What Americans keep ignoring about Finland's school success

Discussion in 'Debate & Marathon Threads Archive' started by Caesar753, Jan 2, 2012.

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  1. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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  3. blazer

    blazer Connoisseur

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    In the UK our politicians keep on about Finland and why can't we be like them but when anyone actually points out how their system works and how much more money they spend compared to the UK they go quiet.

    Weren't 'Free' or 'Charter' schools a Finnish idea?
     
  4. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    Interesting article, Caesar. I know that my school board has begun some collaboration with a group of administrators and teachers from Finland. There have been several exchange visits over the past couple of years. While there are pros and cons to every system, and a complete change in focus is challenging to say the least, I think that it is never a bad idea to look, seriously, at what is working (and working extremely well) in other places.

    Isn't that what we do in our classrooms every day--reflect upon what is working well and what isn't and think about how we can go about making changes or improvements? If we are struggling, we think about what resources we can access to help us, including other professionals who have come up with a solution. We post questions here, read professional journals and books, talk with consultants, observe other teachers, and think about how we can make changes in our practice to benefit our students.

    Reflection, on whatever scale, is never a bad thing.
     
  5. jwteacher

    jwteacher Cohort

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    In America, I always have and always will believe income inequality is the most significant factor towards the achievement gap. I've spent a lot of time in urban schools (St. Louis) where the staff was heavily underpaid, had few teaching resources, and had no access to technology. Reason? Very few local tax dollars compared to the more affluent areas outside the city. Federal Title I funds help but do not come anywhere near covering the deficit and disadvantage that the urban schools have.

    Not to mention, the students who went to the city schools had very little structure or support at home because the parents (if the kids were lucky to live in a nuclear family) were working long hours or had two or three minimum-wage jobs to make ends meet. What falsely leads to the belief of education apathy gets misconstrued in the child's mind, so the cycle of poverty continues to the next generation.
     
  6. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    Focus on a different part of the article - lack of competition - which is also another part of equity.

    I liked the idea that Finnish schools do not use competition to drive learning like the American schools do.

    We don't believe that ALL students can learn in this country in many cases. It is given lip service. At the first sign of a challenging student for either academic or behavioral reasons excuses start flying. What drives this philosophy that not all students are capable (leave out the severely disabled students please for disccussion because I am sure that students in Finland with very low IQs aren't reading at a high school level either)? Lack of competitive environment. We can't believe in competition (there is only 1 winner) yet believe everyone can succeed. They are mutually exclusive concepts. Yet, we set our schools up that way, and we interact with students that way based on grades, reports, awards.

    Finland might be on to something. Learning for the improvement of one's self. What a concept.

    I see American private schools as just another type of competition. However, some people I know do not send their children to private schools out of competition but out of the fact that the private schools just do a better job in educating the students thus improving the person's knowledge base and skills.
     
  7. silverspoon65

    silverspoon65 Enthusiast

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    It's funny because my initial reaction was "what?" I always argue that we don't test as well as other countries because we educate ALL of our children, while many countries do not have special services for special needs students, ESL students, migrant students, etc.

    However, I totally agree with this article that we are NOT equal in what we are teaching kids or how much money is available to schools. Basing school budgets on property tax is totally unfair.
     
  8. KatherineParr

    KatherineParr Comrade

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    The article says that areas in Finland where the homogeneity declined by a major factor (immigrants doubled) showed no sign of any decline in student performance.

    So homogeneity isn't the only factor.

    The article also points out that most American education decisions occur at the state level. While some states are much bigger than Finland, many are the same size and many are smaller. Why couldn't South Carolina decide to apply these models to its 4.5 million people?
     
  9. Barbera

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    That is what I get for making a comment before finishing the article. You are absolutely right. If states wanted to give this a go I would not be bothered by it in the least.
     
  10. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    This is really great. Thanks for sharing it.
     
  11. KatherineParr

    KatherineParr Comrade

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    The thing I love most about the article is that it repeatedly points out that Americans who visit Finland don't really *hear* the message.

    To me, that's an essential element of these discussions. They keep saying "equity" and we keep asking, "What about accountability?" It's not really communication, is it?
     
  12. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    My new favorite quote: "Accountability is what's left when responsibility has been subtracted."
     
  13. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    That jumped out at me as well, mm.
     
  14. Marci07

    Marci07 Devotee

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    This is a great model to follow:


    "In the Finnish view, as Sahlberg describes it, this means that schools should be healthy, safe environments for children. This starts with the basics. Finland offers all pupils free school meals, easy access to health care, psychological counseling, and individualized student guidance."


    If we don't take care of the basics, we can't reach all students.
     
  15. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    That is so true! That's exactly what I focused on in my research in graduate school. I think we can learn a lot from Finland, if we really pay attention.
     
  16. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    :) I liked that one too. It got me thinking.
     
  17. amakaye

    amakaye Enthusiast

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    Me three.
     
  18. Bumble

    Bumble Groupie

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    I TOTALLY agree with this article. If we eliminated charter and private schools, then our school system would be better. It is unfair to know that charter schools and schools in the suburbs have more resources than public urban schools. We ruined our education system once we started mimicking the business model.
     
  19. TeacherGroupie

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    I think the amount of trust that the Finnish system reposes in individual practitioners is important. Too often in the US these days, it's assumed that there is one best way for all teachers to reach all students and that it is the job of district or county or state administrators to find that one best way and impose it on all, especially on schools that are judged to be failing. The result is that the mental culture of failure is reinforced.
     
  20. blazer

    blazer Connoisseur

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    I'm thinking of getting it printed and putting it up on my classroom wall!
     
  21. blazer

    blazer Connoisseur

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    I posted a link to the artice on a British teacher's site. Here is our debate on it.

    http://community.tes.co.uk/forums/t/542257.aspx?PageIndex=1

    I read this site and it looks as if your system is going quickly down the route that we have been using in the UK. Which is endless standardised testing and any failure is the teacher's fault.
     
  22. blazer

    blazer Connoisseur

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  23. bondo

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    He raises some fair points here. Inidividual states should be left to figure things out on there own and succeed or fail. Of course if some states are doing well and others are not then its going then the competition creeps in again. Also, I am not sure if competition is entirely a bad thing. While it certainly can be a negative thing, I think it can be harnessed in a positive way.
     
  24. isabunny

    isabunny Comrade

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    Most people, especially teachers agree that the current system needs to be changed in the US. Looking to countries that have good education systems that work seems like a great place to start, however the US is such a huge country that comparisons with small nations are very difficult. It obviously is easier to get sweeping reform passed in a small country. The idea of equality is something US schools have been striving to obtain, but have fallen short. We have the highest poverty rate of any developed nation, un-obtainable health care for many middle class citizens, and our urban schools don't even have basic supplies. I sometimes wonder how most of the people of this country are going to get along without health care, since this is where we are heading. Without the basics (as the Finnish educator had said), how do we educate? Our teachers are stressed out, over worked, and under compensated in most areas of the country. Our middle class is barely hanging on. I don't have health insurance for the first time in my life. Why? My husband and I have been self-employed for most of our lifes and bought our own private plans (very expensive but our only option). When our plan was due to renew at the end of the year the insurance company wanted to charge $2500 a month for our family. When I looked at other plans, no plan would cover me because I weigh over 180 pounds (otherwise I am healthy, no problems). Health insurers are flat out refusing policies for anybody who weighs over a certain weight. How can someone who has a condition, such as past cancer or anything, even get coverage. No middle class citizen can afford to pay that kind of money for health care. We have so many issues in this country right now. It would be nice to get at least one of them fixed (education, health care, jobs, gas prices).
     
  25. Pisces_Fish

    Pisces_Fish Fanatic

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    This quote stuck out to me, too. I immediately thought of 7 or 8 kids in my class that have problems at home and unstable families. What change we could bring if we had the power to influence these factors!!
     
  26. bison

    bison Habitué

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    Isabunny, with Obama's healthcare plan, insurers will no longer be able to reject you for preexisting conditions starting in 2014. It already went into effect for children. This is providing it is not repealed, of course. I don't want to get into a healthcare debate on this forum because it's a very touchy issue, but I think I'm sure we can all agree that children need to be healthy and taken care of in order to be able to learn.

    I liked the point that someone made earlier about the fact that most of our education decisions are made at the state level and we have many small states. If the size of the US is the main issue (and I agree it is part of it), those small states should be able to enact change within their borders.

    Edit to add: I think part of the difference and part of why not everyone goes for this is just the fact that we have a completely different culture in the US. We value individualism and personal gain. We're all just waiting to be millionaires. We want to win. The same things aren't necessarily what's important in countries like Finland. They're working towards equality and progression of the public rather than individual.
     
  27. KinderCowgirl

    KinderCowgirl Phenom

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    I can't remember the guy's name-but the one who set up the Harlem Charter Schools getting a lot of press last year-- that was one of their tenets as well. They had medical help/social workers within the school community-that helped the kids and families that attended there and they had a lot of success as well.

    It's a very interesting article.
     
  28. TeachOn

    TeachOn Habitué

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    "The makers of the laws who are weak...knowing their own inferiority..are only too glad of equality." - Callicles, 490 B.C.

    "I'm not in favor of fairness. I'm in favor of freedom, and freedom is not fairness. Fairness means somebody has to decide what's fair.

    The society that puts equality before freedom will end up with neither. The society that puts freedom before equality will end up with a great measure of both." - Milton Friedman

    I agree with the empowerment of individual teachers, and little else. The notion that such a scheme is affordable in this country is seriously delusional. If we were to enforce an affordable average ("equality") for all here, the result would be a dreary reprise of East German governance circa 1970, not some sunny Scandinavian holiday. Let us provide opportunities for excellence and welcome those with the wit and will to take advantage of them.
     
  29. jwteacher

    jwteacher Cohort

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    In our country, it is definitely a dog-eat-dog world where there are few winners and a lot of losers, unfortunately. The wealthiest have the most power and influence to control Washington.

    I would be careful, however, to say that Finland works towards "equality" as some people on this board might interpret that as "communism". Finland has a much more progressive tax system, enabling a class structure yet not allowing the richest to take home more than 400 times what the average worker makes. It allows their country to pay for universal health care and a strong infrastructure.
     
  30. ybmiuq

    ybmiuq Rookie

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    I think most respondents are really falling within the Sahlberg circle of philosophy. Though I think I am in over my head here, (maybe my ideas are included and I just didn’t see them in the article), I am just going to throw out some practical underlying thoughts that might be (or to my small way of understanding should be) part of the conversation.
    I am not ready to give up on competition, but I do not know how policy-makers plan to induce the spirit of competition?
    I wonder if many in the US are still very wealthy (maybe to many) and so most do not really compete because there is nothing to compete for. Most of the poor admit their own faults, but rather than compete, I wonder if they listen to those who loudly provide them with excuses.
    As a person who is crazy about Christianity, I have thoughts that make me wonder about the timing of the tsuanami of 12/26/2004. Everyone knew at the time how our nation had been riding the tsunami of wealth, but few admitted to putting it in those terms. Yeah, I believe messages from God exist, but admit that might just be me being crazy. At least that is what many would want me to learn.
    I might disagree that winners do not compete. I would say that most winners no longer compete. They have found better things to think about. Maybe they have found a knowledge that works for them. I think they believe competition helped them get where they are, but have learned subtle characteristics that would also work for others who are not as strong. It might help to listen to the wise counsel of the winners.
    I think there is very little motivation for many winners to become counselors. Everyone hates them and they don’t even realize their true God-given talent.
    I question the learning through playtime – I wonder to what extent?
    On another topic, but I’ll throw it out here at the end, it seems that the attitude of the poorest in America seems to be that childhood is the best time of your life. I think many of the true winners worked hard as children knowing that life as an adult family wife or husband was going to be the best time. I think that philosophy was the focus of the attack on the family. I wonder if the dreams of those working children should be used to teach the evils of competition.
    As I write all this, I think I realize that all these ideas of mine are probably the basis of many programs that have been successfully implemented into the American way of life. I hope you all are not planning to scrap the whole thing just to make sure no child is left behind.
    That’s all I can think to say. I really am not that interested in this, I’m probably out of my league and have better things to do. (In other words, yeah, I feel like a winner. And btw, I am fighting off foreclosure of my house and fighting for a better education for my own two children 16 and 18 years old.)
    Ok, look. When I reflect on all this from the standpoint of my current situation, I admit I do not feel very cooperative. Personally, I do not feel motivated to cooperate with some who get these grants in the name of helping kids, grants that require me to give myself so things will work out for the recipients. I am tired of seeing other teachers pour their hearts and souls, their time in hours daily after school into supporting programs. I admit this kind of attitude from those who always claim to do it for the kids makes me want to ask how much are they going to pay me.
    Also, my personal response to all the testing follows. Obviously testing is needed, but with better timing and then less can be more. I used to teach where the reading level of the chemistry texts (16+) was too high, even for most of the best h.s. students. I just wrote my own stuff, used a hand-crank ditto machine and I also wrote my own tests. To me the book was just a guide and since the book was chosen by the district, I assumed its guidance would save me the time of making sure I covered the state standards. Every year I wrote new stuff as it always depended on how the group of students responded. I didn’t use all the work from one year to the next. I also wrote different tests because each time I taught it differently depending on the students or on my own upgrading of my perspective of the content. I really don’t know if I was a good teacher, but for some reason right from the first year of teaching chemistry, people praised me, especially students. But now days with all the nclb.stuff that made no sense to me, I gave up and let the stupid geniuses tell me what to do. I didn’t have time to continue writing.
     
  31. blazer

    blazer Connoisseur

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    In the UK we also have Finland rammed down our throats. However we can see some good in it. We test our kids to death, they are the most tested kids in the world (even more than the US) yet their scores are poor. Schools are pitted against each other to compete for children. Get a good inspection and all the affluent families send you their kids, get a satisfactory one and you go into a decline as the better kids go elsewhere. Teachers are observed on a weekly and in some schools a daily basis. The grading satisfactory has now been re-branded as 'required to improve' Failure to improve against some made up standard could mean you lose your job even though you are a good teacher.

    I'm sure there are kids in Finland who struggle to learn, I'm sure there will be kids whose aspiration will be to drive the trash truck/sweep the streets whilst there will be others who become brain surgeons. However over there I bet it relies less on money (or in the UK Class) and more on ability. In the UK I bet 90% of doctors went to private schools. Perhaps the Finnish system would provide ladders out of poverty for bright kids and also put the brakes a bit on dumb rich kids getting the best jobs just because of who daddy is. But then why would politicians in the US or the UK ever want to change the system, they send their kids to the private schools which guarantees them success.
     
  32. knitter63

    knitter63 Groupie

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    :thumb::yeahthat:
    Couldn't have said it better, so thanks for saying it, jw!
     
  33. knitter63

    knitter63 Groupie

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    Ummm, me four! :blush:
     
  34. mrsc_teaches

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    We should also make the homeschoolers stop homeschooling as well. This is not an answer and I say that not because I send my kids to private school but because it wont work. Our problem is larger than this.

    First, lets look at who is making major educational decisions...yeah men with business degrees, have you ever noticed once where a teacher in the business of teaching was consulted?? YEAH NEVER! Also the people who write these articles about teaching are typically removed from the classroom for extended periods of time as well. So they hold no value to the classroom in a realistic sense.

    Second, lets make the parents responsible, I mean SERIOUSLY make them responsible if the child acts like a fool in class then the parent must take control of it and then the parent looses vacay time or needs to sit with the child. We have shifted for some reason and the only people who seem to raise children are the teachers, very little parenting but a WHOLE lot of condemning the teacher. I think that if we figured out a way to hold the parent responsible again then the system would change but in this day when princpals are afraid to suspend children because it is a black mark on them and the teacher is afraid to send a child to the office and has to teach in a war zone is what is really holding us back as true educators. I have been hit kicked punched, bitten, hair pulled this year and I am a general educator and the parent sees no problem with this situation how am I supposed to educate every other child in class when I am deflecting this type of treatment?

    Finally, as a parent who does privately educate my child and is a public school teacher why would I want to subject my bright smart child to this type of environment when I have worked my tail off trying to parent them in a better fashion?
    The answer is not as easy as get rid of charter and private education it is going to take an entire country makeover to get our education system on a upward track and that will include teachers as well as parents.
     
  35. stephenpe

    stephenpe Connoisseur

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    Excellent points of which I mostly agree. I read about the Finnish System a few years ago and at first was leery. I was thinking homogeneous society where all think alike. Then I found out they have a large immigrant population like much of Europe now. They certainly have it figured out. Treat teachers and school with the respect and importance they actually deserve. Forget all the testing, realize children have developmental stages and teach the whole child. The day the politicians and suits quit making policy is the day our schools will have a chance again.
     
  36. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    Teach the child from where they are at, many of the problems you want to hold the parent accountable for will be non-existant. Teach the child, meaning if the child has a disability the child is given the right education for the child taking into account the deficit areas and proper training to help the student learn to manage the disability, and you will see fewer instances of needing to hold parents accountable for the actions of the child.
     
  37. John Lee

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    While it is true, I think the albatross that has become our system of education is at least as big a factor. Power needs to be restored into local hands. As I've said before: We have Ph.D's and the like all throughout education. It has practically become a requirement (at least getting a M.Ed has), to advance in your career. With all those Masters of Education, you'd think there is enough brainpower to use the resources given (even if it is less than the more affluent areas) in a more efficient manner.

    We have become lulled into a sense of complacency, where we don't feel validated unless we are suckling off the teet of our all-knowing "leaders".

    For example, when the Supt. of our school district makes his periodic visit to schools (a waste of time BTW), I'm always amazed how veteran, often seemingly jaded, "tough" teachers, suddenly become Ms. Lilting Flower... they start tidying up their room, over the presence of the Head Bozo.

    It highlights the seeming sense of over-respect we give to titles, prestige level... when we should have faith in ourselves, and give respects to actual blood and guts workers (i.e. teachers, staff, support, custodians).

    I think the system actually creates the problems that tend to validate it's own existence.
     
  38. lovebeingteach

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    Very interesting. I gasped when I read that there are no private schools. Brings up an interesting point: The Superintendent of my school district sends his kids to a private school in the community. Sad, huh?
     
  39. blazer

    blazer Connoisseur

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    If he sent his kids to a public school in the district he may have a bigger motivation to make them better.
     
  40. peachacid

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    "Since the 1980s, the main driver of Finnish education policy has been the idea that every child should have exactly the same opportunity to learn, regardless of family background, income, or geographic location. Education has been seen first and foremost not as a way to produce star performers, but as an instrument to even out social inequality." This is simply not true in America. Instead, politicians and other policy makers who influence education want to maintain the status quo.
     
  41. Tyler B.

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    Finland brought itself out of poverty in part by its social medical program. Men and women have easy access to health care. As a result, nearly every baby born there is a wanted child. They have a 4% poverty rate.

    In a recent survey, 75% of pregnant, poor women did not want to be pregnant. We have a 20+% poverty rate.

    As Americans we can do better.
     
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