Read Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland? by Pasi Sahlberg Online


Finnish Lessons is a first-hand, comprehensive account of how Finland built a world-class education system during the past three decades. The author traces the evolution of education policies in Finland and highlights how they differ from the United States and other industrialized countries. He shows how rather than relying on competition, choice, and external testing of sFinnish Lessons is a first-hand, comprehensive account of how Finland built a world-class education system during the past three decades. The author traces the evolution of education policies in Finland and highlights how they differ from the United States and other industrialized countries. He shows how rather than relying on competition, choice, and external testing of students, education reforms in Finland focus on professionalizing teachers' work, developing instructional leadership in schools, and enhancing trust in teachers and schools. This book details the complexity of educational change and encourages educators and policymakers to develop effective solutions for their own districts and schools....

Title : Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland?
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ISBN : 9780807752579
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 167 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland? Reviews

  • Mem Morman
    2019-02-23 15:55

    I bought this book after reading an article based on it in Smithsonian magazine. I've read it slowly and found the first couple of chapters the most interesting. I have, in my lifetime, been a professional educator, and I have the background to read and interpret this book - which is NOT written for a popular audience - but it also clearly tells me that I am not up-to-date on the latest educational theory. Finland has the best educated young people in the world. Finland? Really???!!?? How did that HAPPEN? This book tells us how. It was a deliberate action taken over decades and involving the whole country. Not just certain schools in Finland are excellent - ALL schools are excellent. Not just some students are high achievers - ALL students are high achievers. How do they do it? What learnings can I take from their methods? Here are just a few.1 - Stop testing. Finnish schools do not do standardized tests. The first standardized test that most students take is the one at the end of high school. There is no such thing as teaching to the test.2 - Make teaching the highest status profession in the country, and make it the most difficult to get into. It's easier to get into med schoo in Finland than to be accepted for teacher education. They have the best, brightest, most empathetic, and best-trained teachers possible, and then, amazingly, they let them loose in the classroom and let them teach without interference.3 - Formal education doesn't begin until age 7, and continues - with various options - for the next nine years. Not everyone goes on to university. There's plenty of successful technical and on-the-job education. But everyone learns at least two, and usually three, languages other than Finnish.The book was not an easy read, but was a fascinating exposition on what education can be when the whole country backs a system that educates every child to make the best of his or her abilities.

  • Martianngray
    2019-03-21 13:48

    Just watched a CNN special on education. Finland and South Korea are at the top. Not sure how I feel about the South Korea program as the children study from 8am to sometimes midnight which I don't think fosters creativity and pragmatic skills that are needed to succeed. However; Finland ranks number one in science and two in math. They spend less time in the classroom, don't start school until they are 7 and yet excel much more than the rest of the world. They say their key is the best teachers (only 1 in 10 get into a Master's teaching program and are viewed in the same class as doctors) and no standardized testing. They evaluate their teachers constantly but also reward them. At the same time they do not have the same problems we have in America, mainly poverty and the amount of children that grow up in poverty. After working in schools that have "disadvantaged" kids, I am interested to read this book to see what they say.

  • Matty-Swytla
    2019-03-19 14:35

    I'll save you some very dry and repetitive reading by suggesting you go directly to chapter 5 of the book (the last one) and you'll get all the relevant info in a nicely condensed form with some helpful ideas for the future development of education. The rating isn't lower because the author argues for a different approach to education than a strictly competetive one where teachers and students are constantly graded and ranked, which does not help to actually improve student learning, but only pushes teachers to focus on exams. Smaller classes and specialised help in class for students with special needs is sound logic as well.I already see some of the ideas the author describes in Finnish schools implemented in my own country - Slovenia. We haven't gone all the way (with no numerical marks until grade 10), but there's certainly a larger focus on student learning than exam results. My didactics professor couldn't shut up about the Finns anyway, so lots of information here was familiar to me.

  • Paul Signorelli
    2019-03-24 17:57

    Pasi Salhberg--in "Finish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland?"--doesn't pretend to have a universally applicable solution to the problems we face in providing effective learning opportunities. But the wonderfully produced snapshot he provides of the Finnish school system and its support of vocational training is something none of us can afford to ignore. If we're at all interested in seeing how the top-ranked education system worldwide produced its successes, we're in the right place with "Finnish Lessons". This is not a book that is useful only to those in academia. The descriptions of a learning system that eschews a single-minded emphasis on testing and explores, instead, ways to engage all learners and provide them with communities of learning that produce results, touches any trainer-teacher-learner. It's a fabulous approach to the wicked problem of reinventing learning, and Sahlberg engagingly and concisely helps us understand what he and his colleagues have achieved. The writer turns to a broad roadmap, in the final pages of his book, to help us explore what he and his colleagues have created. Suggesting that we create "a community of learners that provides the conditions that allow all young people to discover their talent" (p. 140)--and there'ss no reason why we have to limit ourselves to "young people" here--he suggests four broad steps: development of a personal road map for learning; less classroom-based teaching; development of interpersonal skills and problem solving; and engagement and creativity as pointers of success. If we can adapt any part of these Finnish lessons by applying them in our own settings, perhaps the wicked problem of reforming education and lifelong learning here in the United States will become a little less wicked.

  • Marten
    2019-03-09 14:53

    Wow, I finished this book the other day and was quite impressed. It does, however, really chafe me as a teacher to know that we have a messed up system in the US and are really not interested in making the long term commitment to fixing our problems. It must come from being the biggest (although I realize I cannot quantify that statement) spend and throw away society in the world. Like so many resources, we Americans just keep throwing away and buying something newer or seemingly better with no understanding how to use or respect what we have bought. We need to stop saying that we are investing in our kids and then chop arts and critical thinking programs. We have to embrace the profession of education as an honorable profession and put into place serious changes to the way we think about academic growth and child development. We can do it, but we have to commit to the long term, not just political, short term, slogan mongering!

  • Sylvia Moore
    2019-03-05 10:40

    If you want to learn about THE alternative to the high stakes testing, competition and privatization regime that has invaded American education, please read this book. Every educator should read this book. Dr. Sahlberg gives a great explanation as to how Finland's more collaborative and equitable approach to education provides better outcomes than the business management schemes favored by the so-called "education reformers." As Dr. Sahlberg cautions, not all of the features of Finland's education system may translate well to other nations, but America can still learn something from the Finns. The crux of the matter is that the U.S. needs to get back to treating education as a public good, not as a commodity. Teaching must be treated as a respected profession that requires a high standard to enter and provides good pay. Educators should be in charge of our schools, not businesspeople and "turnaround specialists" who have no experience in education.

  • Phyllis
    2019-02-28 11:51

    As we all have learned the Bush "No Child Left Behind" program has not been successful in meeting our education goals and needs in the US. However, "Finnish Lessons..." provides strategies from which we all can learn. Sahlberg discusses three Finnish paradoxes of education. 1. Teach less. Learn more. (Finnish teachers teach just under 50% of the number of hours US teachers teach.) 2. Test less. Learn more. "The trend of students' performance in mathematics in all text-based accountability-policy nations is similar--it is in decline. 3. More Equity through growing diversity. "Finland has attained success in building increased equity through increased ethnic and cultural diversity in its society."Teaching has become a top job in Finnish society. I suggest you read this book.

  • Mark Ballinger
    2019-03-12 16:52

    I picked it up: after Pasi Sahlberg came to town to speak. I couldn't make it out that evening, but put the book on hold right away.Why I finished it: Painfully dry as dust introduction almost did me in.Soon enough, though, I made it into the actual book and quite enjoyed it. The ideas behind success in Finnish schools raised plenty of great questions in my mind, not only about the shape of US schools but also in my own teaching.The last two chapters were back to the slog, though. So, 5 stars for the middle content and making me think. Two deductions.

  • Jonna Higgins-Freese
    2019-03-05 16:46

    I won't repeat the general info that other reviewers have given, but the points that most interested me and that I want to remember as I open conversations at my own children's school.First, Finland has achieved good results across the board -- with very little variation between schools/students based on socioeconomic factors, etc. That impressed me. Second, they have based their schooling on the belief that ALL children can learn, and something on the order of 50% of all Finnish students take advantage of some kind of special education at some point in their careers. It's not a lifelong label, but something that's simply provided as a matter of course if a student is struggling to help him/her get back on track.All students are held to the same standards in math, foreign language learning, etc. and are expected to be able to learn. Finnish teachers spend about half as much time in the classroom as their American counterparts (they are also responsible for curriculum design and building administration). Finnish students don't begin school until they are seven and do not spend exceptionally long days at school. They tend to have 15-minute movement breaks every hour and lunches that range from 20-75 minutes.The author is also clear that the high educational outcomes don't occur in a vacuum. Only 4% of the children live in poverty (as oppsed to over 20% in the US); all have comprehensive health care, early childhood care, free preschool, and free lunch every day for all students. (I think here of Nel Nodding's observation that the notion that even children who live in poverty can learn to some extent serves only to excuse the fact that they live in poverty, besides the fact that it's also not true). He also points out that Finland spends only about 5% of GDP on education (compared to the US 7% for much worse results).I've also been involved in a variety of quality improvement work, and so it was interesting to me to see how having trusted, high-quality teachers, each of whom is involved in a community of practice and knows how to do research, is more effective than the command-and-control models used in the US.Favorite quotes "Consequences of a high stakes testing environment include avoidance of risk taking, boredom, and fear" (26)."Traditional school organization based on presentation-recitation models of instruction, age-grouping, fixed teaching schedules, and the dominance of classroom-based seatwork has been gradually transformed to provide more flexible, open, and interaction-rich learning environments, where an active role for students comes first" (27).

  • Jackie
    2019-02-24 15:34

    Finland's educational policies have been in our news for a while now, so it was nice to hear details about Finland's success directly from someone who has been a part of it for the past two decades. Although many of Finland's solutions to their mediocre education system are worth examining and considering, this book still left much to be desired. One of the key pieces to Finland's success, according Sahlberg, is the public funding of all education for its citizens, including at the university level. Arts and physical education, free school meals for all, as well as comprehensive special education and counseling services, are all publicly-funded. Yet, Finland spends less on education (as a percent of their total GDP) than we do, and we achieve well below Finland in all measures. The author started to allude to how they are able to do more with less by briefly describing how the act of not allowing students to repeat a grade can save money, but I have a hard time believing that that is the whole story. I really wished that he had gone deeper into the "how do we pay for it all" issue, as I'm sure many American educators would like to be able to bring concrete examples of solutions to our own problems to the table during discussions with our policymakers now and in the future. I also have to say that the book was incredibly repetitive. It felt as though I could find the same few points re-written on almost every page.

  • John Martindale
    2019-03-04 15:02

    My word, this book was dreadfully dry. The writer is a product of the Finnish school system, so I suppose that is one Finnish lesson I got. He did mention that interesting tid bit about how Fins don't like small talk, illustrating the point with a story of how two Finnish friends after a long absence met up at a bar and after the 4th beer, one of them said "cheers" at which the other retorted "Did we come here to talk or drink?" Yeah, Fins don't strike me as the most friendly and cheery lot. But yeah, this book could have been a magazine article and nothing would be lost. He mentions things like how Finland was once average, but now there are on top showing there is hope for America which keeps doing the same idiotic thing hoping for different results, if it repents and goes the way of Finland. Finland he says has less test; less home-work, less class-time, less teaching, etc... etc... but better results, also they are all about equality, free secondary education, paying high salaries to highly trained teachers and so on. But yeah, there you have it, after trudging through most of this painfully boring book, he seems to just repeat the same stuff again and again without actually expounding on any of it in an engaging and illuminating manner.

  • Boris
    2019-03-19 13:45

    Ok... so I really liked parts of this book. There were a lot of facts that hit me hard. Graduation rates in the us being around 75% compared to Finland's 93%, for example. There were a lot of interesting insights and the window into a significantly different culture was really fantastic (can you imagine: "The most able and talented individuals go into teaching").Now why does it get 2 stars? It was dry. Dry, dry, dry. I love reading, but I got through much of this book in 5-10 page chunks.Worthwhile, but definitely not pleasant.

  • Karen Chung
    2019-03-01 15:49

    The writing is dull, repetitive and tedious - the text could be cut down to about 1/3 of its current length without much loss in information, and it really could use a little journalistic snappening up. If it was written directly in English by the Finnish author, it's quite impressive, but in places it shows that his native language is not English - e.g. occasional problems with articles and prepositions. But I found in it enough useful ideas on how to improve education that it was worth sticking with. The next book I picked up flew along, possibly due to the big contrast in written style!

  • Nan
    2019-03-04 17:57

    Let's move to Finland. That's what many teachers will think after reading this account of Finland's move from an average educational system in the 1990s to the premier position it enjoys today. An emphasis on cooperation rather than competition, professional collaboration (and the time to actually do it), trust in teachers' abilities and creativity, and a minimum of standardized testing are just a few of the hallmarks of Finnish schools. And guess what? They work. We have much to learn from Finland's innovations but, unfortunately, I doubt we ever will.

  • Rebecca
    2019-03-10 16:43

    Finland is number one in the world in education, by doing everything we don't do. Respecting teachers, allowing time for play and little standardized testing. I'm going there this summer to check it out.

  • Jamie
    2019-03-01 13:44

    This book gives a great overview of the changes in the Finnish education system and how they have contribute to the Finland's top ranking of the world's education systems.

  • Peter Atkinson
    2019-03-11 18:37

    In the Introduction to Finnish Lessons, Pasi Sahlberg succinctly outlines the reasons why other countries should examine the highly successful Finnish educational system: - It’s dramatic rise from a mediocre to exemplary system that has both raised the bar andnarrowed the gap in learning for all students; - The Finnish Way of change – which lacks school inspections, standardized curriculum, high- stakes student assessments, test-based accountability, and a race-to-the-top mentality -offers alternatives to the competitive, market-driven education policies; - The Finnish Way points to interesting possibilities for interdependencies between educationand other sectors; and, - The Finnish story gives hope to those who are losing hope in public education that, withpatience and determination, a struggling educational system can be transformed.In the Introduction, the author also summarizes the key features of the Finnish Way of education: - A clear vision of education (the Finnish Dream) in which all students learn well andperformance differences among schools are small – and all with reasonable cost and effort; - A belief that teaching is a prestigious profession, which has led to the most competitiveteacher-education system in the world, a great deal of professional autonomy for teachers, andaccess to purposeful PD throughout teachers’ careers; - Finnish schools lack standardized testing, test-preparation, and private tutoring; - Finnish teachers teach less and Finnish students spend less time studying than their peers inother countries; and- Ready access for all students to special education, personalized help, and individual help. Chapter 1 presents an historical overview of educational reform in Finland. The first part of this chapter tells the story of the Finnish journey towards universal basic education. By 1970, peruskoula (primary and lower secondary school) was set at 9 years and codified as compulsory. Two tracks of non-compulsory upper secondary school were set: General Upper Secondary School and Vocational Upper Secondary School. A 3rd pathway made available for students coming out of lower SS is a 10th grade Career guidance and counseling was made a mandatory part of peruskoula, including the requirement that all students spend 2 weeks in a selected workplace. The school year in General Upper Secondary School was re-organized into shorter periods of time (6 or 7 weeks) such that teachers assess student's achievement 5/6 times per subject per year. About two-thirds of the courses are compulsory with students free to choose from many elective courses to round out their program. Courses in General Upper Secondary School are not age cohort-based – There aren’t fixed classes or grades. Instead, students can choose whatever courses they want in a given year. (ie. a student could take 10th and 11th grade science in the same year.) Only USS students are required to write the National Matriculation Exam – a highstakes tests conducted twice a year. Students must take a languagetest and then their choice of 3 of 4 other assessments to complete the exam. 40% of USS students actually start first in the Vocational Upper Secondary School. It is easy for students to move between the two forms of upper secondary school, and students in one can take courses in the other. Vocational Upper SS has a mandatory on-the-job training requirement. During 3rd year of lower secondary school, all students are entitled to 2-hours/week of guidance and counseling.In terms of completion rates, only 0.2% of students don't complete compulsory education (peruskoula), and 95% (2009-2010) of students who complete compulsory education immediately go on to one of the 3 education pathways. 93% of studentswho opt for upper secondary school complete it, although 10% of Vocational Upper Secondary School students do not complete the program. The completion rate for finishing Upper Secondary School in 3.5 years is only 75%.The Finnish education system in Finland has achieved equity of outcomes. Among OECD countries in 2009, it had the smallest (about 7%) between-school variance on the PISA reading scale. The average variance in other OECD countries is 42%. One possible factor in the equity of outcome is the flexible nature of its special education system, which allows students to opt in and opt out as needed. Close to 50% of Finnish students in compulsory education receive special education services at some point during their compulsory education years. Unlike many countries, that enrol students in special education as problems surface, in Finland intensive spec. Ed. diagnosis and programming occurs during primary education and even before school entry.Equity follows into post-secondary education as university and polytechnics (college) are free. More than 60% of upper secondary school graduates enrol in post-secondary education. The result free access is that more than 50% of the Finnish adult population participates in adult education programs.Also contributing to equity of outcome are the compensations to avoid factors related to poverty. Finland provides voluntary free preschool and free lunches for all students. As well, to avoid profiling students at a young age, grade-based assessments are not normally used during the first 5 years of peruskoula.Three reasons are given for why Finnish students excel in mathematics achievement. First, math teaching is strongly embedded in curriculum design and teacher education in primary education. In fact, 15% of students in primary teacher-education programs specialize in mathematics. As well, Finland has a strong focus on problem solving in teacher education. Lastly, education of math teachers is based on subject didactics and close collaboration between the faculty of mathematics and the faculty of education.There are similar reasons why Finnish students excel in science. For one thing, primary teachers are trained to provide experiential and hands-on science opportunities for students. Also, more and more (10%) of primary teachers have studied science education in their teacher education program. Finnish students tied for first (with Danish students) among OECD countries in civic knowledge in the 2009 International Civic and Citizenship Education Study. Finnish students reading literacy also remains at an internationally high level. Good educational performance in Finland has been attained at a reasonable cost. Total public expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP in Finland was 5.6% in 2007 while the OECD countries average was 5.7%.Two paradoxes are at the heart of the Finnish way of education. First, Teach Less; Learn More. Finnish students start compulsory education later (at age 7) than students in other OECD countries, have fewer daily and yearly (about 5500 hours as compared to the OECD average of 6500 for 12 to 14 yr. Olds) number of instructional hours. The shorter instructional day gives Finnish more time for PD during the work day. The second paradox is Test less; Learn more. PISA and other international test data suggest that math and literacy achievement in test-based accountability-policy nations is in decline while it has increased in Finland. Finns continue to value teaching as a noble, prestigious profession. A case in point: There is an over-abundance of applications to teacher education programs. Annually, only about 1 of every 10 applicants is accepted in primary teacher education programs. Primary teacher candidates are selected not only based on matriculation exam scores but also on an interview.Three reasons are given as to why teaching is a much sought after career in Finland: - Finnish teachers experience professional autonomy; - Teacher education has high academic status as it consists of a Master’s degree and is research- based (ie. The teacher education program includes a thesis requirement, making teachereducation research oriented); and,- Finnish teachers earn more as they acquire more teaching experience.Associate/supervisory teachers must prove competency to work with student-teachers.Finland does not have a centrally coordinated teacher induction program for new teachers. There are no strict national standards for or descriptions of student learning outcomes that Finnish schools must include in their curriculum. The National Framework Curricula provide some guidance and regulations; however, curriculum planning is the responsibility of teachers, schools, and municipalities. There is no formal system for teacher performance appraisal.The Finnish Way in education contrasts with GERM (Global Education Reform Movement):GERM Finnish WayStandardized testing Customized teaching & learningLiteracy/Numeracy focus Creative learning focus Prescribed curriculum Risk taking encouragedTest-based accountability & control Shared responsibility & trustMarket-oriented reform ideas Education sector best practices, ideas & innovationsThe Finnish Way in education is “a professional and democratic path to improvement that grows from the bottom , steers from the top, and provides supports and pressures from the side.” (105) It aligns well with Hargreaves and Shirley’s Fourth Way.This chapter suggests that educational progress in Finland should be viewed in the broader context of national economic and social development and renewal.The spirit of innovation and creativity in the Finnish education system is a by-product of Finland’s movement to a knowledge-based economy.The Finnish education system has evolved in a similar manner to Finland’s unique socio-economic system – a marriage of the welfare state with a knowledge-based economy.National income equity is statistically related to many positive outcomes including:- Greater number of literate citizens- Science achievement- Fewer school dropouts- Less obesity- Better mental health“Models for educational change in Finland have often been borrowed from abroad, but educational policies were crafted and then implemented in the Finnish Way.” (124) The current GEREM culture of accountability in the public sector in many parts of the world threatens school and community social capital; it damages trust and builds suspicion, low morale, and professional cynicism.An “overlooked” feature of the Finnish education system is the high level of reading literacy of children – both from the home culture of reading and the individualization of reading programs in schools. Another overlooked feature is the design of schools – which are designed in collaboration with teachers.

  • Fraser Kinnear
    2019-03-17 13:56

    In the early '90's, the Finnish education system was roughly average in quality and results across all OECD countries. Over the past 20 years, it improved markedly. This book discusses the structure of the school system, and what Sahlberg thinks created that success.This reform began in the 1970's, so obviously took a while for reform to take hold. It wasn't clear to me why the first 2 decades didn't see the same improvements as the second two decades, and I would have been interested to see what changed.Regardless, the results have been impressive, beyond their regular ranking at the top of standardized performances across countries:- Performance differences between schools are small: "Finland has ~7% between-school variance on the PISA reading scale, while the average between-school variance in other OECD countries is ~42%.- There's no high-stakes, standardized testing until near the end of school- They're relatively efficient with funding. For example, in 2007, the Fins spent 5.6% of GDP on public schooling, compared to 7.6% of GDP (we have the highest level of spending on education in the world)- US teachers spend almost 2x more time teaching every week than Finnish teachers, who devote the difference in that time to preparation, and helping individual students and families- Finnish students rarely get >30 minutes of homework a day (less than any other OECD nation), and few take private tutoringHow did they do it? A few key ideas:-"The finnish system has infected by market-based competition and high-stakes testing policies. The main reason is the education community has remained unconvinced that competition and choice with more standardized testing than students evidently require would be good for schools"- Special education is treated much differently than in the US. "Nearly 1/2 of all Finnish students receive some form of special education at some time before completing school." These students are not removed from the rest of the classroom. Nor are students typically held back grades, as Fins have recognized that this strategy isn't very effective- Finnish school provide all pupils with free and healthy lunch every day, regardless of their home socio-economic sitaution. Child poverty is <4% of the population, compared to >20% in the US- 2/3 of 10-14 year olds and >1/2 of 15-19 year olds belong to at least one youth associationBut perhaps most important is that, in Finland, being a teacher is enormously prestigious. "Finland is perhaps the only nation that is able to select its primary school teacher students from the top quintile of all high school graduates year after year". This cohort of high-achievers are given enormous control over their job, with minimal guidance or oversight. Finland has chosen to sacrifice the benefits of standardization (it's hard to manage what you don't measure) in exchange for the benefits of autonomy.Who knows if this would work here, but it's encouraging to see that it works over there.

  • Kevin Pugh
    2019-03-11 12:37

    The Finnish education system is a remarkable success story. And if anyone knows anything about Finnish education, it's Pasi Sahlberg. In his book, Sahlberg provides an informative and inspiring account of Finland’s transformation from educational mediocrity to excellence. A prominent theme throughout his book is that Finland’s educational system represents a stark contrast to the Global Educational Reform Movements (GERMs) that are based on such principles as standardized curriculums, test-based accountability and control, and market-oriented reform strategies. Sahlberg comments, “The main message of this book is that there is another way to improve education systems. This includes improving the teaching force, limiting student testing to a necessary minimum, placing responsibility and trust before accountability, and handing over school- and district-level leadership to educational professions” (p. 5).In Finland, teachers are given are large degree of autonomy and responsibility in the schools. They help design the curriculums and assessments. In fact, they were involved in creating the current Finnish system and there is a large degree of ownership of the system by Finnish teachers. The teachers are also well prepared (all are required to have a masters degree) and well supported. Teaching hours per teacher are among the lowest of all developed nations (nearly half that of the US), which allows more time for collaboration and leadership. Sahlberg writes, “The Finish experience shows that consistent focus on equity and cooperation—not choice and competition—can lead to an education system where all children learn well. Paying teachers based on students’ test scores or converting public schools into private ones (through charters or other means) are ideas that have no place in the Finnish repertoire for educational improvement” (p. 9).The US is not Finland and it would be naïve to believe that the Finnish model could simply be transplanted to the US. On the other hand, there is a lot we could learn from the Finnish model and it just might save us from our current GERM infection.

  • Dharmabum
    2019-02-25 17:40

    Having worked in education for more than a decade, it is impossible not to have heard of the 'Finnish phenomenon'. In more recent times, I have had the fortune to visit some of the schools there to learn. When I went for the second time, I decided that I ought to read this book.What stands out, for me, is how the entire story can be a classic case study in 'Systems Thinking'. Sure, the Finns began working on reforming their education system somewhere in the 1970s. However, all the change that they have managed to bring about doesn't stand alone, but is inextricably interwoven around other economic, social and political changes that came along to support the reform in the education system.In that sense, I believe it is a strong lesson for any of us trying to reform education. I would rate this book as a must read for anybody in the education policy space.

  • Whitney
    2019-03-21 17:02

    I gave this book a low rating because it wasn't what I was looking for. This is a 10,000 ft overview of Finnish educational policies and social values that have resulted in excellent schools. Because I teach in an independent school, many of the polices and conditions described are either not applicable (goverment funding) or already in place (no high-stakes testing). What I am looking for is a much more detailed description of what schools look like. What is the daily schedule? How do teachers collaborate? What kinds of projects and assessments are they designing? How do they differentiate instruction for individual learners?

  • Sarah Aldridge
    2019-02-24 11:39

    100% recommend for any of you who are curious as to why I came to Finland to study education reform! I had originally bought this book to answer those questions myself before I left on my study abroad, but ran out of time and left it at home for space-saving reasons. Luckily for me, this book was required reading for my Social, Cultural, and Philosophical Foundations of Education course, so I finally got the chance to read it! Enjoyable and easy read, that discusses the intersections of Finnish national culture, teacher education policies, and the welfare state with education policy, without becoming too complicated or technical. #book3of2018

  • Юлія Корицька-Голуб
    2019-03-13 17:53

    За той проміжок, поки читала книжку, на очі мимоволі потрапило півдесятка публікацій про основні складові успіху фінів. Автори роблять зовсім різні акценти, критики зауважують, що ситуація мінлива і насправді проблеми існують, але найінформативніша з цих статтей, що доповнює багатьма деталями книжку, – інтерв’ю «Фокусу» заступника однієї з київських шкіл Тетяни Швець «Учить по-фински».

  • Zee
    2019-03-02 13:36

    Well, first of all the book is nothing of a discovery. All the notions, problem-solving, group responsibility are but a normal part of a teacher's job. Moreover, the book contains three or maybe four ideas and the author talks about them all the time. We could abbreviate the book to 10 or 15 pages of a precise language article.

  • Marko Zanev
    2019-03-06 12:41

    It was repetitive but clearly explained the situation with the educational development in Finland. I personally liked the suggestions for future developments where Finland can take the leading role.

  • Laura
    2019-03-10 13:53

    It is a discouraging time to be a teacher in the US. "Finnish Lessons" is the most encouraging book about education that I have ever read, and it is also one of the most important. Unlike most of the policy-babble about education in the US, this book is actually based on research and "scientific evidence" and written by someone who isand education expert. And, let's just clarify since every knucklehead who writes in the education pages of the NY Times claims to be an expert, by expert, Sahlberg worked for years IN a classroom as a TEACHER before becoming a teacher educator and policy maker. It is so refreshing.For me, the most central point of Finland's approach to education is that schools should be a place for equalizing not classifying and stratifying. The US has gone so far astray from this goal as set out by John Dewey way back when that the very notion of schools as a place for equalizing is radical and antithetical to the prevailing values of American society today. There are no private schools in Finland, at any level. There is no tracking (no gifted or honors classes) in schools. There are no grades given to students before grade 5. There are no external standardized tests apart from samplings done for PISA and other such exams periodically. Bringing the Finnish education system from a weak performer to the model for the world took 40 years. This contrasts starkly with the unrealistic and arbitrary deadlines that politicians in the US place on schools demanding them to "turn-around" or be shut down. All teachers in Finland have master's degrees (paid for, of course, since all education is free), and this has resulted in Finnish teachers occupying a highly-regarded position in society where they garner trust and respect. Becoming a teacher is a process of hard work, not 6 months of a "career-change" teacher certification program and certainly not Teach for America which is the biggest insult to teachers and students in existence. Finnish teachers have more independence and teach fewer hours, allowing them to participate more in the structuring of their individual school's curriculum and the development of their school's community.What was also beautiful about this book (and sorely missing from most American writings on education apart from Kozol and the likes) is the insistence by Sahlberg that an equal education system that truly provides an equal education for all does not exist in a vacuum. Other factors must be in place, notably a comprehensive social system that lessens the inequality between people and provides basic needs for people. We are so far from that in the US that it feels impossible to imagine our education system ever becoming what it was intended to be -- a democratic and just place for human development.This book reminded me that it IS possible to have schools that put students' needs first and that actually work to help students reach their potential in a society where teachers are respected instead of mocked and blamed. It also reminded me that change is slow and requires action and hard work. This book made me want to get involved in that work, because there IS another way besides the mess that we have gotten ourselves into here in the US. [And, yes, we have "gotten ourselves" into this because of bad policies and a denial about the relationships between poverty, inequality, racism, and education.] The US, in its current wildly narcissistic state, may not be ready to make the changes needed to have an education system like Finland's in my lifetime, but reading about Finland gave me the hope that a better reality does exist and we can work towards it.

  • Mike
    2019-03-06 13:02

    Pasi Sahlberg taught in a Finnish school, then ran professional development strategy for ministry of education, followed by stint at the World Bank helping to provide support for countries around the globe. His main message to US education reformers: "You're doing it ALL WRONG."The US and global education generally have moved to 5 common features:Standardization, or outcomes-based education reliant on high stakes testing. Focus on core subjects at the expense of social studies, music, arts, etc. Prescribed curriculum at the expense of freedom to experiment in the classroom. Transfer of corporate models. Accountability policies, such as merit-based pay. These features are common to Bush admin No Child Left Behind and Obama admin Race To The Top. Yet "No successful system has ever led with these drivers." Finland emphasizes confidence in teachers and principals, bringing together govt policy, professional involvement, and public engagement to the educational vision. Developing the capacities of schools is much more important than testing the hell out of students. Choice, competition and privatization are not the answer. Finland has consistently had the top performing educational system in the world. It went thru 3 stages of reform beginning in the 1970s, driven by the principles of the Nordic welfare state - the legacy of liberated peasants, the spirit of capitalism and the utopia of communism - Equality, Efficiency, and Solidarity. Finland has no high-stakes testing until the very end of secondary school (high school). All students are given equal opportunity and special education is an integral part of curriculum. Career guidance and counseling are compulsory. Teachers must have a masters degree and have done research into teaching and learning styles. All schools are funded by the state, but are managed locally. The paradoxes of Finnish education:1. Teach less, learn more. Lowest hours of instruction and teaching hours among major countries. 2. Test less, learn more. Rather than teaching to standardized tests, teachers assess in the classroom and via report cards. Teachers are prepared to design and use various assessment methods. 3. More equity through diversity. Finland has had rapid growth of immigrants, though not of citizens, as one requirement is proficiency in one of the local languages. They are committed to educating all, however, and immigrants average much higher scores than peers in other countries. Interestingly, research shows that diversity in the classroom is a benefit, but once the ratio reaches 20%, achievement of all declines. Becoming a teacher is a great achievement in Finland, requiring an advanced degree. As such, teachers are held in very high regard in society. Also, the challenge of becoming a teacher motivates people more than the potential to earn a high salary (Finnish teachers are paid average teacher wages). The degree required to be a teacher also is attractive to employers outside the educational field, so students know they will have other options if they so choose. Professional development and networking are also strongly promoted.

  • Lillian
    2019-02-24 10:48

    I listened to this book on Audio. It describes the basics of the Finnish educational system. Finland is currently rated as having one of the best educational systems (pre-college at least) in the world, based on international testing results. Some years ago, Finland reformed the educational system to pay teachers very well and to require Masters' level education, including knowledge about how to objectively measure the results of educational programs. Teachers are allowed significant freedom to design educational programs. Entry into teacher training and jobs for teachers became highly competitive. The Finns apparently were as surprised as anyone else when their students came in at the top in several international examinations. The author notes that current political winds are pushing Finland to adopt some of the accountability techniques used in oher countries. He promotes the idea that teachers should remain autonomous as this is what has worked in Finland. He refutes the idea that the Finnish success is only due to the ethnic and cultural homogeneity. Other aspects of the system are also worth noting. For instance, there is support for students who are having emotional problems. Overall, I found the book interesting but there was A LOT of duplication. For that reason, I would have preferred to read it in print so I could skip the repetitive sections. I personally would like to see many of these reforms enacted in the US, but they are unrealistic. As a first step, the administrative burdens on schools should be reduced and that money spent towards highly educated teachers. The author's contention that the success of Finnish education is due to teacher independence is not well-supported. The argument is that the Finns do it this way, and it works, so it works. That is a circular argument. In many spheres of human activity, whether accounting, or teaching, or healthcare, lack of accountability leads to embezzlement, poor teaching, and expensive/poor healthcare. Most professionals don't engage in this, but the best professionals often find that their results can be improved by accountability. That said, overly burdensome regulations and accountability can take so much time that they are counterproductive. In addition, the measures used to rate teachers in the US by student scores fail (in my understanding) to normalize for other factors that affect student success. Despite these limitations, this is a very interesting book, and well-worth reading. We should pay attention to and consider adapting some of the innovative ideas in education, healthcare, and prisons that are being tested in small countries such as Finland.

  • Aaron
    2019-03-05 16:53

    This book is completely geared towards people that write statewide and/or nationwide school policy first, then school administrators and school boards second, then principals, and is only a little relevant to school teachers. Unfortunately, since I fall into that last category, this book didn't give me much information on how I can be a better teacher, but it was still interesting to learn about how other countries run their schools, and how that constraints to the U.S.Thoughts as I was listening to this book:- Wow, this book doesn't pull any punches: "...USA's steroidal reform efforts"," opposed to testing the hell out of students", bashes NCLB and race to the top. A little too much hyperbole for me.- lol, when the Finland Education minister heard that Sweden's goal was to be #1 in education by the end of the decade, she said Finland's goal was much more modest: "For us, it's enough to be ahead of Sweden."- The author is not in favor of supervision of teachers - thinks they should have autonomy to teach what/how they think is best. Not clear if he means he's against suggestions from principals/other teachers, or just against grading the teachers based on their students' tests.- Idea for group work in math class that's related to the concepts brought up in this book:Have 2 lists of students - upper ½ and lower ½. Have them pair off to work on homework together. Then give quiz. Their score = average of both students. Could maybe rotate the students every week, help see who is the best teacher, etc.- CLA / CWRA = College Work and Readiness Assessment - Genre neutral way to assess critical thinking skills.- In school, students want to be creators, active participants. They want to feel ownership, like they're doing something important.- When teaching, teach students to use "Habits of Mind" (questions asking / inquiry).- Creativity is the most important attribute in the workplace.- Teach students it's ok to be wrong. Otherwise they'll be scared of trying new things, and won't be creative.- Make sure fear of failure does not engender creativity.- I find it funny that there was still vehement opposition (including by the Prime Minister) to Periscolo, until they were finally able to compare Finland to the rest of the world. They were wildly succeeding, but lots of people ignorantly wanted to shut the program down, when it was in fact the best program in the world.- MAIN LESSONS: - School choice is bad -> it fosters competition, not collaboration. Teachers will want to keep best teaching methods to themselves. - The Government should pay for teacher's master degrees, so teachers become respected.

  • Sherry
    2019-03-08 14:53

    Finland has been astounding the world with its education results for a few years now and everyone wants to know how they're doing it. The author, a Finn himself, shows us in this book the many ways Finland's education system differs from America's and other countries undergoing similar reform measures (i.e., high-stakes testing, accountability measures, etc.). I wish I could say the book was encouraging, but it was not. America could not be further away from what Finland is doing. Take every factor Finland has identified as critical to their success, and America is doing the opposite. To say we have our work cut out for us is a massive understatement. What's even more discouraging is I don't think educators and administrators are unaware of what needs to be done -- it's a matter of getting parents, voters, and legislators on the same page. As someone in the book said, America doesn't need to reform, it needs to transform.The summary table of the two approaches, with reforms like those in America on the left and "the Finnish way" on the right, best summarizes the book in my opinion. It can be found on page 103, or here on Google Books.Some more tidbits: the book is brief, a bit repetitive, and a bit hard to read. The author not speaking English as a first language is a obvious and the prose can sometimes be a bit circular, clunky, or needlessly complex. I found myself finishing sentences and asking myself, "WHAT?" Don't let that deter you, just be warned. This is a must-read for anyone who cares about or is involved in American education. I don't see these changes happening in my lifetime, but maybe, MAYBE if enough people learn that what we are doing simply does not work, no matter how much more intense you make it, we might see the public demanding better education in America via proven methods. Let the people trained to be educators do their job. Support them, empower them, PAY them for heaven's sake, and stop imposing your non-expert "I used to be a student so I know" opinions on the process. If we want to be the best, we need to learn from the best. We have never been the best and at this rate, we never will be. It's time to be honest with ourselves.