Why Education is this country SUCKS !

Education - Vectorportal
Education Word Cloud – Vectorportal
And why Finland’s is so much better than ours……From The Atlantic Monthly.

Finland’s approach to education is very different than ours and even that of most of the rest of the world.

Finland’s schools owe their newfound fame primarily to one study: the PISA survey, conducted every three years by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The survey compares 15-year-olds in different countries in reading, math, and science. Finland has ranked at or near the top in all three competencies on every survey since 2000, neck and neck with superachievers such as South Korea and Singapore. In the most recent survey in 2009 Finland slipped slightly, with students in Shanghai, China, taking the best scores, but the Finns are still near the very top. Throughout the same period, the PISA performance of the United States has been middling, at best.

Pasi Sahlberg, director of the Finnish Ministry of Education’s Center for International Mobility and author of the new book Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland? has made numerous visits to this country and official here to Finland to find out what is so different. But the people here still do not get it. With all the talks he has given, the one big reason for Finland’s success in education just goes right by them.

During the afternoon that Sahlberg spent at the Dwight School, a photographer from the New York Times jockeyed for position with Dan Rather’s TV crew as Sahlberg participated in a roundtable chat with students. The subsequent article in the Times about the event would focus on Finland as an “intriguing school-reform model.”

Yet 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.”

This notion may seem difficult for an American to digest, but it’s true. Only a small number of independent schools exist in Finland, and even they are all publicly financed. None is allowed to charge tuition fees. 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.

This is the one idea that people here do not get. That education in Finland is considered a right of everyone. Not only that, but there is little – if any – competition in their educational system.

For starters, Finland has no standardized tests. The only exception is what’s called the National Matriculation Exam, which everyone takes at the end of a voluntary upper-secondary school, roughly the equivalent of American high school.

Instead, the public school system’s teachers are trained to assess children in classrooms using independent tests they create themselves. All children receive a report card at the end of each semester, but these reports are based on individualized grading by each teacher. Periodically, the Ministry of Education tracks national progress by testing a few sample groups across a range of different schools.

As for accountability of teachers and administrators, Sahlberg shrugs. “There’s no word for accountability in Finnish,” he later told an audience at the Teachers College of Columbia University. “Accountability is something that is left when responsibility has been subtracted.”

For Sahlberg 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. If a teacher is bad, it is the principal’s responsibility to notice and deal with it.

And 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.” It’s hard to think of a more un-American idea, but when it comes to education, Finland’s success shows that the Finnish attitude might have merits. 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.

And this to me is the crux of the matter. Not just in our educational system, but the entire society there is absolute contempt for responsibility. A attitude one would expect from a spoiled small child. Here is the biggy though. The one main point that separates us from them.

“Here in America,” Sahlberg said at the Teachers College, “parents can choose to take their kids to private schools. It’s the same idea of a marketplace that applies to, say, shops. Schools are a shop and parents can buy what ever they want. In Finland parents can also choose. But the options are all the same.”

Herein lay the real shocker. As Sahlberg continued, his core message emerged, whether or not anyone in his American audience heard it.

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.

In the Finnish view, as Sahlberg describes it, this means that schools should be healthy, safe environments for children. This starts with the basics. Finland offers all pupils free school meals, easy access to health care, psychological counseling, and individualized student guidance.

In fact, since academic excellence wasn’t a particular priority on the Finnish to-do list, when Finland’s students scored so high on the first PISA survey in 2001, many Finns thought the results must be a mistake. But subsequent PISA tests confirmed that Finland — unlike, say, very similar countries such as Norway — 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. The chasm between those who can afford $35,000 in tuition per child per year — or even just the price of a house in a good public school district — and the other “99 percent” is painfully plain to see.

This is the one area where we here as a country, as a society, as a culture have not advanced much – if any – since the 15th and 16th century. True equality in education as well as life itself is the scourge of those on the right and more than a few who claim to be on the left. Why ? Because in a truly equal society – one with a level paying field – they would spend most of the time in the dirt.

With out the money they have cheated, lied, conned and stolen – they would be nowhere because most are mediocre at best and a large percentage are dumb as dirt. Just take a look at who these people run for office. I rest my case.

So the idea that those on the right could not buy their way into whatever they want, especially prestigious schools, would give them a major coronary, a stroke, apoplexy and diarrhea all at once.

Which is why they absolutely hate equal education and why equality is the one area that must be the focus of change. Doing away with privilege in education and the rest of society. And personally I do not care one bit how this is accomplished.

3 thoughts on “Why Education is this country SUCKS !

  1. Appreciate this post.

    I’m not well versed in Finland’s governmental body structure. If you are able will you (capsule version) please advise? Or direct me to a resource for a factual overview?

    Posts like this are so important. I’m going to save this and pass it on to those here who are involved in our educational processes.

    Happy New Year!

  2. cmaukonen

    From Wikipedia.

    Politics of Finland takes place in a framework of a parliamentary representative democratic republic and of a multi-party system. The President of Finland is the head of state, leads the foreign policy, and is the Commander-in-chief of the Defense Forces. The Prime Minister of Finland is the head of government; executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in the Parliament of Finland, and the government has limited rights to amend or extend legislation. The president has the power of veto over parliamentary decisions although it can be overrun by the parliament.

    The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature. The Judiciary consists of two systems, regular courts and administrative courts, headed by the Supreme Court and the Supreme Administrative Court, respectively. Administrative courts process cases where official decisions are contested. There is no “Constitutional Court” – the constitutionality of a law can be contested only as applied to an individual court case.

    Though Finland has a primarily parliamentary system, the president has some notable powers. The foreign policy is led by the president, “in co-operation” with the cabinet, and the same applies to matters concerning national security. The main executive power lies in the cabinet headed by the prime minister. Before the constitutional rewrite, which was completed in 2000, the president enjoyed more power.

    Finns enjoy individual and political freedoms, and suffrage is universal at 18; Finnish women became the first in the world to have unrestricted rights both to vote and to stand for parliament.

    The country’s population is ethnically homogeneous with no sizable immigrant population. Few tensions exist between the Finnish-speaking majority and the Swedish-speaking minority, although in certain circles there is an unending debate about the status of the Swedish language.

    The labor agreements also pose significant political questions. Bargaining is highly centralized and often the government participates to coordinate fiscal policy. Finland has universal validity of collective labour agreements and often, but not always, the trade unions, employers and the government reach a Comprehensive Income Policy Agreement. Significant trade unions are SAK, STTK, AKAVA and EK.

    Which is what I have read on a number of Finnish sites as well. Remember that up until the late 1800s, Finland was a part of Sweden.

    1. Thanks. It will be interesting to discover their laws relevant to campaign finance, et al. *As well as their social programs relating to healthcare.

      My initial thoughts are that they seem to be fairly progressive.

      Ah, if only a group of us could go on a ‘field trip’!

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