Finnish myths: Teachers aren’t paid like doctors

No, Teachers in Finland Are Not Paid Like Doctors, writes Jason Bedrick on Cato @ Liberty.

According to a Finnish teacher who’s reached meme status: “We pay teachers like doctors, students enjoy over an hour of recess, and there’s no mandatory testing – the opposite of what America does.”

Not so, writes Bedrick.

In Finland general practitioners earn, on average, about $70,000 per year, which is less than half of what doctors earn in the United States. The average salary for primary education teachers with 15 years experience in Finland is about $37,500, compared to $45,225 in the United States. Moreover, the cost of living in Finland is about 30% higher.

In short: higher teacher salaries are not what make Finland’s education system better than ours. And I suspect it isn’t recess either.

Finland is praised for its high PISA scores, Bedrick notes. The nations’s curriculum is closely aligned with PISA.

About Joanne


  1. Now, don’t let facts get in the way of a decent meme.

  2. Zeev Wurman says:

    Joanne, please don’t confuse us with facts. We like our myths!

    (There are many more myth-shateering facts there. Like that almost half of Finnish HS students are steered into vocational tracks. Or that only 23% of HS graduates continue immediately to college. Or that only about 75% of their cohort graduate HS, about the same as here.)

  3. Here is a link to facts about the Finnish system:

    From a business website no less.

    Please note the extra recess for kids, as well as the extra planning time for teachers. When I mentioned a few years ago that Japan does the same thing I was accused of me a lazy-wanting to do nothing teacher.

    Also, note the caps on class sizes in Science. According to some of the “reformers” class size doesn’t matter.

    • So you’d be OK with reducing your salary to that of a Finnish teacher then?

      Of course those rather tiny salaries do raise the question of how it is that Finland has a more competent teacher corp then the U.S. and for lower pay. What’s Business Insider got to say about that?

  4. Deirdre Mundy says:

    Allen- because Finnish students are more respectful to their teachers and Finnish parents back the teachers up? And because since Finns are all Finnish, no one worries about disparate impact so principals actually punish miscreants?

    • Are you under the impression Mike isn’t capable of evading the issue on his own?

      • Are you under the impression Allen can distinguish fact from opinion?

      • And there’s the proof that Mike’s entirely capable of evading the issue without assistance preferring insults in this case as the means of evasion.

        So Mike, are American teachers over-paid? Those Finnish teachers do get better results then American teachers and for lower pay.

        Badabing is going for the “black kids are stupid” strategy. Is that your preference as well Mike or do you have some novel and exciting defense of the public education status quo you’d like to spring on an unsuspecting world?

    • lightly seasoned says:

      I’m holding out for doctor pay.

  5. There are no low-achieving minorities in Finland to drag test scores down.

  6. Suryo Hartoyo says:

    do you know??? Indonesia pays teachers US$ 0.25 – US$ 10 an hour.

  7. Joanne, if you are talking about PISA and TIMSS, then you should know that “Finnish students” do not outperform American students when scores are corrected for poverty. Finland has a 4% poverty rate, as well as universal health care, pre-school/day care, and a host of other services America doesn’t have. When American schools with greater than 20% poverty are removed from the international tests, American students rank #1. That’s above the Finns, as well as Asian powerhouses like Korea and Singapore. Oversimplifying test data like that is weak research and commentary.