In Public Schools

from the "outside" looking "in"


Posted by Admin On March - 28 - 2011



Finland scores on international achievement tests were the highest out of the 57 nations tested in the developed world. They scored the highest in reading and science and came in second in mathematics. One would first believe that the children spend 10 hours in school and begin education early in their life with an emphasis on reading at crib side. However, that simply isn’t true. In fact, just the opposite is true.

 The child in Finland doesn’t begin formal reading and writing until the age of seven. The preschool education may be one of the reasons for the higher achievement of the student in Finland. Rather than focusing on the three R’s in preschool and letter identification, in the 1970’s Finland made a dramatic change in their school system. The preschool education focuses of personal responsibility and social behavior rather than attempting to throw the students directly into the fray of subject knowledge.

 The basis for the preschool learning reflects the concept for the first Kindergarten offered by Frederick Froebel. He believed that this time should be a time of play, not just for entertainment, but as an important part of the child’s development. Froebel felt that play opportunities provided the child with learning experiences necessary for the next level of development.

 For two years, the high quality governmentally sponsored early-childhood program spends time on self-reflection and interaction. These components often aren’t part of the litigious nature of Americans, although they were qualities that made our country great. Today, our schools pay little attention to the personal development of the child and focus on the academics. If a child misbehaves in school, it’s simply not their fault but the fault of the teacher or school corporation. There’s none of that in Finland, the child understands his present behavior reflects the outcome of his future.


Even though the students in Finland have a two-year lag in the formal learning process, they seem to be ready for the challenge and eager when the time comes. Perhaps it’s much like washing dishes before the advent of dishwashers. Most children eyed their mothers with dipping in the soapsuds and scrubbing the plates. Often begging for an opportunity to help. However, if the parent insisted that they start washing dishes at an early age and it became a required responsibility, there would be no begging, only distain for the job. While there is no “teachable moment” for dishwashing, there is for learning the basics. Waiting until that moment occurs and not pushing the child too early can make the difference between an eager learner when the time arrives and one that only sees it as work, not as an exciting adventure. 

Finland is a far different type of nation than the United States. In Finland, only one language prevails in the country. This is not true of the United States, although many of our problems may stem from that dilemma. Our schools focus on teaching to children of several languages. One of every 12 American students is in the process of learning English as a second language. Our nation offers an incentive for those not willing to learn English, to dictate to our nation a requirement for public assistance, forms and even education in the language of their homeland.

 While providing interpreters and English as a second language classes to students, we deplete the resources for other programs. Instead of insisting on English only, as the government did in the early days of immigration, our Congress dictates that we offer multi-language brochures to anyone not willing to learn English. In one state, California, the elimination of second language classes, brochures, interpreters and higher paid workers speaking a second language could balance the state’s budget.

There are no awards for achievement, no accelerated classes and no rich or poor schools. Each school is standardized. All students maintain the same level of acceleration in the Finnish schools. However, a second teacher provides the much-needed help to those students that find themselves lost in the subject matter.

The homework for those in secondary school is normally a half hour a day or less and the students spend less time in school. However, due to the early childhood training, most students make themselves accountable for their success and focus on lessons they do not understand. It’s far different from the lagging students of America that hope to dodge the bullet of discovery or flaunt their ignorance and blame it on the teachers.

 In the last three years of school, the students separate into two different groups based on their academic achievements. Slightly over half will continue on the academic path and the balance will attend a vocational school. The drop out rate for the vocational school is approximately 10 percent with the overall drop out rate being about 4 percent. That differs dramatically with the American school system where dropouts are 25 percent of the total school population.

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One Response to “Finland”

  1. I must say I love many of your articles, can I take component of your posts to my web log? Thanks a lot.

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Examine this site with an open mind- For all mankind is intertwined- The neighborhood is what it is about- From the rooftops shout- The children are our futures- While writers examine all challenges and cultures- Looking at issues deeper- Let this website become a keeper.



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