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Finland Used To Have The Best Education System In The World — What Happened?

9 DEC 2013
Career Path : Education News
Finland 

Since it was reformed 40 years ago, Finland’s education system has frequently been held up as one of the best in the world.

Today, that changed. Tbe OECD released its PISA global rankings that showed how students in various countries were doing in reading, science, and math. Finland ranked 12th, just behind Estonia.

That’s a big drop. Finland had topped the PISA rankings in 2000, 2003, and 2006, and consistently ranked near the top in other years. This year, however, Finnish students had dropped by 2.8% in mathematics, 1.7% in reading and 3% in science.

“The golden days are over,” Finnbay, a Finnish news organization wrote just after the results came out.

The results may be tough to swallow for Finnish educators.

“The general downturn in learning outcomes shows that we must take strong action to develop Finnish education. We will bring in not only experts in research and education and political decision-makers but also student representatives and parents,’ Krista Kiuru, Minister of Education and Science, said today.

It’s also depressing for those who had looked towards Finland for education reform. Finland was perhaps unique amongst the top achievers in PISA as its education system had many quirks which other countries could imitate; a late start to schooling for children, a lack of focus on examinations, more recess time, more teachers (who are also better paid than their U.S. counterparts), and strict rules and limits for private schools. All of these could, in theory, be exported to the U.S. — a country which ranked below the OECD average in every category — or others.

So what happened? Over at the Washington Post, Pasi Sahlberg, author of the best-selling “Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn About Educational Change in Finland,” offers some perspective. Here’s one key passage:

The unexpected position as a global educational leader and role model may have disturbed Finland’s previous commitment to continuous improvement and renewal. Some argue that complacency and focus on explaining the past to thousands of education tourists have shifted attention away from developing Finland’s own school system.  Others contend that the high-profile of PISA have led other nations to alter their curricula.  Such observers point to the usage of PISA questions to shape lessons and coaching students to take PISA-like tests. As a norm-referenced test, PISA is graded on a curve. What other nations have learned from Finland and put into practice has necessarily brought down Finland’s results.

The OECD’s own John Bangs, chair of the OECD trade union advisory committee’s education working group, offered his own explanation:

“My belief is that Finland and Sweden [another Nordic state that also saw its ranking drop] are suffering from the strains of declining economies and the social pressures this causes.”

It’s also worth noting that Finland’s high PISA rankings had caused some controversy amongst Finnish educators. The problem was especially acute in mathematics, where many educators disagreed with the method by which PISA ranked students (PISA focuses on everyday knowledge, rather than curriculum-based knowledge).

Read the full article : Business Insider