Wisconsin is looking to  improve its public school system with less money by using Finland’s stellar education system as a model.  So how did Finland develop an education system, today regarded as one of the highest-performing in the world?

Educational reforms sanctioned by Finland from 1970-1980 focused on qualities students needed to compete in the international world market.  Hard work led to better-quality teacher training with required Master’s degrees for all and a national standardized curriculum from elementary through middle school.

Aspects of the Finnish education system that differ from the American system:

  • Selective teacher recruitment
  • A standardized curriculum set by the government and the teacher’s union.
  • Emphasis on play and the arts
  • Downplay of standardized testing with more value on developing creativity and independent thought
  • Students learn three compulsory languages Finnish, Swedish, and English by the age of 16.
  • Students typically take a religion class of their choosing.
  • Teachers have a lot of autonomy on how they teach the curriculum.
  • Students are not tracked from age 7 to 16. (Implementation of a comprehensive nine-year system of schooling, then a choice of college or high-quality vocational training.)
  • Different start and end times depending on the day of the week, and students generally spend less time in school than do students in other developed countries.
  • The value of play and social development up to the first grade when compulsory schooling starts.
  • The belief that children should not become a financial burden for families. (The government uses tax revenue to pay for day-care from infancy to kindergarten and grants parents child support money each month until the child turns 18
    Extracted from Erin Richards Nov. 26, 2011 article,  Finland puts bar high for teachers, kids’ well-being in JS Online, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Finnish educational standards: The Finnish National Board of Education

Trailer from the movie: “The Finland Phenomenon”

Full length movie: The Finland Phenomenon ( 1 hr.)

 Dr. Tony Wagner, Harvard Graduate School of Education, interviews  8th and 9th grade Finnish students.

Finland’s Education Success, BBC News

“Finland has the Best Education System in the World”, Education: NBC Nightly News

Shades of Waldorf and the Steiner pedagogy … The Finnish Miracle   by Hank Pellissier , guest contributor to GreatSchools.org, Oct. 2011.  Pellissiers article drew many interesting comments on education in American and Finland!


About Donna

Changing educational paradigms motivate me to share new technology as well as the admirable work of others who integrate contemporary research on how people learn with supportive, free digital applications and resources. Do teachers ever have enough time or money? Perhaps my discoveries will expedite the journey of a busy educator seeking a 21st Century 'true north' of his or her own.

4 responses »

  1. Nina says:

    How nicely you have collected all this information here, Donna! May I use this page as a link on my blog? I am a pedagogical trainer & mentor / coach living now in the U.S., and also educating teachers about the Finland phenomena – I was trained there as a teacher.


    • Donna says:

      I’m so pleased you found my “collection” of use, Nina. Yes, please do share my blog with others. I am very interested in your training. May I contact you with my questions?

  2. Nina says:

    Absolutely. Please do. You can email me at NotesFromNina@gmail.com.

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