“We Created a School System Based on Equality,” Finnish education and science minister Krista Kiuru tells The Atlantic.
Finnish children start school at age 7, notes Christine Gross-Loh. “They have more recess, shorter school hours than many U.S. children do (nearly 300 fewer hours per year in elementary school), and the lightest homework load of any industrialized nation.”
Yet over the past decade Finland has consistently performed among the top nations on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), a standardized test given to 15-year olds in 65 nations and territories around the world.
Finnish schools “have small class sizes and everyone is put in the same class, but we support struggling students more than others,” says Kiuru.
Students participate in “handcrafts, cooking, creative pursuits, and sports,” she says. “Academics isn’t all kids need.”
We like to think that school is also important for developing a good self-image, a strong sensitivity to other people’s feelings … and understanding it matters to take care of others.
. . . Teachers have a lot of autonomy. They are highly educated–they all have master’s degrees and becoming a teacher is highly competitive. We believe we have to have highly educated teachers, because then we can trust our teachers and know they are doing good work. They do have to follow the national curriculum, although we do have local curriculums as well. But we think that we’ve been able to create good results due to our national, universal curriculum.
We don’t test our teachers or ask them to prove their knowledge. But it’s true that we do invest in a lot of additional teacher training even after they become teachers.
Students don’t take national exams.
“In Finland we are starting to have some issues … in some suburban schools with more immigrants or higher unemployment,” says Kiuru. “We support those schools by investing more in them.”