Imagine a place in which…

  • Every child has a constitutional right to a free education in accordance with their ability and special needs, and in which equity is a central premise of the education system.
  • Both mothers and fathers receive many months of paid leave when they have a baby, adding up to about a full year of time between the two.
  • Free, universal education and care are available to all children from age 1 until they start formal education, with preschool teachers who are well trained to support each child’s social, cognitive, linguistic and physical development.
  • Teaching is a high-status profession, with every teacher having a master’s degree from a rigorous program in a research university that accepts only 10%-15% of those who apply to the teacher education program.
  • There are no teacher shortages and 90% of teachers remain in the profession for the duration of their careers.
  • Teachers, schools, and local education agencies have autonomy for the curriculum and pedagogy, within very broad guidelines set nationally.
  • Teachers are treated as professionals and are expected to work collaboratively with their peers and to foster collaboration among their students. Value-added measures of teacher performance are unheard of and don’t make any sense.
  • Meals and transportation are provided for all students at no cost to their families; there are no distinctions like free-and-reduced-lunch-eligible made among students.
  • Assessment is ongoing and used to guide students learning, without any high-stakes standardized testing until the end of secondary education at age 16.
  • Compulsory education ends at age 16 but 90% of students continue their education, choosing either a general education to prepare for college or a vocational pathway to prepare to enter the workforce. Both the general and vocational tracks can lead to Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees.
  • Education is free at all levels, from pre-primary to higher education, all the way through to Doctoral degrees.
  • While students spend less time in school and engaged in homework than in most countries, their performance on international comparisons, specifically the PISA assessments, is very high.
  • The education system is based on trust and responsibility at all levels, including trust in students to be active and engaged learners.

No need to imagine, just go visit schools and meet with students, teachers, principals, and leaders at the National Agency for Education and in Parliament in Finland, as I had the privilege to do as a member of the CoSN delegation.  An eye-opening trip showing how a system based upon very different premises than ours in the U.S. can succeed, and thereby encouraging us to reconsider how our education system needs to change to prepare our students for the global digital-age world in which they live.

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2 thoughts on “Imagine a place in which…”

  1. Thanks for enumerating some (but not all) of the takeaways from our visit to Finland. Given your decades of experience in education, your recognition of these salient differences is telling. And I do not believe that we can hide behind excuses why we can’t attempt to do better for our kids and families in the U.S. In a globally-competitive world, Finnish students will un-questionably be better prepared for success. And they speak English.

    Liked by 1 person

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