The Education System in Finland

Education is an important part of society. Should the United States raise the intensity of education?

via Pixabay

Education is an important part of society. Should the United States raise the intensity of education?

From Youtube videos to online news websites, many people have started critiquing the  quality of the U.S. education system. They argue that every student is taught the same way, standardized tests are ineffective, and that the U.S. education system teaches useless subjects to students.  For a better way to teach, many look to the Nordic countries for inspiration. The Nordic countries are frequently ranked as some of the best places to live, but one country stands out above all others. Finland is frequently ranked in the top three for education, and performed very well on the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report for education.  Compared to the US or the UK, what makes Finland such a good place for education?

One of the things that Finland has on their side is a low income inequality.  Almost everyone is middle class, and upper class vs. lower class students generally get around the same scores on quizzes and tests.  Another thing that helps is that there are almost no Finnish private schools. As a result, rich parents must send their students to normal schools, and they put in a lot of money into the schools. Also, teachers are much more respected in Finland, because there are only 8 universities that give a teaching credential, with only a 10% acceptance rate.  

When it comes to the actual education system, Finnish schools are on an even playing field.  Schools and districts are not expected to compete with each other, so as a result, Finnish schools are roughly the same everywhere.  This means that there are no standardized tests to take, so students focus on learning fewer subjects in greater detail. There is only one mandatory test at age 16.  There isn’t that much standardized learning, so teachers get to choose what to teach. Students also have less school (around 3-4 hours each day including lunch) so they can focus on spending time with friends, family, and hobbies.  One of the best parts about the Finnish education is they rarely get assigned homework. Homework usually takes around 30 minutes at the very most. The recess is a 15-minute break every hour (75 minutes each day). Many students in Finland are at least bilingual.  Several subjects neglected in the US, like PE, poetry, art, and music are more important in Finland.

Other unique education systems in the world include Japan, famous for making their students clean the school and serve lunch.  In addition to fewer janitors, cleaning a classroom teaches very important life skills, like accomplishing tasks and having respect for cleanliness.  Both Belgium and Switzerland, placing second for the world’s education, separate their students at secondary school for specialization in jobs. Even though Singapore scores well on PISA scores (meant to compare students over the world), the schools in Singapore have a reputation for putting students under pressure.  There is also another education system that frequently tops OECD scores in math, science, and language arts alongside Finland. South Korea uses almost the opposite techniques as Finland by putting students under intense pressure and studying, but their methods work as well as Finland’s.

How do both countries manage to place top 3 every time?  There’s not a clear answer, but a good lesson from the scores.  If the U.S. government is to copy Finland or South Korea’s education system, they should not copy the system piece by piece.  For the US education system to place in the top 3, education leaders will need to add something else of their own.