Tuesday, January 10, 2012

What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland's School Success

*How does this relate to #highered #academiclabor & #adjunct issues? What lessons and ideas can we as both educators and academic precariat working for equity in the academic workplace take away from this article and the Finnish example? It's definitely something to talk about at the January 28 Summit, "Reclaiming Academic Democracy: Facing the Consequences of Contingent Employment in Higher Education." So is the Program for Change developed by Jack Longmate and Frank Fosco.  What's on your list of questions? Let us know.


What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland's School Success - Anu Partanen - National - The Atlantic

    • Everyone agrees the United States needs to improve its education system dramatically, but how?
      • Trouble is, when it comes to the lessons that Finnish schools have to offer, most of the discussion seems to be missing the point.
        • Compared with the stereotype of the East Asian model -- long hours of exhaustive cramming and rote memorization -- Finland's success is especially intriguing because Finnish schools assign less homework and engage children in more creative play.
          • one of the most significant things Sahlberg said passed practically unnoticed. "Oh," he mentioned at one point, "and there are no private schools in Finland."
            • There are no private universities, either. This means that practically every person in Finland attends public school, whether for pre-K or a Ph.D.
              • The answers Finland provides seem to run counter to just about everything America's school reformers are trying to do.
                • Finland has no standardized tests
                  • teachers are trained to assess children in classrooms using independent tests they create themselves.
                    • "There's no word for accountability in Finnish,"
                      • "Accountability is something that is left when responsibility has been subtracted."
                        • what matters is that in Finland all teachers and administrators are given prestige, decent pay, and a lot of responsibility. A master's degree is required to enter the profession, and teacher training programs are among the most selective professional schools in the country. I
                          • while Americans love to talk about competition, Sahlberg points out that nothing makes Finns more uncomfortable. In his book Sahlberg quotes a line from Finnish writer named Samuli Puronen: "Real winners do not compete."
                            • There are no lists of best schools or teachers in Finland. The main driver of education policy is not competition between teachers and between schools, but cooperation.
                              • Decades ago, when the Finnish school system was badly in need of reform, the goal of the program that Finland instituted, resulting in so much success today, was never excellence. It was equity.
                                • Since the 1980s, 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. Education has been seen first and foremost not as a way to produce star performers, but as an instrument to even out social inequality.
                                  • But subsequent PISA tests confirmed that Finland
                                    • was producing academic excellence through its particular policy focus on equity.
                                      • That this point is almost always ignored or brushed aside in the U.S. seems especially poignant at the moment, after the financial crisis and Occupy Wall Street movement have brought the problems of inequality in America into such sharp focus.
                                        • All countries are different, and as many Americans point out, Finland is a small nation with a much more homogeneous population than the United States. 
                                          • But the number of foreign-born residents in Finland doubled during the decade leading up to 2010, and the country didn't lose its edge in education
                                            • Educational policy, Abrams suggests, is probably more important to the success of a country's school system than the nation's size or ethnic makeup.
                                              • Finland's population of 5.4 million can be compared to many an American state -- after all, most American education is managed at the state level.
                                                • despite their many differences, Finland and the U.S. have an educational goal in common.
                                                  • Finland's experience suggests that to win at that game, a country has to prepare not just some of its population well, but all of its population well,
                                                    • it is possible to achieve excellence by focusing not on competition, but on cooperation, and not on choice, but on equity.
                                                      • The problem facing education in America isn't the ethnic diversity of the population but the economic inequality of society, and this is precisely the problem that Finnish education reform addressed.

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