View Full Version : Why do Finland's schools get such good results?

June Pelo
30-04-10, 20:54
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 yearolds, 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. A tactic used in virtually every lesson is the provision of an additional teacher who helps those who struggle in a particular
subject. But the pupils are all kept in the same classroom, regardless of their
ability in that particular subject. Finland's Education Minister, Henna Virkkunen is proud of her country's record but her next goal is to target the brightest pupils. ''The Finnish system supports very much those pupils who have learning difficulties but we have to pay more attention also to those pupils who are very talented. Now we have started a pilot project about how
to support those pupils who are very gifted in certain areas.''

According to the OECD, Finnish children spend the fewest number of hours in
the classroom in the developed world. This reflects another important theme
of Finnish education. Primary and secondary schooling is combined, so the pupils don't have to change schools at age 13. They avoid a potentially disruptive transition from one school to another. Recently we did publish an article about unhappiness that the school classes are getting to be too big in
Finland. This makes it difficult for the teachers to devote needed time for a more individual input.

Children in Finland only start main school at age seven. The idea is that before then they learn best when they're playing and by the time they finally get to school they are keen to start learning. Finnish parents obviously claim some credit for the impressive school results. There is a culture of reading with the kids at home and families have regular contact with their children's teachers. Teaching is a prestigious career in Finland. Teachers are highly valued and teaching standards are high. The educational system's success in Finland seems to be part cultural. Pupils study in a relaxed and informal atmosphere. Finland also has low levels of immigration. So when pupils start school the majority have Finnish as their native language,
eliminating an obstacle that other societies often face. The system's success is built on the idea of less can be more. There is an emphasis on relaxed schools, free from political prescriptions. This combination, they believe, means that no child is left behind.

Virkkunen says that more students will be accepted to higher education
institutions based on their high school grades by next year. However, she says Finland’s current system of entrance examinations will not be completely abandoned. In March, a ministry working group proposed that the majority of
study berths be granted according to one’s high school grades. Virkkunen says changes to entrance exams will be implemented by next year. However, it will take several years before the whole system of entrance exams will be reformed. ”After we receive feedback from schools in the next few weeks, we
will have a better idea how to progress and according to what timetable,”
she says. Entrance exams will not be completely done away with. That way
students with poor grades or those who decide to apply to universities
or polytechnics later in life will also have the opportunity to study.

Norden, 30 Apr 2010