finnish lessons pasi sahlberg free pdf

finnish lessons pasi sahlberg free pdf

A chapter on Finnish education has become an integral part of any international handbook or volume that reports contemporary thinking and practice in the field. In leading the way toward educational reform in Finland in the early s, Dr. In Finland, teachers and students were insisting on more flexibility and more freedom in deciding how to design instruction, what to study, and when. Basic to this new culture has been the cultivation of trust between education authorities and schools.

Such trust, as we have witnessed, creates reform that is not only sustainable but is also owned by the teachers who implement it. All young Finns attended school regularly, the school network was wide and dense, secondary education was accessible for all Finns, and higher education was a realistic option for an increasing number of upper-secondary-school graduates.

However, the performance of Finnish students on international assessments was close to international averages, except in reading, where Finnish students did better than most of their peers in other countries.

The unexpected and jarring recession of the early s brought Finland to the edge of a financial breakdown. Bold and immediate measures were necessary to fix national fiscal imbalances and revive the foreign trade that disappeared with the collapse of the Soviet Union in Another Finnish brand not yet known to many people abroad at that time, peruskoulu, or the 9-year comprehensive basic school, was the other key player in this turnaround of the Finnish economy and society.

There are countries around the world where education leaders find their own educational systems in a situation very similar to what Finland faced in the s. The global economic downturn has hit many schools, universities, and entire education systems hard. Take Ireland, Greece, England, or the United States, for example—student achievement is nowhere close to what it should be in these knowledge-based economies, where productivity and innovation are necessary conditions for competitiveness and a sustainable way of life.

Students seem to find the teaching offered in schools and universities increasingly boring and irrelevant to their needs in a rapidly changing world. It also provides food for thought to those who are looking for ways to adjust education policies to fit the realities of economic recovery. The lessons from Finland should be refreshing because they depart from the ideas commonly presented in books or journals on educational development.

Although these lessons hold great promise, they also call for patience. In this age of immediate results, education requires a different mindset. Reforming schools is a complex and slow process. To rush this process is to ruin it. The story told in this book makes this clear.

Steps must be grounded in research and implemented in collaboration by academics, policymakers, principals, and teachers. It is the first book written for international readers that tells the story of how Finland created a system praised as much for its equity as for its high quality. Thousands of official delegations have visited Finnish authorities, schools, and communities to learn about what drives their excellence in education.

This story, however, has until now not received the book-length treatment necessary for enumerating, linking, and explaining the many players, institutions, and impersonal forces involved.

My approach in this book is both personal and academic. It is personal because of my intimate relationship with education in Finland. I was born in northern Finland and raised in a village primary school, where both of my parents were teachers. Most of my childhood memories are in one way or another linked to school. I had the privilege of looking beyond the secrets of the classroom after everybody else was gone, and I found that world to be rich.

It was my home—and it was an enchanted one. It is perhaps no surprise, then, that I went on to become a teacher myself. My first teaching position was at a junior high school in Helsinki.

I taught mathematics and physics there for 7 years. Later, I spent enough time in educational administration and in university teacher education to understand the difference between education in school and out. As a representative of Finland in these different capacities, I have also been forced to develop a keener understanding of what distinguishes Finnish methods by answering questions from audiences and media around the world.

During the past 10 years, I have given more than keynote addresses and interviews about the Finnish educational system around the world. I have had conversations with thousands of people, which has taught me to be sensitive to the complexity of educational change.

These conversations with people who are interested in education, as I am, have greatly advanced the writing of this book. Without them, I would never have been able to hone my assessment of Finnish differences.

This book also has an academic orientation because it stems from research that I have been part of over the past 2 decades as an author, coauthor, or critic.

This book is thus not a typical monograph, written as the result of a research project or a particular event. It is a synthesis of a decade of policy analysis, experience as a teacher and administrator, and dialogue with thousands of educators around the world.

I have been privileged to spend enough time outside of Finland and to work with a number of foreign governments to better understand the true nature and peculiarity of Finnish education and life in Finnish schools. My students came from all over the world. Most of them came to study for a full year in Finland because they wanted to better understand the structure and spirit of the Finnish school system.

The opportunity to teach students in academic institutions has been the best way to enhance my own understanding of the Finnish education system. I have improved and updated this second edition of Finnish Lessons through listening to my students, audiences, and colleagues and learning from them.

The United States, England, Sweden, Norway, and France, to mention just a few advanced nations, are among those countries where public education is increasingly challenged because of an endemic failure to provide adequate learning opportunities for all children.

Tough solutions are not uncommon in these countries: Tougher competition between schools, stronger accountability for student achievement, performance-based pay for teachers, and closing down troubled schools are all part of the recipe to fix failing education systems. This book does not suggest that tougher competition, more data, abolishing teacher unions, opening more charter schools, or employing corporate-world management models in education systems will bring about a resolution to these crises—quite the opposite.

The main message of this book is that there is another way to improve education systems, one that is different from the market-based reform ideology mentioned above. This other way includes improving the teaching force, limiting student testing to a necessary minimum, placing responsibility and trust before accountability, investing in equity in education, and handing over school- and district-level leadership to experienced education professionals.

The chapters of this book offer five reasons why Finland is an interesting and relevant source of inspiration for other nations that are looking for ways to improve their own education systems. Finland is special also because it has been able to create an educational system where students learn well and where equitable education has translated into little variation in student performance between schools in different parts of country, as shown in all PISA studies since the year This internationally rare status has been achieved by using reasonable financial resources and less effort than other nations have expended on reform efforts.

Two, because of this proven steady progress, Finland demonstrates that there is another way to build a successful education system using solutions that differ from the market-driven education policies that have become common in many parts of the world.

The Finnish way of change, as described by Andy Hargreaves and Dennis Shirley in The Fourth Way, is one of trust, professionalism, and shared responsibility. Indeed, Finland is an example of a nation that lacks school inspection, reliance on externally collected data, standardized curriculum, high-stakes student testing, test-based accountability, and a race-to-the-top mentality with regard to educational change. Three, as a consequence of its success, Finland can offer some alternative ways to think about solutions to existing chronic educational problems in the United States, England, and other Nordic countries, such as high school dropout rates, early teacher attrition, and inadequate special education.

The Finnish approach to reducing early school leavers, enhancing teacher professionalism, implementing intelligent accountability, and employing smarter student assessment in schools can offer inspiration to other school systems looking for a path to success. Four, Finland is also an international high performer in commerce, technology, sustainable development, good governance, prosperity, gender equality, and child well-being, thus raising interesting questions concerning interdependencies between education and other sectors in society.

It appears that other public policy sectors, such as health and employment, seem to play a role also in long-term educational development and change. In Finland, this holds true as well regarding income parity, social mobility, and trust within Finnish society, as the chapters that follow will show. Finally, we should listen to the story of Finland because it gives hope to those who are losing their faith in public education and whether it can be improved.

This book reveals that the transformation of educational systems is possible, but that it takes time, patience, and determination. The Finnish story is particularly interesting because some of the key policies and changes were introduced during the worst economic crisis that Finland has experienced since World War II.

This book speaks against those who believe that the best way to solve chronic problems in many education systems is to take control away from school boards and give it to those who might run schools more effectively, by charters or other means of privatization. Although there are limits to the ideas that can be transferred from Finland to other nations, certain basic lessons may have general value for other educational systems, such as the practices of building on teacher strengths, securing relaxed and fear-free learning for students, and gradually enhancing trust within educational systems.

As this book illustrates, there is no single reason why any educational system succeeds or fails. I would, however, like to cite three important elements of Finnish educational policies since the early s that appear to transcend culture. The first is an inspiring vision of what good public education should be: Finland has been particularly committed to building a good, publicly financed, and locally governed basic school for every child.

This common educational goal, which placed equity in education as the key priority, became so deeply rooted in politics and public services in Finland that it survived opposing political governments and ministries unharmed and intact.

Since the introduction of peruskoulu in early s, there have been 20 governments representing different political colors and 27 ministers of education in charge of educational reforms in Finland. This commitment to having a great public school for every child has been so strong that some call it the Finnish Dream.

This name provides a hint for other nations when it comes to educational transformation: It is better to have a dream of your own than to rent one from others.

The second aspect of educational change that deserves attention is the way Finland has treated advice offered by friends and neighboring countries. Much of the inspiration in building independent Finland since has come from its allies, especially Sweden. The welfare state model, health-care system, and basic education are good examples of borrowed ideas from our western neighbor. Later, Finnish education policies were also influenced by guidance from supranational institutions, especially the OECD which Finland joined in and the European Union which Finland joined in In this book, I launch an argument that, despite international influence and borrowing educational ideas from others, Finland has in the end created its own way to build the educational system that exists today.

I call this the Finnish Way because it is different from what much of the rest of the world has done in educational improvement during the past 25 years. Cultivating trust, enhancing autonomy, and tolerating diversity are just a few of the examples of the reform ideas found in Finnish schools today. Many pedagogical ideas and educational innovations are initially imported from other countries, often from North America or the United Kingdom.

These include curriculum models from England, California, and Ontario; cooperative learning from the United States and Israel; portfolio assessment from the United States; the teaching of science and mathematics from England, the United States, and Australia; and peer-assisted leadership from Canada and the Netherlands, to mention just a few. The third aspect of change is a systematic development of respectful and inspiring working conditions for teachers and principals in Finnish schools.

This book raises an important question that is repeated when whole-system educational reforms are discussed: How do we get the best and brightest young people to choose teaching as their career?

Experience from Finland, as illustrated in Chapter 3, suggests that it is not enough to establish world-class teacher education programs or to pay teachers well. Finland has built world- class teacher education programs. And Finland pays its teachers well. They control curriculum, student assessment, school improvement, and community involvement. This is called teacher professionalism. Much as teachers around the world enter the profession with a mission to build community and transmit culture, Finnish teachers, in contrast to their peers in so many countries, have the latitude and the power to follow through.

Many people are fascinated by the fact that Finland has been able to transform its educational system from something elitist, unknown, and inefficient into a paragon of equity and efficiency Schleicher, Finland is also one of the few nations among the 34 OECD countries that has been able to improve educational performance as measured by international indicators and student achievement tests.

Furthermore, many foreign visitors have been particularly surprised to find out that teaching has become the number-one profession among young Finns—above medicine and law—and that primary teacher education in Finnish universities is one of the most competitive choices of study. All these aspects of the Finnish educational system are explored further in this book. There are, however, those who doubt that Finland has much relevance to other educational systems because of its special characteristics.

Two points are often emphasized when the relevance of Finland as a model for educational change is considered. First, Finland is culturally and ethnically still rather homogeneous and thus too unlike the United States, for example. The proportion of foreign-born citizens in Finland was 5. It is noteworthy that Finland is a trilingual country, where Finnish, Swedish, and Sami are all official languages.

The largest language and ethnic minorities are Russian, Estonian, and Somali. When I began my teaching career in Helsinki in the mids, it was rare to have anybody in my classroom who looked or sounded different from the others. The number of foreign-born citizens in Finland has nearly tripled during the first decade of the 21st century. Second, Finland is considered too small to be a good model for system-wide reform for North America. This is a trickier argument to defend.

When the size factor in educational reforms is considered, it is necessary to note that in many federal nations, states, provinces, or regions are to a large extent autonomous in terms of educational management and the running of their schools.

The population of Finland today is 5. These include the states of Maryland, Colorado, Oregon, and Connecticut. The populations of the states of Washington, Indiana, and Massachusetts are also smallish and are close to Finland in size.

In Canada, only Ontario is significantly larger in population and land area than Finland; all other provinces are similar in size. France is the only country mentioned above that employs centralized educational management, and therefore the French education policymakers could argue for the irrelevance of smaller education systems as models for their reforms. Finally, there are some who doubt that international comparisons are relevant or reliable in what they claim to show.

Another skeptical group simply argues that the chosen measurement methodologies in current international tests favor Finland because they match better with the culture of teaching in Finland; this group includes both Finnish and foreign scientists and experts. In addition, these studies do not measure interpersonal, spatial, or creative skills, and these skill sets are increasingly important in our contemporary world.

There seems to be a growing group of people who question the credibility of PISA, and who challenge the new educational world order created in a large degree by this one measurement.

Although Finland has persistently outperformed other nations, its achievements have been downplayed in numerous accounts of recommended policy.

The consequence is that policymakers in many contexts will not consider Finnish strategies as they develop their repertoire of school improvement practices. Focuses on teacher effectiveness, school autonomy, accountability, and data are all central elements of education systems in Korea, Singapore, Alberta, and Finland, but in very different ways.

As this book will show again and again, Finland is unique in terms of how these very aspects of education policy are employed. The Finnish experience shows that consistent focus on equity and cooperation—not choice and competition—can lead to an education system where all children learn well. Fairness, honesty, and social justice are deeply rooted in the Finnish way of life. People have a strong sense of shared responsibility, not only for their own lives, but also for the lives of others.

Fostering the well-being of children starts before they are born and continues until they reach adulthood. Day care is a right of all children before they start school at age 7, and public health service is easily accessible to everyone during childhood. Education in Finland is widely seen as a public good and is therefore protected as a basic human right to all in the constitution. In this book, I describe how Finns have built a functional, sustainable, and just country with an equitable public education system by doing things in their own way.

The intense individuality of Finns, blended with a low degree of hierarchy and a traditional willingness to work with others, has opened pathways to endless creative potential. The inspiration and vision to create a society with an education system that is good and accessible to all was drawn from this pool of creative potential.

Data for this book come not from one source alone, nor does this book claim that educational excellence could be justified by any single international study. This book draws from the following 10 notions, which are explained in detail in the pages of this volume: 1. Finland has an education system in which young people learn well and where performance differences among schools are small—and all with reasonable cost and human effort.

This has not always been so. In Finland, teaching is a prestigious profession, and many young Finns aspire to be teachers. Therefore, the Finns probably have the most competitive and academically challenging teacher education system in the world.

As a consequence, teachers in Finland have a great deal of professional autonomy and access to purposeful professional development throughout their careers. Finnish education policies since the s have aimed at having a good school for every child rather than ranking high on international education tables. Almost half of Finnish year-olds, when they leave compulsory education, have had some sort of special education, personalized help, or individual guidance during their time in school.

In Finland, teachers teach less and students spend less time studying, both in and out of school, than their peers in other countries. Finnish schools lack the census-based standardized testing, test preparation, and private tutoring common in the United States and much of the rest of the world. All of the factors that are behind Finnish success seem to be the opposite of what is taking place in the United States and much of the rest of the world, where competition, test-based accountability, standardization, and privatization seem to dominate.

After this Introduction, the book has five chapters. Chapter 1 explains both the political and historical realities in Finland after World War II and how they shaped the move toward the idea of common basic school for all by the end of the s.

Chapter 1 illustrates the process of reforming the old school system, which divided pupils into two tracks and relied heavily on privately governed and cofinanced grammar schools, into a comprehensive, publicly managed and funded system. It also outlines the main features of post-compulsory education that emerged soon after implementing the peruskoulu reform in the late s.

The main characteristics of the iconic Finnish Matriculation Examination, a test students take when they leave general upper-secondary education in Finland, are also described in this chapter. Chapter 2 tackles a fundamental question: Was Finland also a high performer in education in the past?

The answer provided in this chapter is as expected: no. This answer immediately invites a corollary question: What constitutes a good educational system and which educational reforms have made such impressive progress possible in Finland? The core of this chapter is the insight that Finnish educational success in international comparisons can, at least to some extent, be understood through paradoxes. We can crystallize this notion with a simple principle in educational reform: Less is more.

Chapter 2 provides evidence-based examples of how this paradoxical idea appears in the Finnish educational system today. Chapter 3 is about teachers and the teaching profession in Finland. It examines the crucial role that teachers play in Finland and describes the main features of the teaching profession, teacher education, and teacher responsibilities in Finland. This chapter suggests that whereas high-quality, university-based teacher education and continuous professional development are necessary conditions for attracting the most talented and committed young people into teaching, they are not sufficient alone.

Teachers have to be provided with a professional working environment so that they feel dignified and are able to fulfill their moral purposes in schools. Chapter 4 illustrates some interdependencies between Finnish educational policy and other public sector policies that are at the heart of the economic comeback.

Furthermore, it suggests that progress in the educational sector has happened in tandem with changes in government that have improved economic competitiveness, transparency, and welfare policy. Finally, Chapter 5 asks a question that is, surprisingly, not often asked of Finns by their visitors: What is the future of Finnish schooling? Being in the global limelight takes its toll.

Although Finns have hosted thousands of foreign education pilgrims since late , they have had only a little time and energy to think about what their own education system should look like in the future.

Chapter 5 culminates by insisting that an important lesson for Finland from its own past is that it needs to be clear about what to do next. I conclude that being at the center of the education reform debate has prevented Finns from thinking about what kind of education will be needed in the future. The chapter closes with a discussion about the need to change, in spite of the fact that the current system is praised for its excellence and seems to be working well.

There is an important note that the reader of this book should keep in mind. In my research I have used data primarily from the databases of OECD and Statistics Finland, which are publicly available for interested readers. Old wisdom in statistics and in science states that correlation does not imply causation; this must be remembered also while reading this book.

What this means is that even if there is a correlation between two variables, it does not automatically mean that one causes the other.

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