What Can Our Schools Learn from the Fins?

This six-minute BBC clip (BBC Finland’s Education Success) contains some serious gems gained from learning about what makes some country’s education systems outstanding and why America’s schools have been dropping in global rankings.  Finland’s children have consistently performed at the top of international rankings year after year.  I highlight this trend in Growing Up Global and organizations like the Asia Society have been studying what works and implementing learnings in their network of internationally-focused U.S. schools.

Some of the success factors are distilled in the video clip:  Freedom to explore (hence, walking to school, or excursions for p.e. class), a relaxed, trusting environment (e.g., taking off shoes, good camaraderie among the children and with teachers), not tracking students as above or below standard, close parental involvement as supporters of the process not bullies or strangers of it, early foreign language learning, and especially… well-trained, multi-lingual, trusted teachers that students have a close relationship with.  Finnish students demonstrate high standards in core subjects, consistency of lessons across the country, diversity of learners and learning styles side by side (again, not tracking the top students in one class and the lower ones in another), and employers are finding these qualities useful in building a skilled workforce.

Of course, we face complex and some different issues in our struggling U.S. schools, but certainly we can learn much from successful examples.  What do you think?  Can U.S. schools embrace some of these approaches to improve the quality of education we give to our young learners?  And as parents, what should our role be?

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