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Is Finnish educational system really a model ?

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Finland is often considered as an ideal compared to the other European countries’ educational system. It seems really performing by being at the top of numerous international rankings. But do the Finnish have the same vision within the country? Is the system as perfect as it is often said and a model to follow?
Source: flickr

A bad investment

Reeta NIEMONEN | 2014. October 30. 20:15

Finland, the model example of the great school system, has stuck to educate only average students. But is that really what it needs?

At a time when most countries in the world still look up to the Finnish educational system in attempt to improve their own, Finland is becoming more aware of the fact that their system is no longer living up to its previously set standards. The best usually remain in the shadows of the average, and the and the typical products of a Finnish school system are the average students that do not trust in their skills.

*A path from the best to the average

Finland is a real textbook model with a great educational system. It has gained excellent PISA test results already during several years. Teachers and decision-makers from all over the world come to walk in the corridors of Finnish comprehensive schools and sing alphabet songs with the pupils to see what makes the system so excellent. For the people of this small country, this international attention and admiration has probably been too much. We have now enjoyed of our excellence thoroughly and declared to be the best of the world. We have forgotten to develop even up to the point that in the PISA of 2012, the knowledge of mathematics of Finnish 15-year-old pupils had fell and was scored as the 12th out of 65 countries.

This tendency of not putting more effort into the school costs can also be seen in the Finnish public expenditure. During this final regression, between years 2008 and 2009, the Finnish consumption on education did not increase really more than 1% – while OECD countries on average wanted to invest for their education with extra 4%. And this was not because of the high starting level in Finland: our overall school expenditure is not greater than in the OECD countries on average: roughly 6% of the gross domestic product.

It is true that the performance of the Finnish 15-year-old teens in the PISA tests might be considered as a success. But where is the university of Helsinki in the global university rankings? And why can’t this great success of education be reflected in a bigger boost of Finnish experts and companies globally?

*Funding for achievement and employability, not for statistics

Finnish school system is great in only one manner. Its whole success is based on the small differences between students – this is also what PISA tests measure. This means that there are no very bad students in the Finnish schools – but at the same time the bests are getting bored, loosing their motivation and regressing. Moreover, during these financially difficult times, our government has once again found some extra money in our budget of 2015, intended for the weakest students. Unfortunately, educating only average students is something Finland can no longer afford. Critics say that Finnish people are overeducated but underachieving. Almost everyone has a high school diploma, even at times when it is difficult to find enough jobs corresponding to the general level of education. But still, the most courageous ideas and highest objectives are missing.

It is a high time for us to turn our famous educational system to a real economic advantage. There is no point in keeping our eyes closed or in fantasizing that we are so good that we don’t have to change anything or invest in anything anymore. Finnish competitiveness is after all based on highly educated workers, and education is an essential investment in the future of this country. Even though we love our equality, it should be applied to the best as well and they should be given the opportunity to grow, develop and improve their knowledge. This does not have to mean excluding the rest of the students, as everybody can find the thing they are best at. That is why we should concentrate on finding different strenghts of students and supporting them, instead of only creating clones

It is great that every 9-year-old pupil can sing that alphabet song to the visitors at school. But unfortunately that does not save us.

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