Imagine yourself being a school-going student, and think of the following!
- Very less homework that can be completed within 30 minutes every day or no homework
- No rank / No competition / No high stake exams till the age of 16
- A 15-minute break for every 45 minute class period
- Same class teacher for 6 consecutive years
- Free lunch; free books; free school trips; free education!
I can guess what you’re thinking, either this can happen only in the dream and not practical or this is low stakes for the students to perform in the globally competitive world.
Welcome to Finland! The country which creates a dream school experience for the students; the country that also outperforms the other OECD countries (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development — A group of 37 developed nations) including the United States of America in the PISA (Programme for International Student Assessments on Math, Science, and Reading) consistently. (Source)
There is so much of literature and content in the internet, that’s already describing the education system and the model of Finland — in particular, we have seen a good amount of articles, comparing the success of Finnish education to that of the United States of America. If you need access to those articles, please write to us — we will be happy to share it with you (for free)!
In this article we specifically wanted to pen down some of the best practices of the Finland education model that are helpful for educators and policymakers, plus adding a bit of context for the readers to understand more about — the other side of the story too!
So what are the things that Finland is doing right? Let’s begin.
#1 Teaching — the aspirational job!
In Finland, both the primary and the secondary school teachers are required to have a Master’s degree to pursue their careers. Also, going through one of the limited numbers of teacher training institutes in the country is a tough one, since teaching being an aspirational job.
In 2010 over 6,600 applicants competed for 660 available slots in primary school preparation programmes in the 8 universities that educate teachers.
The salary for the teachers are decent — but they are certainly not the best in the world. In fact, the teachers are comparatively less paid to many of the counterparts of Finland in the OECD list.
A historical context to this — “In the early phase, during the 70s and 80s, there was strict central direction and control over schools, state-prescribed curriculums, external school inspections and detailed regulation, giving the Finnish government a strong grip on schools and teachers. But a second phase, from the early 90s, consciously set out to create a new culture of education characterised by trust between educational authorities and schools, local control, professionalism and autonomy. Schools became responsible for their own curriculum planning and student assessment, while state inspections were abandoned. This required teachers to have high academic credentials and be treated like professionals.” (Source)
#2 The neighbourhood school is the best school!
This is probably one of the best things that I noticed with the Finland school system. About 97% of the schools in Finland are funded by the Government and are public schools. They want to ensure that quality education is available in all these schools, and therefore — there are no ratings among the schools and in case you want to find the best school for your kid, it is always the neighbourhood school, the one that’s located closer to your house.
In total, there are 3700 schools in Finland, for a student population of 12.9 lakh in 2018! The total population of the country is 55.2 lakh. (Source)
#3 Teacher to pupil ratio
If you are a teacher, you will definitely understand what this means! The teacher to pupil ratio is the average number of students in every classroom. Interestingly, Finland has one of the lowest values on this, their teacher to pupil ratio is 11.14 — From this chart, you can certainly see how the ratio has decreased over the years.
#4 Cooperation Vs Competition
After we cross the learning life and while we enter into the professional life — be as an engineer or as a doctor or as a mechanic or as a carpenter, the fundamental value that we require is to collaborate and help each other towards the betterment- it is quite amazing to see the Finland enforcing this at a very young age among the students.
While the rest of the world understands the quality of learning among learners through the standardized academic tests — which in turn creates a competitive and race-like atmosphere, Finland does what’s exactly the opposite. They promote more cooperation among the students, not only at a classroom level but at the systemic level. Yes — no ranking for students as well as teachers — the only standardized that the students have to take through is the final one at the age of 16, while they are completing the 9 years of compulsory formal school education.
#5 GDP spent on Education
Finland ranks 18th among the other global countries in the world on the amount of GDP spent on education. Since 2010, Finland has been consistently contributing over 6.5% of its total GDP into education (Source). This is a significant investment from the Govt. towards empowering the younger generation.
Sidenote: If you are following the recent news, you would have definitely come across the new India’s National Educational Policy of 2020, which talks about the Govt. investing 6% of GDP for education in the upcoming years in India.
The other side of the story!
While all other domains or industries can have their impact only within them, education is the only domain that reflects on every aspect of the country because it’s all about building human capacity and values.
That’s one of the important reasons, we also wanted to capture some other parameters on this blog which are indicative of the growth (or decline) in the progress of Finland!
Over the years we are seeing a significant decrease in the unemployment rate among the citizens in Finland, however, the percentage of ~6% is still quite high at a global scale.
The country also covers the support for the unemployed citizens (like many of the developed countries) through an exclusive program, Kela. You can find the benefits they are offering for their unemployed citizens here.
#2 Nobel laureates so far!
So far, there are only 5 Nobel laureates hail from Finland — if this is surprising to you, the reason proposed in this article will be even more surprising for you!
#3 Average life expectancy
Ranked as the 24th of the world, the average life expectancy of a Finnish citizen is 81.43 years! The number has increased a lot over the years and it definitely shows the healthcare and the general well being of the people.
#4 Gross National Happiness
We wrote about this in detail in one of our first blogs on the happiest country’s education system! #Bhutan. Interestingly in the 2018 report, Finland topped the rest of the world with the higher number of citizens being happy! This I think a penultimate result of the quality of life, and of course the quality of education.
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