Saturday, March 22, 2008

Why kids in Finland are smarter

Compare and contrast education in Finland and the US.
US: Emphasis put on sports. Administration is made up mainly of used-to-be-coaches, and coaches are given special privileges (such as hiring priority, teaching the honors classes and better job security).
Finland: Sports are not a focus of the public schools.
US: Teachers are paid a fairly low amount of money.
Finland: Teachers are paid a fairly low amount of money.
US: There are plenty of history, English, and elementary education teachers, but there are shortages of special education, math, and science teachers.
Finland: Competition for all teaching positions is fierce. No problem with shortages.
US: Teachers are respected by some, but many students have no respect for them.
Finland: Teaching is seen as a noble profession, and many more students aspire to become teachers themselves.
US: Some parents instill love of reading into their children. Many parents don't see education as that important.
Finland: Almost all parents read to their children. Public libraries are everywhere (including inside of malls) and reading is a very popular past-time. Students know how important education is.
US: All children are put through the same classes from age 5 to age 18. Many drop out early.
Finland: Students don't start school until they're 7. At age 15 or 16, they attend either a vocational school or a university-prep school, depending on their skills or interests. Very few drop out (although they can do so legally at age 15 or 16).
US: Most students will do whatever they can to get out of schoolwork.
Finland: Students place high value on being intelligent and educated.
US: Teachers don't tend to be the smartest college graduates (according to test scores).
Finland: Teachers tend to be as smart as law school students or med school students, despite the pay (according to test scores).
US: Teachers can get a Master's degree if they want.
Finland: Teachers are expected (but not required) to get a Master's.
US: Discipline is the biggest issue for teachers. Disrespect, talking, cell phone use, etc. causes big problems.
Finland: Children are well-behaved in class (and they're interested in learning).
US: Let's face it. American kids don't compete well in language, math, science, etc.
Finland: Probably the best education system in the world, and the kids score highest or second highest on international tests.

It seems that the biggest issues are:
1. Teenagers are put into a program that makes sense for them (vocational or college-bound), and, more importantly:
2. Students have a respect for teachers and for education, which translates into less discipline problems, which means more people want to teach, which translates into smarter, better teachers (because of heavy competition).


Woodine said...

Interesting. My question is, where did you get this information from - particularly in regard to student respect? Not that it would surprise me, that is one thing severely lacking in the US!

Have you checked out some east coast schools? I know in some states (I think CT, but I'd have to look it up, you have to have a masters to teach.) I know also that the schools in NY has some pretty exceptional programs. But definitely still a respect issue.

I'd be curious to read the article this came from!

Woodine said...

Oh, and does this mean you're considering moving to Finland - or just wishful thinking?

jonas said...

I think one of the best strengths of our school system is that it is very consistent. The differences in quality between schools is very small, so even if you live in a "poorer" neighbourhood, you will get the same quality of education as someone in a rich area.

Our children also spend relatively little time in school compared to many other countries. That way, they are more motivated and able to concentrate whilst they are there - so perhaps lessons are more effective.

Tim said...

I take it that jonas is from Finland.
Here's one website:
I got my information from many different sources.
I'm sure there are some excellent schools in the US, especially on the coasts; some cousins attend public schools in Palo Alto...some very good schools.

the masked mallard said...

I find it interesting that their schooling starts so much later. One common problem I've seen in my time abroad is that so much work is being piled on kids who I feel are too young to appreciate or benefit from rigorous education. I wonder if there's any particular reason, other than giving mothers a government-funded daycare, for starting a child's education when we do.

Woodine said...

Too true Mallard, like how all day kindergartens are becoming very popular - since when could 5 year olds sit all day?

Interesting topic Tim...

Tim said...

I guess I put this up for a couple of reasons.
The US has major education issues that it needs to get fixed.
And we need to remember that we can learn from other countries, and that our way isn't always the best.
By the way, I know from experience that Switzerland starts kids out later too.