Marc Tucker looks at two very different takes on Finland’s education system.
Finland has aced PISA exams by trusting first-class teachers to teach well, not by hold them accountable for test scores, argues Pasi Sahlberg in Finnish Lessons: What can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland?
In Real Finnish Lessons, Gabriel Heller Sahlgren argues that long-standing policies and practices caused Finland’s 2000 rise.
Teachers are respected in Finnish culture, which is more conservative than other Nordic countries, Sahlgren writes. Finland was a poor country until recently.
. . . as in most Asian countries, (Finnish) children were taught to defer to and obey their elders; obedience in this very hierarchical society was a cardinal virtue. . . . well after many other countries had adopted more progressive methods, Finnish teachers lectured and their students wrote down what they said in notebooks and learned it. Period. None of this currently fashionable student-as-constructor-of-knowledge and teacher-as-guide stuff. The increasing autonomy granted Finnish teachers under the new regime was used, he says, by many, if not most teachers to persist in their old ways.
Finns used to be known for their determination to succeed in the face of adversity, Sahlgren writes. Prosperity has eroded that grit. “Finnish students, who used to do what they were told, however boring and difficult it might have been, are now much harder for Finnish teachers to control. Finnish teachers may have no choice but to adopt more progressive attitudes and teaching methods.”
And Finland’s PISA scores are slipping somewhat. On a new international ranking, which uses PISA, TIMSS and Terce scores, the top five countries for math and science achievement for 15-year-olds are Asian, followed by Finland and Estonia.
Tucker has some doubts about the thesis.
As it happens, I’m on my way to Finland, though not to check up on their schools. We’re visiting Helsinki, St. Petersburg and Tallinn (Estonia).
Darren Miller of Right on the Left Coast has graciously agreed to guest blog while I’m away.