In 2000, students from Finland made the top scores in reading, math, and science on international tests and have continued to stay at the top of international tests ever since. What’s their secret?
I just read the book, Finnish Lessons, which gives a detailed overview of how Finland reformed their education system very slowly from the 1970’s on to become the world’s best. Their strategy is pretty much the opposite of what we’re doing in the US:
1. Teachers have to earn their master’s degree in a highly competitive research-based teaching program. They are then highly respected and given a lot of latitude as to what they teach in the classroom and how.
2. Teachers only teach 4 hours a day (as opposed to the 6 hours US teachers spend teaching). This gives Finnish teachers more time to collaborate with other teachers, plan their lessons, and help struggling students.
3. Students don’t start school until age 7, everyone gets a free nutritious hot lunch, and good medical care is available to all students.
4. A large percentage of students in the lower grades receive special education in order to take care of learning problems early in their schooling.
5. Schools are small — most are under 200 students.
6. There is no standardized testing done in elementary school and the kids don’t have as much homework as in the US.
7. Great care is used to make sure that all schools are well-funded equally.
8. There is no tracking of students.