A quest for understanding quality education dynamics triggers a series of questions; What does it mean to have quality education and opportunities for all? What does the system look like? How does the complex system of education work well in some countries but not in others? Why do some countries fail to achieve their huge investment return in education while others succeed? And so on.  It can easily be noted that an effective education system in developed countries is much more than school hours. Education goes beyond the four walls of a school, especially in top-ranked countries, which are the leaders in educational innovation and development. Among these countries, Finland is known for its innovation and development in the educational field and considered a champion in providing quality education and lifelong opportunities. Finland is a small Northern European nation with a population of over 5.50 million people. It is a leader in innovation in the education sphere and holds a top position in Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) scores. PISA score is a worldwide study by the  Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) member and non-member countries intended to evaluate educational systems by measuring 15-year-old school students’ academic performance on mathematics, science, and reading. Pasi Sahlberg, an educator and author of “Finnish Lessons 2.0: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland?” argues that the robust education system is centered around the needs of children, who are the epicenter of the whole system.

Since 2000, Finland has been considered the world’s superpower and champion in education by holding top ranking in PISA scores. Though the country has slid slightly in the PISA rankings in recent years, it is still far ahead of most of the OECD Countries in math, science, and reading. Globally, policymakers and educators have investigated the dynamics of Finland’s extraordinary educational reforms to learn and replicate in their national contexts. Finland has introduced multiple interventions over the last few decades which has helped it to attain a high position in the ranking. These interventions are not only limited to teachers education, professional development, and a school system that have helped in achieving this miraculous position of being a global leader in education. But also an education system that manifests far beyond the four walls and traditional approach to learning. It endorses for modern skills including students’ learning, creativity, problem-solving and coordination through different interventions.

Teaching & Teachers

Teaching is a highly respected profession in Finland and universities in Finland admit only a limited number of students for graduate studies in teaching. It is a competitive and intense process to get admission in the universities for teaching degrees. The teaching profession in Finland is very well-paid, prestigious and respected similar to doctors, engineers and lawyers in the US and Pakistan.  The education system promotes “multidisciplinary” learning rather than subjects being taught in separate “silos” system. It encourages students to understand complex and integrated global problems like global economic crises, immigration, globalized world, discrimination, climate change and more. Teachers are trusted to do whatever it takes to turn lives of their pupils around. Generally, the society in Finland highly regards the teaching profession and traditionally success has been attributed to these behaviors.

Teachers & Pupils Assessment

In Finland, there is no standardized system in place to inspect schools or evaluate teachers performance. However, assessments are made to ensure everyone is moving in the right direction and to ensure no one is left far behind the desired goals and direction including teachers, students, schools and school management. Similarly, Finnish teachers use different tests in the early grades to make sure that no students are falling behind, particularly in reading and mathematics. The exception to the standardized testing is a nationwide exam conducted by students who have reached the age of 18 and want to continue to study. Before this, only teachers are responsible to prepare tests to assess their pupils’ knowledge over their educational careers.

Schools and Classrooms

Finland has approximately 4800 elementary, secondary and high schools and these schools vary from one another in students’ lesson, layout, and infrastructure. In 2017, there were revolutionary changes made in the education system, schools were turned into open floor plans with classrooms, comfortable chairs, sofas, different shape tables rather than old desks and closed rooms. The average size of the class is 19 pupils but, this may vary from class to class. Similarly, barriers among the classrooms are diminishing, and diversity in terms of subject and age range is on the rise. It is interesting to know that school days are very short and the summer break is 10 weeks long. Moreover, students are not assigned any homework to do and instead, extracurricular activities are endorsed to provide students opportunities for sports and music.  

In the end, what is important to learn from the Finnish education system is that it involves not only the school but a whole support system including teachers, school leaders, policymakers, local administration, and parents. It is well synergized and synchronized to support students learning, creativity, success, and opportunities for all irrespective of their demographics.  Where it is illegal to charge school fees and there is no private school system and everyone in the community pushes for improving the only existing education system. It intends to achieve desired goals and directions in providing modern education skills. Finland carries an attitude that engages not just teachers and schools alone, but the whole community to invest in the education of their children. This national investment in the education system is what makes Finland one of the leading countries in education.  

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