Sunday, August 28, 2011

Finnish Envy

LynNell Hancock in the Smithsonian: Why Are Finland's Schools Successful?

There are no mandated standardized tests in Finland, apart from one exam at the end of students’ senior year in high school. There are no rankings, no comparisons or competition between students, schools or regions. Finland’s schools are publicly funded. The people in the government agencies running them, from national officials to local authorities, are educators, not business people, military leaders or career politicians. Every school has the same national goals and draws from the same pool of university-trained educators. The result is that a Finnish child has a good shot at getting the same quality education no matter whether he or she lives in a rural village or a university town. The differences between weakest and strongest students are the smallest in the world, according to the most recent survey by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). “Equality is the most important word in Finnish education. All political parties on the right and left agree on this,” said Olli Luukkainen, president of Finland’s powerful teachers union. [...]

Teachers in Finland spend fewer hours at school each day and spend less time in classrooms than American teachers. Teachers use the extra time to build curriculums and assess their students. Children spend far more time playing outside, even in the depths of winter. Homework is minimal. Compulsory schooling does not begin until age 7. “We have no hurry,” said Louhivuori. “Children learn better when they are ready. Why stress them out?”

It’s almost unheard of for a child to show up hungry or homeless. Finland provides three years of maternity leave and subsidized day care to parents, and preschool for all 5-year-olds, where the emphasis is on play and socializing. In addition, the state subsidizes parents, paying them around 150 euros per month for every child until he or she turns 17. Ninety-seven percent of 6-year-olds attend public preschool, where children begin some academics. Schools provide food, medical care, counseling and taxi service if needed. Stu­dent health care is free.

There's so much more in there (including a reference to "Finnish Envy") that I run the risk of 'excerpting' all of it. Go read the whole thing.


  1. Nappinnai NC said...

    US is the worst place for working women as they get only 3 month maternity leave and that too UNPAID! So, most working women take only one month and soon join the work although their body and the motherhood responsibilities would have enjoyed couple of more months leave. Thanks to Modern technology like breast pump etc and women don't have to be physically present to feed the baby as long as some nanny/mother/mother-in-law is there to take care of the baby! In Europe,UK and some other countries, women get atleast 8 month maternity leave with 80-100% covered through social security or other means.

    All matters is who are on the educational board. I would say all children should be allowed to learn in a creative setting until age 7/8 without any force. What i found in the majority of the great minds(who also won Nobel) early childhood life was a 'carefree' learning experience about Nature.

    One example is quoted often by many scientists. One 6 yr old was drawing 'something' seriously. The teached asked 'what are you drawing?' The girl said 'I am drawing the picture of God' to which teacher replied 'how do you know? Nobody has seen God'. The girl said 'they will know in a minute'.

    Kids are naturally curious about knowledge and have no inhibitions and least of all they don't care what others would think if they asked a stupid question. Unfortunately that creativity is killed by the school system these days. The trajedy is that the schools interview the parents to admit 3-4 yr olds into their schools. How schizophrenic the system can get? This is the state of some of my friend's kids who go to schools like Padma Seshadri in Chennai and the like in other cities.

    When Bill Gates was on Jon Stewart show, Gates said 'they are currently experimenting with the educational method in 4 schools in US as high school education in US sucks'. Jon asked 'Dude(Jon addressed Bill Gates!), if you go at this rate, when will you change the entire system?' I'm pretty sure Feynman will not be happy in his grave Bill Gates buying his lectures series from Cornell and not making it accessible to the public on Youtube for the welfare of science/Physics. Stanford has uploaded so many wonderful lectures in Math/Physics on youtube. Why can't Bill Gates do the same wrt Feynman's lectures. It can & will motivate so many young people to go into Physics/science as Feynman was a lively character in delivering Physics. Money/fame/power rules over everything else!

  2. Raj said...

    Does this have any correlation to happenings at Nokia of late? Just asking...