Finland’s Effective Formula for First-Rate Education

Finland’s education methods have paved the way to its students’ success. U.S.  should adopt these ideas to improve the nation’s lagging, academic performances.

For several years now, Finland’s surprisingly laidback education system has been consistently ranked as one of the best in the world. To compete with countries similar to Finland, the United States has been trying to improve its educational system. But the U.S. ranked 17 in the Program for International Student Assessment whereas Finland, along with South Korea and Shanghai, was ranked in the top three.

In an attempt to improve the education system, President Obama has decided to place more emphasis on test scores and teacher performance. Interestingly, these ideals are opposite those of Finnish education. To efficiently compete with the Finnish education system that is globally ranked number one by BBC News, the U.S. should adopt some of the key aspects that have earned Finland its position.

A few years ago, as a means to improve education, Obama brought up the possibility of lengthening the school year to increase the amount of instructional time. However, in Finland, teachers usually spend only four hours in the classroom for actual instructional time as opposed to the minimum of five hours in America.   Teachers in Finland spend  about two hours on building the cirriculum and assessing student progress in the classes. Between 45-minute classes, children have a 15-minute recess, totaling to 75 minutes worth of recess a day; American students have about 27 minutes of recess a day. In Finland, instead of placing the emphasis on instructional time, outdoor physical activity is prioritized. Allotting students free time during these extended periods of recess make school seem like less of a chore and allow students to concentrate during class time.

Finland’s government funds a student’s entire education, starting from when he or she is six years old until graduation from college. This funding even includes free lunches for the students during the school day. Even so, Finland spends about $7,500 per student for an effective system that works, compared to the U.S., which spends about $8,700 per student. Instead of paying attention to how much money and time is spent on education, more consideration should be placed on the quality of the education.

In Finland, teaching is a well-respected career that is considered to be on the same level as doctors and lawyers, making it a desirable career. Teachers are required to have a master’s degree, which is fully subsidized by the government. Only a mere 10 percent of applicants for a master’s degree in teaching are accepted, making teaching a very competitive job. This requirement is an incentive for people who are committed to teaching to do well and ultimately become better teachers in the workforce. Since all teachers in Finland receive a higher education, it can be expected that the quality of their teaching will be more efficient than teaching in the U.S., which is not always backed up by a master’s degree. Requiring teachers to have a higher level of education might help improve the quality of education in the U.S.

Education in the U.S. relies heavily on standardized test scores and separating students into different classes based on their abilities. However, in Finland, students are only required to take one standardized test at the age of 16. Teachers do not usually administer tests or homework to the students. Instead, teachers judge student performance based on hands-on projects and work that students complete in class. Furthermore, students also stay with the same teacher for several years, allowing the teacher to monitor their progress and get to know the students. This is much more effective than relying on test after test, because each student is different and demonstrates their skills differently. Allowing students to be judged by an actual human being, not an objective test, will be a more comprehensive and efficient way to determine a student’s potential.

Though it will take time and effort, the U.S. should consider revising its education system. Instead of moving toward more stringent policies that rely heavily on testing and blaming teachers, the U.S. should consider some of the qualities of Finnish education system that has consistently placed it as one of the most efficacious schooling systems in the world.