Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Education in Finland

In a piece in Metroland, Solidarity With Chicago by Miriam Axel-Lute, she talks about the mixed results of charter schools. Then she indicated:

But it also made me think of a stunning article from last December in the Atlantic about Finland, called What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland’s School Success, Finland, on account of its startlingly high scores on international comparisons of educational attainment (even compared to its demographically similar Scandinavian neighbors), has become a bit of a mecca for education reformers. We have oohed-and-aahed at how they don’t push standardized testing, don’t push early reading, encourage play-based learning longer.

But, according to the Atlantic article, what we can’t seem to get our brains around is that the foundation of the current Finnish education system is almost the opposite of our beloved idea of “school choice.” It’s this: equity. “The main driver of Finnish education policy has been the idea that every child should have exactly the same opportunity to learn, regardless of family background, income, or geographic location,” says the Atlantic. They feed all the kids healthy meals and give them access to health care. They have no private schools at all. They give their teachers “prestige, decent pay, and a lot of responsibility” (and independence). Schools with high numbers of immigrants . . . do just as well as other schools.

They don’t aim for excellence. They aim to bring everyone along and level the playing field. And they get . . . excellence.

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