I became intrigued with Finland and what is happening in the Finnish educational system since reading, “The Smartest Kids in the World,” by Amanda Ripley.
Finland is the number one country in the world, according to the results of PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) test. The PISA test is not a multiple choice, regurgitated information kind of assessment, much like those in the United States. Andreas Schleicher, one of the creators of the PISA test, was quoted in Ripley’s book, “We were not looking for answers to equations or to multiple choice questions,” he said. “We were looking for the ability to think creatively.” He also shared in, The Smartest Kids in the World, “PISA is not a traditional school test… It’s actually challenging because you have to think.”
Here is a sample question from the PISA test, shared by Ripley, in The Smartest Kids in the World, the test asked for an analysis of Fiona’s HR flyer. “Fiona wanted the style of this information sheet to be friendly and encouraging. Do you think she succeeded? Explain your answer by referring in detail to the layout, style of writing, pictures or other graphics.”
In Finland, floating around the internet it has been noted, formal literacy instruction begins at age seven (a common practice in Waldorf too). Finland assigns far less homework than the United States, stated in, Smartest Kids in the World. How could it be possible that Finland would be number one in the world a when kids aren’t being formally instructed in literacy by the time they are five? And, how is it possible that the long hours of homework, absent in Finland’s students, allow for a number one placement?
Finland, according to Pasi Sahlberg’s article in the The Washington Post, “…there are more than 1,500 teacher prep programs,” in the United States. In Finland, there is one. Imagine that (dripping with sarcasm), more than 1,500 ways to become a teacher in the United States, yet Finland only offers one… hmm.
If you’re a teacher, parent, or interested in education at all, learn more about Finland. Make the differences that are possible – within your reach, based on all that Finland’s educational system is doing for students, teacher, and society.
As a teacher, I long for the day when the United States takes on learning from Finland to improve the current state of over testing, overwhelming students, and teachers.
For now, I’m doing my part, and sharing what I’m learning about Finland and implementing where and when possible.