View Full Version : Top-performer Finland Improves Further in PISA Survey as Gap Between Countries Widens

Jaska Sarell
07-12-04, 17:55
Besides reading, Finnish school children are world top also in math, as reported in the latest PISA survey yesterday.
Full press release here (http://www.oecd.org/document/28/0,2340,en_2649_34487_34010524_1_1_1_1,00.html)

PISA = Programme for International Student Assessment

:) Jaska

Jaska Sarell
08-12-04, 11:16
That was the heading in news.com.au (http://www.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,4057,11614811%255E1702,00.html)
"U.S. teens lag in math tests" reports Star Tribune (http://www.startribune.com/stories/1592/5122976.html) of Minneapolis on December 7.

:) Jaska

08-12-04, 13:59
The Finnish minister of education Tuula Haatainen claimed in the morning news today, that the good results of the Finnish children are due to our school system and to the fact that the education of our teachers has a high standard, where all teachers have a university degree.

I am not convinced that her analyzis is correct. Neither our school system nor our education of our teachers differs in any significant way from Sweden's. I spite of this there is for some reason a big difference in results between Sweden and Finland in the PISA survey.

And furthermore: There is a shortage of educated teachers in Finland. Therefore there are many teachers holding temporary jobs without a degree. And there are an abundance of examples where a "competent" maths teacher is incapable of making him- or herself understood to the pupils and an "incomptent" one gets wonderful results. Teaching is very much about personality and that you cannot learn in a university. Knowledge is the fundament, but it's not enough.

I have heard from aquaintances in the university community that there is much to be desired in maths and language skills among the new students today.

I could rumble on for a long time comparing our present school system and the one we had when I went to school, but it's probably better for me to leave it to another time.


June Pelo
08-12-04, 18:33
The Wall Street Journal
No Passing Grade
December 7, 2004

Europeans might not like to admit it, but their (ever more elusive) goal of becoming the most dynamic knowledge-based economy by the year 2010 really is code for becoming more like the U.S. After all, it is America which, at least for the moment, occupies that top position.

A recent education study now raises serious doubts whether the U.S. will be able to hold this position for much longer. The study also underlined, however, that if the U.S. will ever be dethroned, it's unlikely to be by Europe.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development today published its 2003 PISA report, which tested the math, science, problem-solving and reading skills of 15-year-olds in 41 countries. With the exception of Finland, which ranks first or tied for first in every category, both Europe and the U.S. are by far outclassed by South Korea, Hong Kong and Japan.

Only a generation ago, U.S. high school students ranked No. 1 in the world, but their performance has now fallen below the OECD average. Only when it comes to reading skills do American high-school students achieve at least average results. The U.S. dominance in technology, science and business is largely carried on the shoulders of the generation of high-school students who graduated in the 1970s and 1980s.

The situation in most European countries is not significantly better. If anything, the need for school reform in Europe is even greater. America's system of higher education is still unrivaled in the world. Its elite universities and research labs remain the destination of choice for many of the brightest and most talented minds in the world. This brain drain (including from Europe) helps the U.S. to somewhat compensate for the loss of home-grown talent as a result of its mediocre lower schools.

PISA researchers were able to identify some key characteristics that most successful school systems share, thus pointing to possible solutions for Europe and the U.S. They also debunked some common myths about education.

- Socialized economies do not guarantee an equitable distribution of education. In countries such as Germany, France and Belgium, the parents' socio-economic background has a much greater impact on the student's performance than in capitalist America.

- The recipe for success, as project director Andreas Schleicher explained at a recent briefing hosted by the Lisbon Council, a Brussels-based nonprofit, is a decentralized system where schools are given a large degree of autonomy over the curriculum and budget decisions. Whether schools are public or private is not as important as whether they "operate like a private one," Mr.
Schleicher said.

- Another important element is to have an open, flexible education system. In Germany, where the abysmal results of the 2000 study caused much public debate, the system is very rigid and often predetermines a child's future at an early age. As early as the age of 10, teachers decide whether a student will attend a school that ends with a university qualification or one where the diploma
only opens the opportunity to learn a trade. This lowers the students' performance expectations and tempts teachers to get rid of "problem students" simply by demoting them.

- Last but not least, the teacher's professionalism is important, which of course rises with the more autonomy and responsibility
he or she is given. It is not simply a matter of remuneration. In Finland, teachers get paid relatively little, but according to Mr. Schleicher, there is a strong professional ethos and teachers routinely exchange experience to improve their skills.

With an ever-higher percentage of the workforce expected to be employed in knowledge-based industries, school reform in the U.S. and Europe is a question of economic survival. Decentralization, competition and flexibility are on the curriculum suggested by Mr. Schleicher. We'd give those proposals an "A".

Copyright 2004 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved


Jaska Sarell
08-12-04, 21:39
Sune, that's what a politician is expected to say. In my vocabulary:
politician, homo politicus, a sly, sneaky bipedal mammal, which always acts for his/her own benefit, directly or indirectly.

Hopefully they won't be too self-satisfied and think that the current policy of cutting education budget is the right way to continue...

:rolleyes: Jaska