Filed under: brave new world, the sweet life | Tags: competition, education, equity, excellence, Finland, Pasi Sahlberg, United States
It seems the Finns are the envy of the world for their successes in education. Which isn’t remarkable on its face; when you study systems using metrics someone has to come out on top. What is remarkable is that the ideas that the Finns hold dear for educating their kids are almost to a one, the opposite of the ideas we Americans believe to be important. I’ll take the risk of oversimplifying and describe the difference – see the article below – as: they believe in educating all equally, where we believe in making our kids compete to achieve.
I assume much of our belief system comes from what I’ve begun to understand is market fundamentalism. The American sciences of management and marketing have gone viral and are infecting areas of life that they are not designed to mix with. In America, CEOs are writing education policy.
The article excerpted below makes it quite clear that the policies at play in America are not working. So the evidence is out there, now to hope that it gains traction.
I’ve broken out some of the ideas in the following two paragraphs, and excerpted a quotation from the article below.
American system: long hours, exhaustive study, rote memorization, test constantly, track performance, rout out ‘bad’ teachers, reward ‘good teachers, foster competition, involve the private sector, let people choose their school.
Finnish schools: less homework, more creative play, no standardized tests, no sense of accountability, distrust of competition, no lists of best schools, cooperation, equality trumps excellence.
Here is the excerpt:
Compared with the stereotype of the East Asian model — long hours of exhaustive cramming and rote memorization — Finland’s success is especially intriguing because Finnish schools assign less homework and engage children in more creative play.
From his point of view, Americans are consistently obsessed with certain questions: How can you keep track of students’ performance if you don’t test them constantly? How can you improve teaching if you have no accountability for bad teachers or merit pay for good teachers? How do you foster competition and engage the private sector? How do you provide school choice?
The answers Finland provides seem to run counter to just about everything America’s school reformers are trying to do.
For starters, Finland has no standardized tests.
As for accountability of teachers and administrators, Sahlberg shrugs. “There’s no word for accountability in Finnish,” he later told an audience at the Teachers College of Columbia University. “Accountability is something that is left when responsibility has been subtracted.”
And while Americans love to talk about competition, Sahlberg points out that nothing makes Finns more uncomfortable. In his book Sahlberg quotes a line from Finnish writer named Samuli Puronen: “Real winners do not compete.” It’s hard to think of a more un-American idea, but when it comes to education, Finland’s success shows that the Finnish attitude might have merits. There are no lists of best schools or teachers in Finland. The main driver of education policy is not competition between teachers and between schools, but cooperation.
Decades ago, when the Finnish school system was badly in need of reform, the goal of the program that Finland instituted, resulting in so much success today, was never excellence. It was equity.
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Since the 1980s, the main driver of Finnish education policy has been the idea that every child should have exactly the same opportunity to learn, regardless of family background, income, or geographic location. Education has been seen first and foremost not as a way to produce star performers, but as an instrument to even out social inequality.
Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland? , Pasi Sahlberg, director of the Finnish Ministry of Education’s Center for International Mobility
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