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John Simkin

Education in Finland

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Wall Street Journal

By ELLEN GAMERMAN

Helsinki, Finland

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.

Yet by one international measure, Finnish teenagers are among the smartest in the world. They earned some of the top scores by 15-year-old students who were tested in 57 countries. American teens finished among the world's C students even as U.S. educators piled on more homework, standards and rules. Finnish youth, like their U.S. counterparts, also waste hours online. They dye their hair, love sarcasm and listen to rap and heavy metal. But by ninth grade they're way ahead in math, science and reading -- on track to keeping Finns among the world's most productive workers.

The Finns won attention with their performances in triennial tests sponsored by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a group funded by 30 countries that monitors social and economic trends. In the most recent test, which focused on science, Finland's students placed first in science and near the top in math and reading, according to results released late last year. An unofficial tally of Finland's combined scores puts it in first place overall, says Andreas Schleicher, who directs the OECD's test, known as the Programme for International Student Assessment, or PISA. The U.S. placed in the middle of the pack in math and science; its reading scores were tossed because of a glitch. About 400,000 students around the world answered multiple-choice questions and essays on the test that measured critical thinking and the application of knowledge. A typical subject: Discuss the artistic value of graffiti.

The academic prowess of Finland's students has lured educators from more than 50 countries in recent years to learn the country's secret, including an official from the U.S. Department of Education. What they find is simple but not easy: well-trained teachers and responsible children. Early on, kids do a lot without adults hovering. And teachers create lessons to fit their students. "We don't have oil or other riches. Knowledge is the thing Finnish people have," says Hannele Frantsi, a school principal....

For the rest of the article go to:

http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB120...A_20080330.html

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Beautiful. It captures the result of an evolution that my mother at 86 can tell me about, like ''lets go to the white goods/elctronics industry area'' was ''lets go to Nokia''. Also, after the war my mother had to accept a situation that took her on a different path than intended and reluinquish becoming a Doctor (MD) because of two generations of men were almost obliterated, so the Finnish government declared that for one year only males of the right age could enter Medical School. Human resources and innovation with a thought to equal rights and opportunity, like affirmative action is part of the Finnish Spirit, and has long been recognised and treated as such within Finnish Society. (quite apart from the rally successes, the roads in outback Finland can be absolute hell.).

add: but it's also important to consider the influence of not only martin luther but also the Rudolf Steiner that broke with the theosophists and created a new idea, that of anthroposophy. Which can in a crude way be summarised as nourish the seedling and the plant will grow vigorously. The more modern discoveries of mylienation and a process that anthroposophists refer to as an incarnation : the child is incarnating.

This incarnation is on a number of levels complete at the age of 7. The rest is very physical, coming wholly into the body and then deliberately venturing into the mind. Such a mind can be very free.

edit typo

add2 of course you can't leave out of the equation of Finland always being between two warring nations, one of which was founded by the other. Finland created a buffer. Sweden never really gave up on Finland, the recognition of Finland by Sweden was one of a series of colonial withdrawals. I suppose in a way the three crowns represents this history.

Edited by John Dolva

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Here in Tasmania we are constantly being told how wonderful Finnish education is and sending our "gurus" and bureaucrats on fact finding missions to discover the secrets. What they fail to ever acknowledge is what is mentioned here - we don't have sufficiently good teacher training, we don't respect teachers, we fill up the curriculum with peripheral stuff that parents should be teaching and we don't spend enough money to get it right. And we are a completely different culture with a different history and values just as America is. it's useless to keep pointing out what the Fins do right when governments expect it to all change on a shoestring budget with kids and parents who don't cooperate. As it says - simple but not easy.

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Here in Tasmania we are constantly being told how wonderful Finnish education is and sending our "gurus" and bureaucrats on fact finding missions to discover the secrets. What they fail to ever acknowledge is what is mentioned here - we don't have sufficiently good teacher training, we don't respect teachers, we fill up the curriculum with peripheral stuff that parents should be teaching and we don't spend enough money to get it right. And we are a completely different culture with a different history and values just as America is. it's useless to keep pointing out what the Fins do right when governments expect it to all change on a shoestring budget with kids and parents who don't cooperate. As it says - simple but not easy.

The problem for our government is that they do not like the way Finland gets such good results. A fully comprehensive system with virtually no national testing and league tables.

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I suspect that in the final analysis it will be seen that economics plays a large part. Finland, because of its past dependence, vulnerability and size (population) has recognised that human resources are paramount. Looking at various child psychology matters thaey have settled on a system that in turn demands a support from birth to age 7 that does not encumber families. This means resources directed at preschool support while parents remain economically supportive of the system, ie. affordable child care, after birth support, and job security. This costs. For those seeking to emulate the Finnish system it can mean dramatic paradigm shifts, and therein, while the results are lauded, the means to get the results in societies with different focuses is a stumbling block. Parents, as well as Teachers needs, demand revenue. Revenue demands will.

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Exactly, John. Absolutely spot on.

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So, it's really a matter of going to the basics and have them recognised.

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Yes, but that is a long, slow process which takes money and political will which our politicians are not willing to do because it does not have a fast enough re-election payback so, sadly, I doubt it will ever happen here.

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Well, there was a time when it didn't happen there either. I suggest looking at fundamental issues rather than the goal, but not without the goal in mind. ie. Identify the more significant street level, or grass roots level, blocks (Perhaps Brown could be helpful?) and lay the groundwork so a situation or climate can evolve where this could be brought to the agenda. Sure it'll take time and effort, but 'one step at a time' ?

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Actually I'm wondering about Brown and the Green stance in NSW at the moment. Was Brown seriously attacked lately?

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