BBC–Why do Finland's schools get the best results?

Last year more than 100 foreign delegations and governments visited Helsinki, hoping to learn the secret of their schools’ success.

In 2006, Finland’s pupils scored the highest average results in science and reading in the whole of the developed world. In the OECD’s exams for 15 year-olds, known as PISA, they also came second in maths, beaten only by teenagers in South Korea.

This isn’t a one-off: in previous PISA tests Finland also came out top.

The Finnish philosophy with education is that everyone has something to contribute and those who struggle in certain subjects should not be left behind.

Read it all.


Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Education, Europe, Finland

12 comments on “BBC–Why do Finland's schools get the best results?

  1. A Senior Priest says:

    And Finland is an extremely homogeneous country.

  2. Hursley says:

    Amen, #1. That just MIGHT have something to do with it.

  3. MargaretG says:

    Reasons why Finland has the best schooling system:
    1. They do not have a significant depressed ethnic minority
    2. Their language is very phonetic which speed up learning to read
    3. They value teachers very highly (and pay them very well)
    4. They expect performance out of their highly paid teachers — and do not tolerate those who don’t.

    Having said all that though, the results are impressive and should be applauded. For that matter, the results of my own country New Zealand should also be applauded. We routinely come third or fourth in the OECD and we do not have any of the above four advantages.

  4. Truly Robert says:

    South Korea is also rather homogeneous. But it goes beyond homogeneity, I believe.

    What value would student A see in offering assistance to student B? If B can offer something in return, then there is mutual educational payoff to the exchange. If B cannot, but is merely helped upwards in a way that does not exceed A, then there is societal payoff without (presumably) significant harm to A.

    Ah, but in the USA (and some other countries), A can be harmed by helping B, even if B does not exceed A. This is because in the USA, the way to the more prestigious opportunities in life are generally via private or some public colleges that are not obligated to use only educational accomplishment as criteria for admission. Indeed, numerous high achievers are turned away, so that adequately talented achievers can be admitted. Some colleges look for athletics (even if not for teams), or for family social connections, or “diversity.” In such a case, it is to A’s self-interest to ensure that B gets nowhere near in terms of accomplishment. The only exception would be for programs that are related to social work.

    I am sure that we are familiar with the old question, asked of proselytizers for religions that claim only N number of souls can be saved: “If you save me, doesn’t that diminish your own chance of salvation?”

  5. azusa says:

    #1: That’s because no foreigner has ever been able to spell the Finnish language, let alone speak it. After two years they give up and go home. Or get lost somewhere in the marshes and 10,000 lakes. 🙂

  6. Sick & Tired of Nuance says:

    No, no, no, no….it’s all in the fish. Everyone knows that fish is brain food. Obviously, the Fins eat more fish! LOL.

  7. Bill Matz says:

    The Finnish system seems to do a better job of allowing each student to learn in his natural learining styles. Of the eight recognized styles the US system focuses only on two: logical and linguistic. Accordingly, students learn in other styles (kinesthetic, spatial, etc.) tend to experience frustration and failure until they encounter a learning environment compatible with their style(s). The loss of vocational education in the US has been tragic.

  8. Mitchell says:

    I think its because they live in a socialist dictatorship. Their children probably fear for their lives if they fail to meet the expectations of their leaders. Get that “A” Bjorn or its off to work in the ice fields for you.
    Of course you can’t really trust the information provided by these people. Its like all that nonsense Denmark put in Forbes Magazine about the Danes being the happiest people in the world, and Denmark being the best country in the world for business. Simply can’t be. These are all countries with a strong socialist leaning, so we know life must be miserable there. Of course they can never let their misery show as they never know when big brother is watching. So they continue to pump out propaganda, about their health, education, standard of living, and happiness.

  9. azusa says:

    They cheat. All Finns have tiny Nokias implanted in their ears at birth.

  10. Marcus Pius says:

    Mitchell: your comment #8 is one of the weirdest things I’ve read for a long time.

    I live in Denmark: things do work much better here, people are on average richer than in America (as indeed is in the case in all the liberal Scandinavian monarchies), and if I were an American I would be envious rather than dismissive. The Scandinavian model is not socialism, but a very strange mix of things, in many ways more liberal than the US is. Certainly, Scandinavian societies have the the most accountable and least corrupt governments, which probably helps a lot. They also are all very big on gender equality and equal rights for gay people, of course…

  11. Septuagenarian says:

    I would suggest that “homogenuity” is an important factor. But so is the fact that education actually is valued and the state is prepared to put its money where its mouth is.

    Other factors would seem to be important, such as respecting individual differences in learning style and pace and adapting instruction to the learner.

    I also think that one of the major problems of American education is that it is largely a competitive sorting out of winners and losers from day one in kindergarten, and the children very, very quickly learn whether they are winners or losers. Most of the time the losers are smart enought to turn off and eventually to drop out.

  12. francis says:

    I don’t think that’s a dirty comment above…