The Wall Street Journal has a fascinating article about the Finnish education system, which can boast of posting the highest overall scores in science, math and reading in a recent international comparison. (The U.S. scored just below average among 57 countries.) This is despite the fact that they eschew much of what we demand in our schools:
High-school students here rarely get more than a half-hour of homework a night. They have no school uniforms, no honor societies, no valedictorians, no tardy bells and no classes for the gifted. There is little standardized testing, few parents agonize over college and kids don’t start school until age 7.
What’s more, there’s no marching band, no prom, so sports. Just school. Notably, Finnish teachers are paid the rough equivalent of U.S. teacher salaries. How can this be?
Well, it seems that Finnish teachers are treated like…professional adults.
The Norssi School is run like a teaching hospital, with about 800 teacher trainees each year. Graduate students work with kids while instructors evaluate from the sidelines. Teachers must hold master’s degrees, and the profession is highly competitive: More than 40 people may apply for a single job. Their salaries are similar to those of U.S. teachers, but they generally have more freedom (emphasis mine).
Finnish teachers pick books and customize lessons as they shape students to national standards. “In most countries, education feels like a car factory. In Finland, the teachers are the entrepreneurs,”
I would have a master’s in education, but I changed course during student teaching, realizing that I’d never survive the “soul crushing bureaucracy.” As the child of two teachers, I was horrified to learn how little respect teachers received from their own institutions. I didn’t know which force was more infantilizing: the government, the parents or the union.
I am interested to hear the opinions of our many MT teachers. What do you think of Finnish education, and could we ever apply their techniques to our admittedly more complicated educational system?