.
     
  5. DrivingPigeon

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    I would agree that grades and standardized tests do not tell us a whole lot about "learning," but I would agree with teacherman that other countries value education more than others. I see this is my own classroom, as I'm sure we all do. Some families sit down with their children at night, and have homework routines in place. Some families will never attend a conference, IEP meeting, or help their children with homework. In some families the thought of not graduating high school or college is out of the question. There are other families where it is out of the norm to simply graduate high school, such as my niece's mom's family.

    So, I do understand what teacherman is saying. Some cultures and families do value education more.
     
  6. teacherbatman

    teacherbatman Companion

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    I agree with you. The "system" is set up to control and shame students (and communities) into caring about grades and scores. See Alfie Kohn's book "Feel-bad Education."

    An evolved education system would not make this such a goal, however. I feel Finland's system is reaching (or has reached?) that level.

    Of course, people do naturally value learning, but that is easily and consistently squashed by our school system. In this country, people are controlled by what they believe to be some mystical force of academic scores. They are forced to abandon learning itself for the sake of meeting thousands of checkpoints that give them assurance of credentials.
     
  7. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    The question is, how much did all families value education 40 years ago in Finland when their education system was not good. It is hard to value something when you don't see value in it.

    Families that have generation after generation drop out of school obviously won't value public education. They probably had some terrible times in those years and don't see how coming to a parent conference is really going to make a difference or going to an IEP meeting where the decisions have been made in advance (and in most places they are) how it is going to do anything.

    The other thing the video said was that in Finland, all jobs are valued and respected. In this country, even by some teachers, certain jobs are used as threats to motivate students. So, I do feel that the system we have had for a long time contributes to what we see as not valuing learning.
     
  8. teacherbatman

    teacherbatman Companion

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    When you don't do something right, you "fail." Why would people who are marked as "failures" want to take part in the learning process ever again? Some people simply show up to school and they "fail." Or maybe they just "aren't good enough" to get an A or B. Why would those people like school? Then, many years later... why would their kids like school?

    This is one major problem with placing such a high emphasis on grades/scores/tests, like we do in our U.S. education culture. It goes against the psychology of learning and motivation.
     
  9. DrivingPigeon

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    Mar 19, 2014

    Very true. There are many things that need fixing!
     
  10. DrivingPigeon

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    I would agree that this is a huge reason that Finland is successful. It's sad how much of an emphasis the U.S. culture places on scores. Students in Finland seem interested in their studies.
     
  11. teacherman1

    teacherman1 Devotee

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    Mar 20, 2014

    And I'm going to bring this up again - even though I can already hear a collective sigh from many A2Zers :yawn:

    The 1in5 students we all see in our classes who are on the "dyslexic spectrum" are the kids you describe, TBM. The ones on the most severe end of the scale (deep dyslexia) will fail.The less severe will be the ones who are "just aren't good enough".

    And the sad thing is, most of these kids are smart - really smart.

    And for many, all it takes is repositioning the reading material and a lot of encouragement.

    There.
    I said it.
    Please don't give me a hard time about this.
    It's what I do now.....

    Teacherman
     
  12. Liljag

    Liljag Companion

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    Mar 22, 2014

    I cannot belive there is still so much focus on Finland. I think these comparisons between countries and how great their systems are really just make the teachers in the country considered "worse" to feel that much worse about going to work.

    Fact: To become a teacher in Finland is hard..equivalent to becoming a doctor and you are treated with the same respect as a doctor. This is because people prioritize education and see it with respect. It isn't easy becoming a teacher and children's welfare is highly valued in Finland. So it makes sense that people should respect the teachers of the next generation. To the point that children actually stand when their teacher comes in the room.

    Fact:Immigration is very low in Finland. Hence you have classrooms of children who have already grown up in the "prioritize education" environment. You do not have to deal with multiple languages or working through translators. The language and culture are already a common factor between teacher and student.


    Do they ever take up these things in side by side comparisons? No. What becomes the focus is "Finland is doing something right." And yes, they are. They are just doing it in an environment maximized for teaching and learning. Is the US ever going to be "better" than Finland. Not in side by side comparisons. Can you take Finland's example and be like them? Not really. But you can be like you and just focus on yourself and do the best that you can do with the resources you have.

    "I" cannot change a culture. The US will continue belittling itself in these silly comparisons. You can learn things from Finland but in the end, it does not change the culture you are in. All you can do is just do the best you can do in the place that you are.

    But than, what I do I know? My country actually falls below the US in Education rankings..so we must be doing something wrong..although we are ranked "fifth" in overall happiness so we must also be doing something right :D.

    ...the grass is always greener on the other side.
     
  13. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    You can't compare the attitude of people today in Finland with the attitude of those in the US now. It would be more important to look at what Finland was like 40 years ago when they finally decided that they had to drastically change what they were doing and how they were doing it.

    I honestly believe most Americans do want their children to have excellent educations and believe it is of utmost importance even in high poverty areas where kids are choosing being dealers instead of academics. Their comments are based on what is really available to them. At this point, the system provided isn't what it needs to be.

    I think most Americans do value education. Many have lost faith in our educational system.
     
  14. Go Blue!

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    I don't anything know about where you teach, but I have found the opposite to be true. The immigrant students are the ones that value education and work hard while the home grown students do not.

    I teach in a district were the vast majority of the students are Black and very, very few are immigrants. I've never taught a white child and I've taught less than 5 Latino kids (none of them immigrants) in 6 years. So, I'm teaching mostly home grown kids, not immigrants. I find that my students' parents place little to no REAL value on education - it's all lip service. They usually say the right things, but rarely show any action. Some don't care, some don't have the tools to really help their child, some have just given up out of frustration. Whatever it is, they are not giving their child (or us at school) the support they (we) need.

    Now, the handful of immigrant kids I have taught (mostly from Jamaica) ALL placed a high value on learning and education and their parents did not play games with them.
     
  15. a2z

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    I do find it interesting that in Finland, which is how this thread started, that students aren't being sent home with much if any homework in upper grades and from what I read elsewhere, none, in early grades. Often what we claim as support from families in this country is working on academics outside of the classroom by working with students on homework and teaching them how to read. I do say teaching them how to read because many educators want parents working with their children on reading. That is great, but if the parents can't read, often it is held against them for not supporting their kids.

    Our high poverty areas have many issues, but if we do compare Finland to US what we will find is Finland supports its students more in school. 70% of students in Finland will find themselves receiving some type of special education in their time as students. They will have intensive help to improve academically weak areas. In this country we give lip service to the students that struggle. We used wait until they are years behind before giving the help they need. Now we have RTI which no two schools do the same or can define exactly what it is supposed to be.
     
  16. teacherman1

    teacherman1 Devotee

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    What do you make of this info. from Wikipedia?

    "Upper secondary education begins at 16 or 17 and lasts three to four years (roughly corresponding to the last two years of American high school plus what in the USA would be a two-year Community or Junior College). It is not compulsory. Finnish upper secondary students may choose whether to undergo occupational training to develop vocational competence and/or to prepare them for a polytechnic institute or to enter an academic upper school focusing on preparation for university studies and post-graduate professional degrees in fields such as law, medicine, science, education, and the humanities. Admissions to academic upper schools are based on GPA, and in some cases academic tests and interviews. For example, during the year 2007, 51% of the age group were enrolled in the academic upper school.[21]"

    To me, it sounds like when a student is about 16 years old, the teachers/administrators look at their "GPA, ..... academic tests and interviews" and either accept them into the academic upper school (college prep) or push them into "Occupational Training".

    So the 49% that don't "cut the mustard" are automatically tracked into a vocational program???

    Imagine if we could do that here in the U.S. .....
    Suppose all of our low performing 16 year olds were automatically put into a program that would give them real job skills, maybe they'd stay in school rather than dropping out.
     
  17. Go Blue!

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    I get your overall point, but I want to address this part. I MAY give a HW assignment once a week, sometimes only every other week. I don't ask or expect much from my students' parents in regards to offering academic help.

    When I say parental support I mean the basics:
    1.) Send your kid to school every day and stop with all the excuses about why they are not in school.
    2.) Send your kid to school on time; coming to school at 10, when school starts at 8 is not helping.
    3.) If I tell you that your child is not any working or slacking off; don't just ask me if they are failing and make me feel like I'm wasting your time if you child has a 60% and is passing.
    4.) And, most importantly, when I tell you that your child is a behavior problem, don't tell me, "Well, you're the teacher. What you want me to do?" I don't know, parent ...maybe?
     
  18. teacherbatman

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    It makes WAY more sense than how we do it.
    But I doubt it will change anytime soon, because our country is so "hooked on academics." After all, it's what makes you smarter and therefore better. Right? :huh:
     
  19. a2z

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    I understand where you are coming from, but the truancy issue just doesn't exist in my district. Our district doesn't let it happen. There are several levels of connection from the school when truancy becomes an issue. It is dealt with rapidly and the intervention depends on the situation. It often has county services involved as well as district employees. Because of this, truancy isn't the same issue as in other districts, even in our schools that are high poverty schools. I don't know all of what they do, but our district prides itself on not allowing truancy to continue. Sometimes the courts are involved when it comes to non-compliant parents. Sometimes CPS is involved. Apparently, this is an area they felt important to spend money and focus.

    For some families, just graduating HS would be a good thing and most likely getting a C or a D was acceptable when they were going to school. Passing was ok. If it is not, what is the point of having grades that are not passing that are still unacceptable. While that may not solve your problem, it may be a different perspective to consider.

    As for number 4, until the community has a way for parents to see learning about parenting as a safe and important thing, chances are they won't parent the way you would like. I expect that many lack the capacity without interventions to be able to parent in the ways you would hope. Also, if they see the school as an adversary which they probably do, most interactions will be a fight. I expect for most school was never a pleasurable place or something positive in their life. While you did not cause that and you don't want that, it does impact how the community deals with school. Honestly, I believe individually most teachers want the best for their students but as a whole the system does not do what is necessary. Most parents in high poverty areas don't believe the schools will get their children out of the depths of poverty and when they do they are afraid if their kids do get out they will be left alone or worse, be seen as stupid or less of a person for being uneducated.
     
  20. Liljag

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    I teach in Sweden. I think you might be a bit confused about what I meant by immigration. The high influx of immigration in this area in the last decade is from war-torn countries such as Syria, Iraq, Iran...did you know that Sweden particularly southern Stockholm has taken in more people from Iraq than any other country in the world? Have you ever worked with children who have been in the middle of a war and are suddenly transplanted into a place where there is no war? These children are then put into classes and expected to normalize..and it is up to the teacher to help to integrate. They have no language in common with their new country, bad memories...a very nasty situation.

    My basis was that Finland has very low immigration. If you share a culture with those you teach, then it is easier to teach them. If that culture already prioritizes education and teachers than it is even simpler. Even the Finns say that. But this is never published in those reports that seem to be brought out on these teaching forums.

    Do I think that all immigrants devalue education? No. I do not. I am not talking about different races. We are not all blond haired and blue eyed in Sweden you know.

    I think like this as the key to all of Finland's success. Their society values their way of life. If you want to work at a service station or as a doctor..fine..whatever. Your job does not define who you are nor does your educational goal. The same for Sweden and Denmark. It is not about how rich you become or how smart you are. Just that you had a good life. That is a fundamental value that many countries in northern Europe share..perhaps that is why we always make the happiest countries list.
     
  21. Liljag

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    Most likely because there is a push in Finland and in other countries such as Sweden to not issue homework to kids and to just organize the day so that all work is done in the classroom. This makes it so that kids can just go home and be kids..play sports, etc. Then they can switch their focus back to academics in the classroom.

    They also are not graded in early grades. This is so as many feel it puts unneccesary stress and pressure on younger children.
     
  22. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    There is no 'free'.:2cents:
     
  23. teacherman1

    teacherman1 Devotee

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    First off, Liljag, I want to say how nice it is to have you on the forum. Having input from other countries can help us get some perspective on ourselves here in the U.S.

    My wife and I are both elementary teachers, teaching 1st and 2nd grade for our whole careers. I think the impact of the reform movement has been most severe on our younger children here. Play has disappeared from our kindergartens, recess is either gone or severely reduced in 1st - 5th grades.

    Field trips are almost non-existent, any kind of classroom celebration is frowned upon and art, music and library barely get onto the schedule (20-30 minutes/week).

    Even time the kids had to run around in the schoolyard before school has been taken away because they don't want to pay a teacher to supervise. The lock is on the gate until shortly before school begins. Often, kids are even forced to eat their lunches in silence.:confused:
    My wife and I were out with a suburban middle school math teacher last night, and she was saying that with CC finally taking hold, she is now teaching 8th grade math to 6th and 7th graders. She's had it, but she's forcing herself to work another year or two before retirement, but hating every minute of it.

    So just as K is now the new 1st grade, 7th is the new 8th.

    And all for what? At least half of these kids (just like in Finland) will never be getting those "high-paying" college-grad jobs people always talk about. Some will go on to work in McDonald's, Walmart and Target. Some will become waiters and waitresses, car salesmen and telemarketers. And, out here in the country, quite a few will become loggers or try to make a living on small farms. The lucky ones will become electricians, plumbers and builders.

    What are we doing to our kids?

    I believe you hit the nail on the head, Liljag, when you said, "It is not about how rich you become or how smart you are. Just that you had a good life. That is a fundamental value that many countries in northern Europe share..perhaps that is why we always make the happiest countries list."

    Where do we fall on that list?
     
  24. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Is your friend working the additional years because of the standards, teacherman? I'm not understanding.
     
  25. gr3teacher

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    I think he means that his friend is forcing herself to make it until she can retire.
     
  26. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Sad...I have a colleague like this. He's actually been bitching about how things aren't like the good old days for the past 14 years. On the other hand I also work with several teachers of retirement age who are master teachers, rise to every challenge, love what they do and make a difference for the students they teach...mindset matters. I'd much rather have the teacher who is still motivated by what we do every day than someone who was 'forcing' themselves to work to be teaching my kids.:2cents:
     
  27. teacherman1

    teacherman1 Devotee

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    No, she want to get out because of what the added pressures that the reform movement and CC have done to the job she has always loved.

    She's been teaching for over 25 years, and her pension is just about as good as it's going to get, but her job gives them both health-care which neither can afford to go without - at least until they reach 65 and can go on Medi-Care.

    She has always been an extremely hard working and highly effective teacher who loved her job, so it's sad that she has to go out this way.
     
  28. donziejo

    donziejo Devotee

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    I know two teacher's that are retiring early this year because of common core. They say it's the assessments. I also work with young teachers that are leaving education altogether. One of the best teacher tells me she can't be a good Christian and continue to teach. She feels the weeks devouted to testing and the lack of the arts, and parent apathy are going to be the ruin of her race. I'm finding as many teachers are trained on the new testing they are questioning their choice of career.
     
  29. gr3teacher

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    I'd rather not have teachers get burned out by forcing 8 year olds to repeatedly sit through hours-long tests, to prepare for the tests, that will show if they are ready for the tests...
     
  30. teacherman1

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    Unlike your colleague, this woman has been an enthusiastic and devoted educator right up until the last 2 or 3 years. And she still rises to every challenge and does her best to make a difference for her students.

    But she's tired.

    She's suffering with diabetes, her 90 year old parents are requiring more and more of her time, and she wants to enjoy her grand-kids while they're young. I can understand that....

    Teacherman

    PS And this woman, on her worst day, would do a better job than any TFA or newbie you could put into that classroom. She's that good...
     
  31. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Sounds like a lot more than common core. God bless.
     
  32. donziejo

    donziejo Devotee

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    We have 4 "practice tests" during the year. 2-4 hours test where teachers change rooms and the test coordinator hands out the test booklets and Scrantons. Tuesday, reading , Wednesday, writing, Thursday, Math. With the case 21 test, the ELS test, and the 9 week test we spent 3 weeks testing with our only break being spring break . During those weeks because the specials teachers are acting as Proctors there is no activities or very limited activities. Yes, our test scores have risen. So, if education is about assessments then teaching to the test works for the adults.
     
  33. donziejo

    donziejo Devotee

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    I'm not dumping this all on common core though. Much is NCLB. For me I've found a way to still enjoy teaching. I've started a breakfast round table, and a lunch brown bag book club. My whole purpose is to bring the joy of reading without testing to my kids. It's a lot of work, but without it I would feel stifled. We're reading about Helen Keller and just finished up some mythology and creepy how the famous died. ( kid version)
     
  34. Honest_Teacher

    Honest_Teacher Comrade

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    It is, of course, ironic that you repeatedly accuse me of being a broken record after incessant posts like this.

    Yes, the only reason teachers get burnt out is because of standardized testing. /sarcasm
     
  35. gr3teacher

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    Is it the ONLY reason? No, of course not.
     
  36. Honest_Teacher

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    Why is it, exactly, that the first (and only) cause of teacher burnout you jumped to was standardized testing then?
     
  37. gr3teacher

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    Because it's the one that would be most likely to burn me out of the profession.
     
  38. a2z

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    Talk about perspective! None of that happens in my district. Kids still have the same amount of recess. Kids have lunch where they can talk. Kids still have art, music, and PE. They still have class assignments that include artistic expression and creativity. K still ignores the same skills as it used to before NCLB. 1st still ignores the same skills as it did before NCLB. 2nd still does a whole week spending more of the time and energy dressing as a topic rather than studying the topic. None of what you said is happening in my district even in the schools that were having lower results in learning. Those schools have made major changes, but not one has eliminated the things you have generalized schools have here.
     
  39. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    Mar 23, 2014

    There is Obamacare. It is affordable!
     
  40. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    Mar 23, 2014

    Sounds like it is more the stresses in her life are playing a larger role in her wanting to quit than the changes in school.
     
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