What Makes Finland’s Education System So Successful?

By Joseph Jay Williams, Doctoral Candidate University of California Berkeley, Research Assistant CEI.

Finland has received a great deal of attention for the quality of their education system. In fact, Dr. Mason is giving a keynote presentation at a Finnish University this summer, on Heart Centered Education.

Below is a post and infographic from OnlineClasses.org with their thoughts on why Finland is so successful (original post is here):

To some people, Finland isn’t a whole lot more than a chilly, northern country boasting a population of around 5 million people. Whether you’ve been to Finland or not, you probably haven’t had the chance to take an up-close and personal look at one of Finland’s greatest accomplishments to date—its high-achieving education system. Students in Finland have, over the past several years, risen to the top of the academic food-chain, and they’ve become some of the top scholarly performers in the world. Compared to many other developed nations, including the US and Canada, Finland’s high school graduation rates have continued to grow steadily and impressively. Furthermore, a huge percentage of students continue on to earn college degrees, and students at all levels perform exceedingly well on standardized tests. So what’s Finland’s secret? It’s hard to say for sure, but some good guesses as to the source of their success include respecting their teachers highly, assigning students less homework and more recess time, and keeping standardized testing to a minimum. The following infographic takes an in-depth look at some of the details behind Finland’s educational system, and what makes it work so well.

 

This Graphic was obtained from OnlineClasses.org Finnish Education Infographic


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2 thoughts on “What Makes Finland’s Education System So Successful?

  • University of Helsinki – Faculty of Behavioral Sciences, Department of Teacher of Education Research Report No 347 Authors: Jarkko Hautamäki, Sirkku Kupiainen, Jukka Marjanen, Mari-Pauliina Vainikainen and Risto Hotulainen

    Signs of declining results 15 y

    The change between the year 2001 and year 2012 is significant. The level of students’ attainment has declined considerably.The difference can be compared to a decline of Finnish students’ attainment in PISA reading literacy from the 539 points of PISA 2009 to 490 points, to below the OECD average.

    ‘Since 1996, educational effectiveness has been understood in Finland to include not only subject specific knowledge and skills but also the more general competences which are not the exclusive domain of any single subject but develop through good teaching along a student’s educational career. Many of these, including the object of the present assessment, learning to learn, have been named in the education policy documents of the European Union as key competences which each member state should provide their citizens as part of general education (EU 2006).

    In spring 2012, the Helsinki University Centre for Educational Assessment implemented a nationally representative assessment of ninth grade students’ learning to learn competence. The assessment was inspired by signs of declining results in the past few years’ assessments. This decline had been observed both in the subject specific assessments of the Finnish National Board of Education, in the OECD PISA 2009 study, and in the learning to learn assessment implemented by the Centre for Educational Assessment in all comprehensive schools in Vantaa in 2010.

    The results of the Vantaa study could be compared against the results of a similar assessment implemented in 2004. As the decline in students’ cognitive competence and in their learning related attitudes was especially strong in the two Vantaa studies, with only 6 years apart, a decision was made to direct the national assessment of spring 2012 to the same schools which had participated in a respective study in 2001.

    Girls performed better

    The goal of the assessment was to find out whether the decline in results, observed in the Helsinki region, were the same for the whole country. The assessment also offered a possibility to look at the readiness of schools to implement a computer-based assessment, and how this has changed during the 11 years between the two assessments. After all, the 2001 assessment was the first in Finland where large scale student assessment data was collected in schools using the Internet.
    The main focus of the assessment was on students’ competence and their learning-related attitudes at the end of the comprehensive school education, but the assessment also relates to educational equity: to regional, between-school, and between- class differences and to the relation of students’ gender and home background to their competence and attitudes.
    The assessment reached about 7800 ninth grade students in 82 schools in 65 municipalities. Of the students, 49% were girls and 51% boys. The share of students in Swedish speaking schools was 3.4%. As in 2001, the assessment was implemented in about half of the schools using a printed test booklet and in the other half via the Internet. The results of the 2001 and 2012 assessments were uniformed through IRT modelling to secure the comparability of the results. Hence, the results can be interpreted to represent the full Finnish ninth grade population.

    Girls performed better than boys in all three fields of competence measured in the assessment: reasoning, mathematical thinking, and reading comprehension. The difference was especially noticeable in reading comprehension even if in this task girls’ attainment had declined more than boys’ attainment. Differences between the AVI-districts were small.

    Decline of attainment

    The impact of students’ home-background was, instead, obvious: the higher the education of the parents, the better the student performed in the assessment tasks. There was no difference in the impact of mother’s education on boys’ and girls’ attainment. The between-school-differences were very small (explaining under 2% of the variance) while the between-class differences were relatively large (9 % – 20 %). The change between the year 2001 and year 2012 is significant. The level of students’ attainment has declined considerably. The difference can be compared to a decline of Finnish students’ attainment in PISA reading literacy from the 539 points of PISA 2009 to 490 points, to below the OECD average. The mean level of students’ learning-supporting attitudes still falls above the mean of the scale used in the questions but also that mean has declined from 2001. The mean level of attitudes detrimental to learning has risen but the rise is more modest.

    Girls’ attainment has declined more than boys’ in three of the five tasks. There was no gender difference in the change of students’ attitudes, however. Between-school differences were un-changed but differences between classes and between individual students had grown. The change in attitudes—unlike the change in attainment—was related to students’ home background: The decline in learning-supporting attitudes and the growth in attitudes detrimental to school work were weaker the better educated the mother. Home background was not related to the change in students’ attainment, however. A decline could be discerned both among the best and the weakest students.
    Deeper cultural change

    The results of the assessment point to a deeper, on-going cultural change which seems to affect the young generation especially hard. Formal education seems to be losing its former power and the accepting of the societal expectations which the school represents seems to be related more strongly than before to students’ home background.

    The school has to compete with students’ self-elected pastime activities, the social media, and the boundless world of information and entertainment open to all through the Internet. The school is to a growing number of young people just one, often critically reviewed, developmental environment among many. The change is not a surprise, however. A similar decline in student attainment has been registered in the other Nordic countries already earlier.
    It is time to concede that the signals of change have been discernible already for a while and to open up a national discussion regarding the state and future of the Finnish comprehensive school that rose to international acclaim due to our students’ success in the PISA studies.’

    Source: University of Helsinki – Faculty of Behavioral Sciences, Department of Teacher of Education Research Report No 347 Authors: Jarkko Hautamäki, Sirkku Kupiainen, Jukka Marjanen, Mari-Pauliina Vainikainen and Risto Hotulainen

  • Raf,
    Thank you for your detailed analysis. Some of your comments underscore concerns I heard from colleagues when I was in Finland in June. At that point we discussed some of the impact of the new students arriving in Finland from other countries as one of the variables.

    In the next few months CEI will turn again to investigating international results and will examine results for Finland as well as the other top countries. You may have read Amanda Ripley’s new book on Smartest Kids. Her insights from American youth who spent one high school year in some of the top performing countries, including Finland are instructive. (Look for our review of this book in an upcoming post.)

    In the 2012 PISA results, Finland scored third in the world among the participating countries in reading and sixth in math according to the latest results.

    At the U.S. Department of Education Web site were these comments on the U.S. standing:

    Duncan explained that results for the U.S. are “straightforward and stark: It is a picture of educational stagnation.” However, this is not to say that the U.S. hasn’t made any progress since the 2009 PISA. In the last three years, 700,000 fewer students are in high school dropout factories, college enrollment is up—especially among Hispanics—and the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress showed us that reading and math scores for 4th and 8th graders are up nationally to new highs.

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