Why Finland’s schools outperform most others across the developed world

Education, or life-long learning, is an intrinsic part of Finnish culture. Finland boasts one of the highest adult literacy and library attendances in the developed world. But, when children don’t start school until the age of 7, why does their education system continually outperform others across the developed world? 

In this article, we’re going to examine some of the key differences between the Finnish and UK, USA and Australian education systems to understand what it is that they do differently. 

Each child has an equal opportunity 

Finnish schools are prevented by law from raising private funds or charging school fees, and each school is equally funded by taxes. This creates equal opportunities for all children, regardless of social class status, wealth, or even geographic location. Compared to the US, UK, and Australian education systems, where even the resources state schools have access to in the same town can wildly differ.

In Finland, school meals and trips are also free, ensuring children don’t go hungry, nor do they miss out on valuable educational trips. Even higher education is free for Finnish nationals, (foreign nationals pay lower fees than other countries too). The end result is under-privileged children in Finland are able to catch-up academically and have the best chance in life at realising their full potential.

Test results aren’t published

The Finnish education system has taken a different approach to the US, UK, and Australian approach by placing less emphasis on test results, and more on preparing their older students for both vocational and further education opportunities. Exam test results aren’t published, though they are strenuously evaluated internally, thus removing the need for schools to compete with one another. 

This ends the yearly cycle of teachers preparing their students to pass exams, rather than focussing on what they need to learn. This reduces pressure on children to pass exams and have their self-worth measured by test scores, and allows the teachers to properly teach, rather than simply ensure students achieve a certain grade.

Teachers are more qualified than their counterparts

By far and away the biggest difference between Finnish schools and other developed countries is the standard of teaching. It’s an incredibly hard vocation to join with one in 10 prospective teachers meeting Finland’s rigorous standards, according to the Center on International Education Benchmarking (CIEB)

The majority of Finnish teachers hold a Masters degree and are entrusted by the parents to teach what the individual child needs, rather than a central Government policy. In Finland, the class sizes are smaller, helping teachers to build a rapport and understand what each child needs to learn. If a teaching method isn’t working, teachers consult with their colleagues to try another approach, helping students to learn at their own pace, building self-esteem and confidence.  

Final thoughts

Finns are well-known for enjoying one of the healthiest work/life balances in the world and this evidently starts at school, where students score highly in both personal happiness and reading ability. Finnish schools place a big emphasis on less is more, with a 15-minute break every 45 minutes built into their classroom schedule. Indeed, Finnish students spend less hours in class than their counterparts elsewhere in the developed world.

So, while Finland isn’t ranked no.1 in the PISA rankings, it does outperform the UK, USA, and Australia, producing happy, well-educated students who go onto lead fulfilling lives. 

Maybe their approach is one we all need to follow?


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