The article I wrote about that pointed out half our teachers are leaving the profession within five years referenced an article about Finland from 2011.


The gist is the Finnish teachers are trusted and allowed to do whatever it takes to prepare kids to succeed in life. They only try to teach them how to learn. They never try to teach them how to test. Yet, the Finns do quite well on tests, including the international one.

“By the end of the year, the son of Kosovo war refugees had conquered his adopted country’s vowel-rich language and arrived at the realization that he could, in fact, learn.”

While I’m all for free, open, and unregulated competition in general, especially in the marketplace, I don’t see it useful in the public education system. I’m not comfortable with vouchers and other public means of supporting school competition or choice. I tend to figure the private schools can compete just fine without public subsidy. Like it or not, that is what vouchers end up being. Sure, the will help a few, but on the whole, I just cannot see such helping education in our country. I cannot see net gain for the public and the public education system.

Implementing the Finnish system here will be difficult, but I am sure we can do something similar, and I hold the key to be the “whatever it takes” attitude and the trust in the teachers to be good at figuring out what it takes without bureaucratic oversight—especially with no political oversight.

Important note: The Finns have no required standardized testing. (Well, a graduation minimums check.)

“Ninety-three percent of Finns graduate from academic or vocational high schools, 17.5 percentage points higher than the United States, and 66 percent go on to higher education, the highest rate in the European Union. Yet Finland spends about 30 percent less per student than the United States.”

The article notes that students in Finland are not homogeneous, but are quite diverse with many immigrants.

“Teachers in Finland spend fewer hours at school each day and spend less time in classrooms than American teachers. Teachers use the extra time to build curriculums and assess their students. Children spend far more time playing outside, even in the depths of winter. Homework is minimal.”

A lot of what Finland does will not work here. Even if you think some of their policies are good ideas, they will not work here. Socialism’s ideas will not work in the USA. Those with such fantasies should accept the facts. America is too independent and too suspicious of the government. Plus, our bureaucratic system is way beyond the possibility of making socialistic policies work in any semblance of fairness. The powerful will always skew the programs. The more socialized the program, at least here in the USA, the more pain and suffering. The greater the harm versus any good it may accomplish.

“Not until sixth grade will kids have the option to sit for a district-wide exam, and then only if the classroom teacher agrees to participate. Most do, out of curiosity. Results are not publicized. Finnish educators have a hard time understanding the United States’ fascination with standardized tests. “Americans like all these bars and graphs and colored charts,” Louhivuori teased, as he rummaged through his closet looking for past years’ results. “Looks like we did better than average two years ago,” he said after he found the reports. “It’s nonsense. We know much more about the children than these tests can tell us.””

“It’s nonsense. We know much more about the children than these tests can tell us.”

That last line is key. Let the teachers teach. Parents must stay involved. Parents must keep track of the child and communicate with the teacher. Then ensuring the child’s progress is automatic. When everyone cares, when there is a professional level of intimacy between teacher, student, and parents, then enabling the child is inevitable. The child becomes prepared to succeed in life.

The article is long, but worth the effort, including even some Finnish history. It provides examples that I see as showing that many methods and styles can work. It really is up to the teacher. We need to trust the teachers to figure out what works for them, for their classrooms, for each of their students. We must hold the teachers accountable, but we need to do it with relationship, not with tests or VAMs. Befriend your children’s teachers, show them you care, and offer to help where practical.

Worth repeating: “We help situate them in the right high school,” said then deputy principal Anne Roselius. “We are interested in what will become of them in life.”

The Finns set out to do education well in order to be economically competitive in the world. I do not agree with the notion. However, I think it worked for them because of this statement, “It all came out of a need to survive.”

This is important: “The inspectorate closed its doors in the early ’90s, turning accountability and inspection over to teachers and principals. “We have our own motivation to succeed because we love the work,” said Louhivuori. “Our incentives come from inside.””

That last statement is what has made Finland succeed. It is what we need. It will not come from law or regulation.