Finnish Lessons 2.0 Pasi Sahlberg

First 2/3 of the Book

3 Phases of Reform

  1. Rethinking the Theoretical and Methodological Foundations (1980s) This involved a lot of research and developmental projects between late 70s and early 80s. One main theme was dynamic conception of knowledge. It also challenged conventional beliefs, searched for innovation, and increased trust in schools and their abilities to find the best ways to raise the quality of student learning.

2. Improvement through Networking and Self-Regulation (1990s) Schools were encouraged to collaborate w/ other schools. They were also encouraged to network with parents, businesses, and nongovernmental organizations. Through many projects and municipalities with schools, they prevented schools from viewing one another as competitors. The projects relied on values of equal educational opportunities and social responsibility, rather than competition.

3. Enhancing Efficiency of Structures and Administration (2000-Present) From test results in December 2001, Finland was the highest-performing nation of the OECD in Literacy, Mathematics, and Science. They did this without private tutoring, after-school classes, or large amounts of homework. Their frameworks and systems give their students a strong and sturdy structure with room to grow. With encouragement, the students can grow and learn.

Finnish Paradox: Less is More

Equity of Outcomes

In the 70s, it was thought that equity means all students are taught the same curriculum or should achieve the same outcomes in school.

But equity actually means all students have the same access to higher education, regardless of status, school, parents. Finland holds that belief.

Equity of Education Systems

Measured in international student assessments by calculating the strength of the relationship between students' achievement in school and various aspects of their home background.

In Finland equity = Socially fair and inclusive education system that provides everyone with the opportunity to fulfill their intentions and dreams through education.


Finland abolished streaming in comprehensive schools and raised learning expectations for all students. Because of this the achievement gap between low and high achievers began to decrease.

Evidence suggests that teachers tend to redesign their teaching according to high-stakes standardized tests. Which, give higher priority to those subjects that are tested, and adjust teaching methods to drilling and memorizing information rather than understanding knowledge. Finland doesn't want their education system to follow this trend.

No standardized high-stakes test in Finland before the Matriculation Exam that students take at the end of their upper-secondary education.

Focus on teaching and learning without the disturbance of frequent tests that have to be passed.

One of the key messages of this book is that unlike many other current educational systems, Finland's system has not been infected with market-like competition and high stakes testing policies.

The Last 1/3 of the Book

tHE Finnish Advantage: the Teachers

The Culture of Teaching

Education has always been an integral part of Finnish culture and society. Finns regard teaching as a noble, prestigious profession. As opposed to other countries...(*cough* U.S.A.)

Teachers have professional autonomy to create their own school-based work plan and curriculum.

All education in Finland is publicly financed, including teacher education in Finland's research universities.

The Finnish media regularly reports results of opinion polls that reveal favorite professions among graduates. Teaching is consistently rated as the most admired profession.

Literacy is the backbone of Finnish culture and reading for pleasure has become an integral part of the cultural DNA of all Finns.

Research-Based Teacher Education

In 1979, the minimum requirement for permanent employment as a teacher was raised to a master's degree that includes an approved master's thesis w/ scholarly requirement similar to those in any other academic field.

Systemic integration of scientific educational knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge, and practice to enable teachers to enhance their pedagogical thinking, evidence-based decision making, and engagement in the professional community of educators.

Particular attention is devoted to building pedagogical thinking skills, enabling teachers to manage instructional processes in accord w/ contemporary educational knowledge and practice.

In primary teacher education, there are three thematic areas

  1. Theory of Education
  2. Pedagogical content knowledge
  3. Subject didactics and practice

Two-tier degree program. Obligatory 3-year bachelor's degree program, then a 2-year master's degree program. Most students first complete a master's degree in their academic programs with one major subject, and one or two minor subjects. Then they apply to the Department of Teacher Education for their subject teacher education program, which requires one academic year to complete.

The Finnish Way: Competitive Welfare State

The Global Educational Reform Movement

Or simply, GERM, evolves from the increased international exchange of policies and practices. It's an unofficial educational agenda that relies on a certain set of assumptions to improve education systems.

Many countries have accepted this as a "new educational orthodoxy". Countries like U.S., Australia, Canada, UK, and even some Scandinavian countries.

Is promoted through the strategies and interests of multinational private corporations, supranational development agencies, international donors, private foundations, and consulting firms through their interventions in national education reforms and policy-making processes. Finland's influence on education policies or the direction of education reforms is next to none.

GERM involves putting into practice a lot of elements that involve standardization, learning of basic skills, test-based accountability, competition between schools, and school choice.

Finland has not adopted those elements like many other nations have. This implies that a good education system can be created using alternative policies.

Finland instead uses elements of collaboration among schools, personalized learning, focus on the whole child, trust-based responsibility, and equity of outcomes.

GERM suggests strong guidelines to improve quality, equity, and the effectiveness of education, sucha as making learning a priority, seeking high achievement for all students, and making assessment an integral part of the teaching and learning process.

However, it can lead to privatizations of public schools.

The Finnish Dream Challenged

In the 70s, Finland's education reforms were not supported by all business leaders, politicians, and educators. There was a harsh campaign put up against the new policies.

According to the critics, the emphasis on social equality led to a suppression of individuality. Even the prime minister voiced his criticism.

A survey in 1988 claimed that the new reform was killing talent. The new reform was not allowing gifted students to progress to their full potential.

There were critics, including the prime minister, who argued that the able and talented students should be offered opportunities to progress freely and not to "wait for the mediocre students"

Criticism continued and sharpened until the end of the 90s, although there was no evidence to support the claim that students were learning less.

Those voices were muted in December 2001, when a study was published, finding that Finland outperformed all other OECD countries in reading, math, and science. This validated "The Finnish Way"

Is The Future Finnish?

Success By Being Different

While other countries desire individual excellence, Finland works toward equity.

Finland has well-prepared teachers, pedagogically designed schools, good school principals, a relatively homogeneous society, and inclusive national educational vision, and an emphasis on special education needs.

Finland's recipe for improving learning for all students:

  1. Guarantee equal opportunities for good public education for all.
  2. Strengthen the professionalism of and trust in teachers.
  3. Engage teachers and principals in all central aspects of planning, implementation, and evaluation of education, including curriculum, assessment, and policy.
  4. Facilitate network-based school improvement collaboration between schools and nongovernmental associations and local communities.

The Future of Finnish Education

The new Finnish school must be a socially inspiring and safe environment where all students can learn the social skills that they will need in their lives.

Personalized learning and social education lead to more specialization but build on the stronger common ground of knowledge and skills.

The following themes of change would emerge.

  1. Less classroom-based teaching
  2. More personalized learning
  3. Focus on social skills, empathy and leadership.
  4. The purpose of schooling is to find your talent.

The key message of this book is that schools in competition-rich environments are stuck in a tough educational dilemma. The way forward requires brave, new thinking about the process of schooling.


Created with images by MikaelT - "saimaa clouds lake" • DariuszSankowski - "knowledge book library" • eekim - "Network Culture Breakout" • US Department of Education - "SAD_Hortons_Kids 113" • psutlt - "Classroom" • US Department of Education - "IMG81" • roanokecollege - "Classroom" • gavilla - "finland helsinki statue" • arunas68 - "helsinki city night" • Miguel Virkkunen Carvalho - "Late Hours In Porvoo" • Mariamichelle - "university of vermont architecture fall" • okfn - "View from Outside Meeting / TENT Space" • TeroVesalainen - "university education school" • Snufkin - "wooden houses old town river" • Waldo93 - "sea evening boat" • kerttu - "dock lake finland" • Ninara - "Saariselkä, Finland" • tpsdave - "oulu finland bridge" • Follow Your Nose - "Emptiness with a feeling of a future unknown" • aitik - "railway way path" • aljuarez - "Helsinki, Finland" • Miguel Virkkunen Carvalho - "Winter Glow" • tpsdave - "finland bridge winter" • tpsdave - "finland bridge river" • Follow Your Nose - "Ice walk"

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