Educators from around the world are now flocking to Finland, since it’s been revealed that their schools are among the best in the world. I can attest to this after a semester with Helena my intern from Finland–who seemed more prepared, wrote with more fluency and generally did a better job than any American-educated intern I’ve ever had.
A story in the Atlantic Monthly by Anu Partanen dug into why Finland succeeds so well. A few of the factors were that there are no private schools in the country, even the independent academies are government funded. There are also no national standardized tests. Instead each teacher creates his or her own set of tests for their own classrooms. Teachers and adminstrators are given prestige, decent pay and lots of responsibility. A masters is required to enter the profession, which is considered the most selective schools in Finland. What about accountability? There is no word for this in Finnish, said the Minister of Education. “Accountability is something that is left when responsibility has been subtracted.”
To the Finns, equality is the most important thing in education, that’s why there are no private schools. The focus is on cooperation, not competition, and not on choice but on equity. This seems to be at the root of American educational malaise: the economic inequality of society tilts the system to favor the privileged.