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What Finland is really doing to improve its acclaimed schools

does finland have no homework

Finland has been paid outsized attention in the education world since its students scored the highest among dozens of countries around the globe on an international test some 20 years ago.

And while it is no longer No. 1 — as the education sector was hurt in the 2008 recession, and budget cuts led to larger class sizes and fewer staff in schools — it is still regarded as one of the more successful systems in the world.

In an effort to improve, the Finnish government began taking some steps in recent years, and some of that reform has made for worldwide headlines. But as it turns out, some of that coverage just isn’t true.

A few years ago, for example, a change in curriculum sparked stories that Finland was giving up teaching traditional subjects. Nope .

You can find stories on the Internet saying Finnish kids don’t get any homework. Nope.

Even amid its difficulties, American author William Doyle, who lived there and sent his then-7-year-old son to a Finnish school, wrote in 2016 that they do a lot of things right:

What is Finland’s secret? A whole-child-centered, research-and-evidence based school system, run by highly professionalized teachers. These are global education best practices, not cultural quirks applicable only to Finland.

‘I have seen the school of tomorrow. It is here today, in Finland.’

Here is a piece looking at changes underway in Finnish schools by two people who know what is really going on. They are Pasi Sahlberg and Peter Johnson. Johnson is director of education of the Finnish city of Kokkola. Sahlberg is professor of education policy at the University of New South Wales in Sydney. He is one of the world’s leading experts on school reform and is the author of the best-selling “ Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn About Educational Change in Finland ?”

No, Finland isn’t ditching traditional school subjects. Here’s what’s really happening.

By Pasi Sahlberg and Peter Johnson

Finland has been in the spotlight of the education world since it appeared, against all odds, on the top of the rankings of an international test known as PISA , the Program for International Student Assessment, in the early 2000s. Tens of thousands visitors have traveled to the country to see how to improve their own schools. Hundreds of articles have been written to explain why Finnish education is so marvelous — or sometimes that it isn’t. Millions of tweets have been shared and read, often leading to debates about the real nature of Finland’s schools and about teaching and learning there.

We have learned a lot about why some education systems — such as Alberta, Ontario, Japan and Finland — perform better year after year than others in terms of quality and equity of student outcomes. We also understand now better why some other education systems — for example, England, Australia, the United States and Sweden — have not been able to improve their school systems regardless of politicians’ promises, large-scale reforms and truckloads of money spent on haphazard efforts to change schools during the past two decades.

Among these important lessons are:

  • Education systems and schools shouldn’t be managed like business corporations where tough competition, measurement-based accountability and performance-determined pay are common principles. Instead, successful education systems rely on collaboration, trust, and collegial responsibility in and between schools.
  • The teaching profession shouldn’t be perceived as a technical, temporary craft that anyone with a little guidance can do. Successful education systems rely on continuous professionalization of teaching and school leadership that requires advanced academic education, solid scientific and practical knowledge, and continuous on-the-job training.
  • The quality of education shouldn’t be judged by the level of literacy and numeracy test scores alone. Successful education systems are designed to emphasize whole-child development, equity of education outcomes, well being, and arts, music, drama and physical education as important elements of curriculum.

Besides these useful lessons about how and why education systems work as they do, there are misunderstandings, incorrect interpretations, myths and even deliberate lies about how to best improve education systems. Because Finland has been such a popular target of searching for the key to the betterment of education, there are also many stories about Finnish schools that are not true.

Part of the reason reporting and research often fail to paint bigger and more accurate picture of the actual situation is that most of the documents and resources that describe and define the Finnish education system are only available in Finnish and Swedish. Most foreign education observers and commentators are therefore unable to follow the conversations and debates taking place in the country.

For example, only very few of those who actively comment on education in Finland have ever read Finnish education law , the national core curriculum or any of thousands of curricula designed by municipalities and schools that explain and describe what schools ought to do and why.

The other reason many efforts to report about Finnish education remain incomplete — and sometimes incorrect — is that education is seen as an isolated island disconnected from other sectors and public policies. It is wrong to believe that what children learn or don’t learn in school could be explained by looking at only schools and what they do alone.

Most efforts to explain why Finland’s schools are better than others or why they do worse today than before fail to see these interdependencies in Finnish society that are essential in understanding education as an ecosystem.

Here are some of those common myths about Finnish schools.

First, in recent years there have been claims that the Finnish secret to educational greatness is that children don’t have homework.

Another commonly held belief is that Finnish authorities have decided to scrap subjects from school curriculum and replace them by interdisciplinary projects or themes.

And a more recent notion is that all schools in Finland are required to follow a national curriculum and implement the same teaching method called “phenomenon-based learning” (that is elsewhere known as “project-based learning”).

All of these are false.

In 2014, Finnish state authorities revised the national core curriculum (NCC) for basic education. The core curriculum provides a common direction and basis for renewing school education and instruction. Only a very few international commentators of Finnish school reform have read this central document. Unfortunately, not many parents in Finland are familiar with it, either. Still, many people seem to have strong opinions about the direction Finnish schools are moving — the wrong way, they say, without really understanding the roles and responsibilities of schools and teachers in their communities.

Before making any judgments about what is great or wrong in Finland, it is important to understand the fundamentals of Finnish school system. Here are some basics.

First, education providers, most districts in 311 municipalities, draw up local curricula and annual work plans on the basis of the NCC. Schools though actually take the lead in curriculum planning under the supervision of municipal authorities.

Second, the NCC is a fairly loose regulatory document in terms of what schools should teach, how they arrange their work and the desired outcomes. Schools have, therefore, a lot of flexibility and autonomy in curriculum design, and there may be significant variation in school curricula from one place to another.

Finally, because of this decentralized nature of authority in Finnish education system, schools in Finland can have different profiles and practical arrangements making the curriculum model unique in the world. It is incorrect to make any general conclusions based on what one or two schools do.

Current school reform in Finland aims at those same overall goals that the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development — which gives the PISA exams every three years to 15-year-olds in multiple countries — as well as governments and many students say are essential for them: to develop safe and collaborative school culture and to promote holistic approaches in teaching and learning. The NCC states that the specific aim at the school level is that children would:

  • understand the relationship and interdependencies between different learning contents;
  • be able to combine the knowledge and skills learned in different disciplines to form meaningful wholes; and
  • be able to apply knowledge and use it in collaborative learning settings.

All schools in Finland are required to revise their curricula according to this new framework. Some schools have taken only small steps from where they were before, while some others went on with much bolder plans. One of those is the Pontus School in Lappeenranta, a city in the eastern part of Finland.

The Pontus School is a new primary school and kindergarten for some 550 children from ages 1 to 12. It was built three years ago to support the pedagogy and spirit of the 2014 NCC. The Pontus School was in international news recently when the Finnish Broadcasting Company reported that parents have filed complaints over the “failure” of the new school.

But according to Lappeenranta education authorities, there have been only two complaints by parents, both being handled by Regional Authorities. That’s all. It is not enough to call that a failure.

What we can learn from Finland, again, is that it is important to make sure parents, children and media better understand the nature of school reforms underway.

“Some parents are not familiar with what schools are doing,” said Anu Liljestrom, superintendent of the education department in Lappeenranta. “We still have a lot of work to do to explain what, how and why teaching methods are different nowadays,” she said to a local newspaper. The Pontus School is a new school, and it decided to use the opportunity provided by new design to change pedagogy and learning.

Ultimately, it is wrong to think that reading, writing and arithmetic will disappear in Finnish classrooms.

For most of the school year, teaching in Finnish schools will continue to be based on subject-based curricula, including at the Pontus School.

What is new is that now all schools are required to design at least one week-long project for all students that is interdisciplinary and based on students’ interests. Some schools do that better more often than others, and some succeed sooner than others.

Yes, there are challenges in implementing the new ideas. We have seen many schools succeed at creating new opportunities for students to learn knowledge and skills they need in their lives.

It is too early to tell whether Finland’s current direction in education meets all expectations. What we know is that schools in Finland should take even bolder steps to meet the needs of the future as described in national goals and international strategies. Collaboration among schools, trust in teachers and visionary leadership are those building blocks that will make all that possible.

does finland have no homework

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does finland have no homework

Homework in Finland School

Homework in Finland School

How many parents are bracing themselves for nightly battles to get their kids to finish their homework every year with the beginning of a school year? Thousands and thousands of them. Though not in Finland. The truth is that there is nearly no homework in the country with one of the top education systems in the world. Finnish people believe that besides homework, there are many more things that can improve child’s performance in school, such as having dinner with their families, exercising or getting a good night’s sleep.

Do We Need Homework?

There are different homework policies around the world. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) keeps track of such policies and compares the amount of homework of students from different countries. For example, an average high school student in the US has to spend about 6 hours a day doing homework, while in Finland, the amount of time spent on after school learning is about 3 hours a day. Nevertheless, these are exactly Finnish students who lead the world in global scores for math and science. It means that despite the belief that homework increases student performance, OECD graph shows the opposite. Though there are some exceptions such as education system in Japan, South Korea, and some other Asian countries. In fact, according to OECD, the more time students spend on homework, the worse they perform in school.

Finnish education approach shows the world that when it comes to homework, less is more. It is worth to mention that the world has caught onto this idea and, according to the latest OECD report, the average number of hours spent by students doing their homework decreased in nearly all countries around the world.

So what Finland knows about homework that the rest of the world does not? There is no simple answer, as the success of education system in Finland is provided by many factors, starting from poverty rates in the country to parental leave policies to the availability of preschools. Nevertheless, one of the greatest secrets of the success of education system in Finland is the way Finns teach their children.

How to Teach Like The Finns?

There are three main points that have to be mentioned when it comes to the success of education system in Finland.

First of all, Finns teach their children in a “playful” manner and allow them to enjoy their childhood. For example, did you know that in average, students in Finland only have three to four classes a day? Furthermore, there are several breaks and recesses (15-20 minutes) during a school day when children can play outside whatever the weather. According to statistics, children need physical activity in order to learn better. Also, less time in the classroom allows Finnish teachers to think, plan and create more effective lessons.

Secondly, Finns pay high respect to teachers. That is why one of the most sought after positions in Finland is the position of a primary school teacher. Only 10% of applicants to the teaching programs are accepted. In addition to a high competition, each primary school teacher in Finland must earn a Master’s degree that provides Finnish teachers with the same status as doctors or lawyers.

High standards applied to applicants for the university teaching programs assure parents of a high quality of teaching and allow teachers to innovate without bureaucracy or excessive regulation.

Thirdly, there is a lot of individual attention for each student. Classes in Finland are smaller than in the most of other countries and for the first six years of study, teachers get to know their students, their individual needs, and learning styles. If there are some weaker students, they are provided by extra assistance. Overall, Finnish education system promotes warmth, collaboration, encouragement, and assessment which means that teachers in this country are ready to do their best to help students but not to gain more control over them.

The combination of these three fundamentals is the key to success of any education system in the world and Finns are exactly those people who proved by way of example that less is more, especially when it comes to the amount of homework.

System of education in Finland

System of education in Finland

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School System in Finland

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Finland Education Reform

Homework in Finland School

Fins and Fun: Distinctive Features of Education in Finland

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10 Facts About Education in Finland

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Education Corner

27 Surprising Finnish Education System Facts and Statistics

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There has been a lot of press recently about how the education system in Finland is one of the best in the world and how they are using radical (compared with the UK and the US) ideas to help achieve their status as one of the best.

Anywhere you look the proof doesn’t seem to lie, yet how exactly is the Finnish Education system achieving such greatness? Their students outperform students in the US and the UK in most, if not all areas and their teachers enjoy a much better work life balance. Let’s take a dive into some of the things the Finnish are doing.

The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) , a survey taken every three years by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) routinely releases data which shows that Americans and British students are seriously lagging behind in many educational performance assessments.

The Finnish Education System

#1 Finnish children enter education at a later age than in many countries. They start school at age 7 and believe that “starting children in school before they’re naturally developmentally ready has no scientifically proven long-term advantage”.

#2 Prior to age 7, Finnish school children can attend day care/nursery school but they do not have formal education whilst there, Instead, they focus on creative play . “They need time to play and be physically active. It’s a time for creativity”. says Tiina Marjoniemi, head of Franzenia daycare center in Helsinki. The Guardian

#3 For every 45 minutes of learning, students enjoy 15 minutes of play.

#4 School is only compulsory for 11 years, meaning students can leave education at age 18. Everything after that is optional. This idea is thought to prepare Finnish students for the real world.

#5 Finish students are not measured at all for the first six years of their education.

#6 Students in Finland only have to sit for a centralized exam (National Matriculation Exam) at the age of 18-19 years old (after 12 years of school).

Finland School Hours

#7 Finnish students do the least number of class hours per week in the developed world, yet get the best results in the long term. The school day starts between 8-9am and is finished by 2pm.

Finland Education Ranking

#8 The schools in Finland are not ranked in any way, there are no comparisons made between schools, regions, teachers or even students. They believe that cooperation is the key to success, not competition.

#9 Finnish Teachers are some of the most qualified in the world. The requirements for becoming a teacher in Finland are set very high, only around the top 10% of applicants are successful and all of those have a masters degree (which incidentally is fully subsidised!).

#10 Finnish teachers have the same status as doctors and lawyers. ( I wish that was the case in the UK! )

#11 Finnish Teachers are not graded. This is probably a direct result of their rigorous selection process and because of this, in Finland, they don’t feel the need to constantly assess and grade their teachers. If a teacher isn’t performing satisfactorily, it is up to the schools principal/head to deal with it. Pasi Sahlberg, director of the Finnish Ministry of Education and writer of Finnish Lessons, said this about teachers’ accountability:

“There’s no word for accountability in Finnish… Accountability is something that is left when responsibility has been subtracted.”

#12 Schools are not inspected. School inspections were actually abolished in Finland in the early 1990s. They have the ideology that they can help direct and assist through support and funding. Again, they trust the professionalism of teachers and school leaders. Schools are encouraged to self-evaluate along.

#13 There are no selective schools or private schools. One of the reasons why there is no competition between Finnish schools is that all schools are funded through public funds. No competition = level playing field.

#14 All Finnish school children receive free school meals, all of them, all the way through school!. There has been a healthy hot lunch served to all students been since 1943 for the whole 9 years at school. ( )

#15 Finnish students all have access to support that is individually based on their specific needs from the start of their school career. They believe that every child has some special needs and therefore special education is for everyone.

#16 The Basics are the priority. Rather than focus on increasing test scores and dominating in math, science and English, the Finnish education system focus on creating a healthy and harmonious environment for students and learning. The ideology of the Finnish education system is that education should be an “ instrument to balance out social inequality “.

#17 Finnish students have the same teacher for up to 6 years of their school career. This is one of the pillars of their harmonious education environment ideology. It allows student/teacher relationships to grow year on year, allowing a much deeper level of trust and respect than only having one year.

Finland Education Curriculum

#18 Finnish Students have less homework than any other student on the planet. Even with fewer school hours, they are still getting everything they need to be done whilst at school. This, in turn, builds on a Finnish child’s ability to grow and learn into a happy and responsible adult.

#19 All classes are mixed ability. This is unpopular in a lot of education systems in the UK and the US (I know, my own school recently adopted this policy (Personally, I love it) and there can be a lot of teachers that don’t like it. However, some of the most successful education systems have mixed ability classes, so it does work!

#20 Finnish Students learn more languages. They learn Finnish from their first day at school. At age 9 they start learning their second language (which is usually English). By age 11 they start learning Swedish, which is Finland’s second language. Many students even start learning a fourth language when they are 13. They are only tested on their first two languages in the final exam at the end of high school.

#21 Teachers only generally spend 4 hours a day in the classroom and have 2 hours every week for professional development , thus reducing teacher stress.

#22 The Finnish national curriculum is a broadly based guideline, allowing teachers to use their own style and ideas in the classroom. This builds on the trust that the Finnish education system has in its teachers.

Finland Education Statistics

#23 93% of students graduate from high school. More than in the US.

#24 66% of high school students go on to further education (college or vocational courses).

#25 Finland spends about 30% less per student than the US, the UK, Japan and Germany. ( OECD Indicators )

#26 Just under 100% of 9th-grade students in Finland go on to high school. This figure includes most of the severely disabled children ( )

#27 43% of those students in further education (16+) attend vocational school.

So there we have it, Finnish students and teachers are part of a great system. Having worked with several Finnish teachers, I can tell you that their ideology and these strategies work, very well!

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2 thoughts on “27 Surprising Finnish Education System Facts and Statistics”

As a student in Finland I realized some of this information is outdated. #1 – It states that children start their education at the age of 7. This is no longer correct because they can start is at the ages of 5, 6 or 7. Typically they do at ages 6 or 7. #3 – It is very school based. some schools do not follow this and it depends a lot. A school can have 45 minute lessons and a 5 min break. #4 – Over resent years it has changed into 9 years of compulsory education (basic education) 2-4 years of upper secondary studies/vocational application. #6 – the matriculation examination is at the age of 18 (typically the last two years of upper secondary studies). Not all students do this because they choose to go to vocational school. #7 – It is again very school based because some schools follow periods (certain subjects for 6 weeks and then the timetable changes). Most schools and students most likely have days from 8am-3pm. It depends a lot what day it is. #16 – To apply to upper secondary school and vocational schools they calculate the average of math, English, Finnish, Swedish, history, civics, religion/ethics, physics, chemistry, biology, geography, health education. #17 – Pert of this is true. Best case scenario they do have the same teacher for six years, but most of the time teachers are only qualified to teach certain grade levels. #18 – The amount of homework totally depends on the teacher. It depends how much the teacher wants them to do. Most times homework is tasks that they did not get done on lessons or ones that deepen the meaning of the subject. #20 – there are a lot of confusing things about this. In most schools the child starts learning Finnish from first grade onwards. From grade 3 onwards they start learning English. From grade 5 onwards they can decide if the want another language (typically French, German or Spanish). From grade 6 onwards they start learning Swedish. In the matriculation examinations the test Finnish and a second home language so either Swedish or English. #21 – Subject teachers can have as many hours a day as the pupils. This all depends how many subjects they are qualified to teach.

According to the Bildung Review the Finnish educational system is failing. Not testing and focusing only on cooperation seems to have failed. I hope Finland will shift in the proper educational focus.

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Why Are Finland’s Schools Successful?

The country’s achievements in education have other nations, especially the United States, doing their homework

LynNell Hancock

Photographs by Stuart Conway

Kirkkojarvi School

It was the end of term at Kirkkojarvi Comprehensive School in Espoo, a sprawling suburb west of Helsinki, when Kari Louhivuori, a veteran teacher and the school’s principal, decided to try something extreme—by Finnish standards. One of his sixth-grade students, a Kosovo-Albanian boy, had drifted far off the learning grid, resisting his teacher’s best efforts. The school’s team of special educators—including a social worker, a nurse and a psychologist—convinced Louhivuori that laziness was not to blame. So he decided to hold the boy back a year, a measure so rare in Finland it’s practically obsolete.

Finland has vastly improved in reading, math and science literacy over the past decade in large part because its teachers are trusted to do whatever it takes to turn young lives around. This 13-year-old, Besart Kabashi, received something akin to royal tutoring.

“I took Besart on that year as my private student,” Louhivuori told me in his office, which boasted a Beatles “Yellow Submarine” poster on the wall and an electric guitar in the closet. When Besart was not studying science, geography and math, he was parked next to Louhivuori’s desk at the front of his class of 9- and 10-year- olds, cracking open books from a tall stack, slowly reading one, then another, then devouring them by the dozens. By the end of the year, the son of Kosovo war refugees had conquered his adopted country’s vowel-rich language and arrived at the realization that he could, in fact, learn .

Years later, a 20-year-old Besart showed up at Kirkkojarvi’s Christmas party with a bottle of Cognac and a big grin. “You helped me,” he told his former teacher. Besart had opened his own car repair firm and a cleaning company. “No big fuss,” Louhivuori told me. “This is what we do every day, prepare kids for life.”

This tale of a single rescued child hints at some of the reasons for the tiny Nordic nation’s staggering record of education success, a phenomenon that has inspired, baffled and even irked many of America’s parents and educators. Finnish schooling became an unlikely hot topic after the 2010 documentary film Waiting for “Superman” contrasted it with America’s troubled public schools.

“Whatever it takes” is an attitude that drives not just Kirkkojarvi’s 30 teachers, but most of Finland’s 62,000 educators in 3,500 schools from Lapland to Turku—professionals selected from the top 10 percent of the nation’s graduates to earn a required master’s degree in education. Many schools are small enough so that teachers know every student. If one method fails, teachers consult with colleagues to try something else. They seem to relish the challenges. Nearly 30 percent of Finland’s children receive some kind of special help during their first nine years of school. The school where Louhivuori teaches served 240 first through ninth graders last year; and in contrast with Finland’s reputation for ethnic homogeneity, more than half of its 150 elementary-level students are immigrants—from Somalia, Iraq, Russia, Bangladesh, Estonia and Ethiopia, among other nations. “Children from wealthy families with lots of education can be taught by stupid teachers,” Louhivuori said, smiling. “We try to catch the weak students. It’s deep in our thinking.”

The transformation of the Finns’ education system began some 40 years ago as the key propellent of the country’s economic recovery plan. Educators had little idea it was so successful until 2000, when the first results from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), a standardized test given to 15-year-olds in more than 40 global venues, revealed Finnish youth to be the best young readers in the world. Three years later, they led in math. By 2006, Finland was first out of 57 countries (and a few cities) in science. In the 2009 PISA scores released last year, the nation came in second in science, third in reading and sixth in math among nearly half a million students worldwide. “I’m still surprised,” said Arjariita Heikkinen, principal of a Helsinki comprehensive school. “I didn’t realize we were that good.”

In the United States, which has muddled along in the middle for the past decade, government officials have attempted to introduce marketplace competition into public schools. In recent years, a group of Wall Street financiers and philanthropists such as Bill Gates have put money behind private-sector ideas, such as vouchers, data-driven curriculum and charter schools, which have doubled in number in the past decade. President Obama, too, has apparently bet on compe­tition. His Race to the Top initiative invites states to compete for federal dollars using tests and other methods to measure teachers, a philosophy that would not fly in Finland. “I think, in fact, teachers would tear off their shirts,” said Timo Heikkinen, a Helsinki principal with 24 years of teaching experience. “If you only measure the statistics, you miss the human aspect.”

There are no mandated standardized tests in Finland, apart from one exam at the end of students’ senior year in high school. There are no rankings, no comparisons or competition between students, schools or regions. Finland’s schools are publicly funded. The people in the government agencies running them, from national officials to local authorities, are educators, not business people, military leaders or career politicians. Every school has the same national goals and draws from the same pool of university-trained educators. The result is that a Finnish child has a good shot at getting the same quality education no matter whether he or she lives in a rural village or a university town. The differences between weakest and strongest students are the smallest in the world, according to the most recent survey by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). “Equality is the most important word in Finnish education. All political parties on the right and left agree on this,” said Olli Luukkainen, president of Finland’s powerful teachers union.

Ninety-three percent of Finns graduate from academic or vocational high schools, 17.5 percentage points higher than the United States, and 66 percent go on to higher education, the highest rate in the European Union. Yet Finland spends about 30 percent less per student than the United States.

Still, there is a distinct absence of chest-thumping among the famously reticent Finns. They are eager to celebrate their recent world hockey championship, but PISA scores, not so much. “We prepare children to learn how to learn, not how to take a test,” said Pasi Sahlberg, a former math and physics teacher who is now in Finland’s Ministry of Education and Culture. “We are not much interested in PISA. It’s not what we are about.”

Maija Rintola stood before her chattering class of twenty-three 7- and 8-year-olds one late April day in Kirkkojarven Koulu. A tangle of multicolored threads topped her copper hair like a painted wig. The 20-year teacher was trying out her look for Vappu, the day teachers and children come to school in riotous costumes to celebrate May Day. The morning sun poured through the slate and lemon linen shades onto containers of Easter grass growing on the wooden sills. Rintola smiled and held up her open hand at a slant—her time-tested “silent giraffe,” which signaled the kids to be quiet. Little hats, coats, shoes stowed in their cubbies, the children wiggled next to their desks in their stocking feet, waiting for a turn to tell their tale from the playground. They had just returned from their regular 15 minutes of playtime outdoors between lessons. “Play is important at this age,” Rintola would later say. “We value play.”

With their wiggles unwound, the students took from their desks little bags of buttons, beans and laminated cards numbered 1 through 20. A teacher’s aide passed around yellow strips representing units of ten. At a smart board at the front of the room, Rintola ushered the class through the principles of base ten. One girl wore cat ears on her head, for no apparent reason. Another kept a stuffed mouse on her desk to remind her of home. Rintola roamed the room helping each child grasp the concepts. Those who finished early played an advanced “nut puzzle” game. After 40 minutes it was time for a hot lunch in the cathedral-like cafeteria.

Teachers in Finland spend fewer hours at school each day and spend less time in classrooms than American teachers. Teachers use the extra time to build curriculums and assess their students. Children spend far more time playing outside, even in the depths of winter. Homework is minimal. Compulsory schooling does not begin until age 7. “We have no hurry,” said Louhivuori. “Children learn better when they are ready. Why stress them out?”

It’s almost unheard of for a child to show up hungry or homeless. Finland provides three years of maternity leave and subsidized day care to parents, and preschool for all 5-year-olds, where the emphasis is on play and socializing. In addition, the state subsidizes parents, paying them around 150 euros per month for every child until he or she turns 17. Ninety-seven percent of 6-year-olds attend public preschool, where children begin some academics. Schools provide food, medical care, counseling and taxi service if needed. Stu­dent health care is free.

Even so, Rintola said her children arrived last August miles apart in reading and language levels. By April, nearly every child in the class was reading, and most were writing. Boys had been coaxed into literature with books like Kapteeni Kalsarin (“Captain Underpants”). The school’s special education teacher teamed up with Rintola to teach five children with a variety of behavioral and learning problems. The national goal for the past five years has been to mainstream all children. The only time Rintola’s children are pulled out is for Finnish as a Second Language classes, taught by a teacher with 30 years’ experience and graduate school training.

There are exceptions, though, however rare. One first-grade girl was not in Rintola’s class. The wispy 7-year-old had recently arrived from Thailand speaking not a word of Finnish. She was studying math down the hall in a special “preparing class” taught by an expert in multicultural learning. It is designed to help children keep up with their subjects while they conquer the language. Kirkkojarvi’s teachers have learned to deal with their unusually large number of immigrant students. The city of Espoo helps them out with an extra 82,000 euros a year in “positive discrimination” funds to pay for things like special resource teachers, counselors and six special needs classes.

does finland have no homework

Rintola will teach the same children next year and possibly the next five years, depending on the needs of the school. “It’s a good system. I can make strong connections with the children,” said Rintola, who was handpicked by Louhivuori 20 years ago. “I understand who they are.” Besides Finnish, math and science, the first graders take music, art, sports, religion and textile handcrafts. English begins in third grade, Swedish in fourth. By fifth grade the children have added biology, geography, history, physics and chemistry.

Not until sixth grade will kids have the option to sit for a district-wide exam, and then only if the classroom teacher agrees to participate. Most do, out of curiosity. Results are not publicized. Finnish educators have a hard time understanding the United States’ fascination with standardized tests. “Americans like all these bars and graphs and colored charts,” Louhivuori teased, as he rummaged through his closet looking for past years’ results. “Looks like we did better than average two years ago,” he said after he found the reports. “It’s nonsense. We know much more about the children than these tests can tell us.”

I had come to Kirkkojarvi to see how the Finnish approach works with students who are not stereotypically blond, blue-eyed and Lutheran. But I wondered if Kirkkojarvi’s success against the odds might be a fluke. Some of the more vocal conservative reformers in America have grown weary of the “We-Love-Finland crowd” or so-called Finnish Envy. They argue that the United States has little to learn from a country of only 5.4 million people—4 percent of them foreign born. Yet the Finns seem to be onto something. Neighboring Norway, a country of similar size, embraces education policies similar to those in the United States. It employs standardized exams and teachers without master’s degrees. And like America, Norway’s PISA scores have been stalled in the middle ranges for the better part of a decade.

To get a second sampling, I headed east from Espoo to Helsinki and a rough neighborhood called Siilitie, Finnish for “Hedgehog Road” and known for having the oldest low-income housing project in Finland. The 50-year-old boxy school building sat in a wooded area, around the corner from a subway stop flanked by gas stations and convenience stores. Half of its 200 first- through ninth-grade students have learning disabilities. All but the most severely impaired are mixed with the general education children, in keeping with Finnish policies.

A class of first graders scampered among nearby pine and birch trees, each holding a stack of the teacher’s homemade laminated “outdoor math” cards. “Find a stick as big as your foot,” one read. “Gather 50 rocks and acorns and lay them out in groups of ten,” read another. Working in teams, the 7- and 8-year-olds raced to see how quickly they could carry out their tasks. Aleksi Gustafsson, whose master’s degree is from Helsinki University, developed the exercise after attending one of the many workshops available free to teachers. “I did research on how useful this is for kids,” he said. “It’s fun for the children to work outside. They really learn with it.”

Gustafsson’s sister, Nana Germeroth, teaches a class of mostly learning-impaired children; Gustafsson’s students have no learning or behavioral issues. The two combined most of their classes this year to mix their ideas and abilities along with the children’s varying levels. “We know each other really well,” said Germeroth, who is ten years older. “I know what Aleksi is thinking.”

The school receives 47,000 euros a year in positive discrimination money to hire aides and special education teachers, who are paid slightly higher salaries than classroom teachers because of their required sixth year of university training and the demands of their jobs. There is one teacher (or assistant) in Siilitie for every seven students.

In another classroom, two special education teachers had come up with a different kind of team teaching. Last year, Kaisa Summa, a teacher with five years’ experience, was having trouble keeping a gaggle of first-grade boys under control. She had looked longingly into Paivi Kangasvieri’s quiet second-grade room next door, wondering what secrets the 25-year-veteran colleague could share. Each had students of wide-ranging abilities and special needs. Summa asked Kangasvieri if they might combine gymnastics classes in hopes good behavior might be contagious. It worked. This year, the two decided to merge for 16 hours a week. “We complement each other,” said Kangasvieri, who describes herself as a calm and firm “father” to Summa’s warm mothering. “It is cooperative teaching at its best,” she says.

Every so often, principal Arjariita Heikkinen told me, the Helsinki district tries to close the school because the surrounding area has fewer and fewer children, only to have people in the community rise up to save it. After all, nearly 100 percent of the school’s ninth graders go on to high schools. Even many of the most severely disabled will find a place in Finland’s expanded system of vocational high schools, which are attended by 43 percent of Finnish high-school students, who prepare to work in restaurants, hospitals, construction sites and offices. “We help situate them in the right high school,” said then deputy principal Anne Roselius. “We are interested in what will become of them in life.”

Finland’s schools were not always a wonder. Until the late 1960s, Finns were still emerging from the cocoon of Soviet influence. Most children left public school after six years. (The rest went to private schools, academic grammar schools or folk schools, which tended to be less rigorous.) Only the privileged or lucky got a quality education.

The landscape changed when Finland began trying to remold its bloody, fractured past into a unified future. For hundreds of years, these fiercely independent people had been wedged between two rival powers—the Swedish monarchy to the west and the Russian czar to the east. Neither Scandinavian nor Baltic, Finns were proud of their Nordic roots and a unique language only they could love (or pronounce). In 1809, Finland was ceded to Russia by the Swedes, who had ruled its people some 600 years. The czar created the Grand Duchy of Finland, a quasi-state with constitutional ties to the empire. He moved the capital from Turku, near Stockholm, to Helsinki, closer to St. Petersburg. After the czar fell to the Bolsheviks in 1917, Finland declared its independence, pitching the country into civil war. Three more wars between 1939 and 1945—two with the Soviets, one with Germany—left the country scarred by bitter divisions and a punishing debt owed to the Russians. “Still we managed to keep our freedom,” said Pasi Sahlberg, a director general in the Ministry of Education and Culture.

In 1963, the Finnish Parliament made the bold decision to choose public education as its best shot at economic recovery. “I call this the Big Dream of Finnish education,” said Sahlberg, whose upcoming book,  Finnish Lessons , is scheduled for release in October. “It was simply the idea that every child would have a very good public school. If we want to be competitive, we need to educate everybody. It all came out of a need to survive."

Practically speaking—and Finns are nothing if not practical—the decision meant that goal would not be allowed to dissipate into rhetoric. Lawmakers landed on a deceptively simple plan that formed the foundation for everything to come. Public schools would be organized into one system of comprehensive schools, or  peruskoulu , for ages 7 through 16. Teachers from all over the nation contributed to a national curriculum that provided guidelines, not prescriptions. Besides Finnish and Swedish (the country’s second official language), children would learn a third language (English is a favorite) usually beginning at age 9. Resources were distributed equally. As the comprehensive schools improved, so did the upper secondary schools (grades 10 through 12). The second critical decision came in 1979, when reformers required that every teacher earn a fifth-year master’s degree in theory and practice at one of eight state universities—at state expense. From then on, teachers were effectively granted equal status with doctors and lawyers. Applicants began flooding teaching programs, not because the salaries were so high but because autonomy and respect made the job attractive. In 2010, some 6,600 applicants vied for 660 primary school training slots, according to Sahlberg. By the mid-1980s, a final set of initiatives shook the classrooms free from the last vestiges of top-down regulation. Control over policies shifted to town councils. The national curriculum was distilled into broad guidelines. National math goals for grades one through nine, for example, were reduced to a neat ten pages. Sifting and sorting children into so-called ability groupings was eliminated. All children—clever or less so—were to be taught in the same classrooms, with lots of special teacher help available to make sure no child really would be left behind. The inspectorate closed its doors in the early ’90s, turning accountability and inspection over to teachers and principals. “We have our own motivation to succeed because we love the work,” said Louhivuori. “Our incentives come from inside.”

To be sure, it was only in the past decade that Finland’s international science scores rose. In fact, the country’s earliest efforts could be called somewhat Stalinistic. The first national curriculum, developed in the early ’70s, weighed in at 700 stultifying pages. Timo Heikkinen, who began teaching in Finland’s public schools in 1980 and is now principal of Kallahti Comprehensive School in eastern Helsinki, remembers when most of his high-school teachers sat at their desks dictating to the open notebooks of compliant children.

And there are still challenges. Finland’s crippling financial collapse in the early ’90s brought fresh economic challenges to this “confident and assertive Eurostate,” as David Kirby calls it in  A Concise History of Finland . At the same time, immigrants poured into the country, clustering in low-income housing projects and placing added strain on schools. A recent report by the Academy of Finland warned that some schools in the country’s large cities were becoming more skewed by race and class as affluent, white Finns choose schools with fewer poor, immigrant populations.

A few years ago, Kallahti principal Timo Heikkinen began noticing that, increasingly, affluent Finnish parents, perhaps worried about the rising number of Somali children at Kallahti, began sending their children to one of two other schools nearby. In response, Heikkinen and his teachers designed new environmental science courses that take advantage of the school’s proximity to the forest. And a new biology lab with 3-D technology allows older students to observe blood flowing inside the human body.

It has yet to catch on, Heikkinen admits. Then he added: “But we are always looking for ways to improve.”

In other words, whatever it takes.

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LynNell Hancock | READ MORE

LynNell Hancock writes about education and teaches at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.

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Stuart Conway is a photographer based in southeast England.

Her Finland

20+ Cool Things to Know about the Finnish Education System

Finland’s education system fascinates most people interested in the best approaches to learning. Our schools are known for high-quality teaching and inclusive learning environments and aim to offer each student the same opportunities to succeed, whatever their background.

In this article, I will explore some of the features that have set the Finnish education system apart and what is so cool about it that people worldwide want to study it.

Table of Contents

What makes Finland’s education system successful?

What is the finnish approach to early childhood education, what is the finnish approach to education in comprehensive school, how long is the school day in finland, what is the typical school day like in finland, do finnish students really have little to no homework, what is the role of standardized testing in finnish education, how are students assessed in finland’s education system, what subjects are taught in finnish schools, what are the differences between finnish and american education systems, how do finnish schools accommodate students with special needs, is education free in finland, how are finnish schools funded, how much do finnish teachers get paid, teacher training in finland, what is the dropout rate in finland’s education system, what is the literacy rate in finland, why is finland’s education system considered one of the best in the world.

The idea that Finland’s education system outperforms many others in the world comes from excellent outcomes like success in the international PISA test.

Finnish education success

In previous years, Finnish pupils and students have done remarkably well in these tests despite the lack of standardized testing in Finnish schools. At the same time, they enjoy more freedom and less homework than many of their counterparts.

This has been a subject of a lot of debate. Is the success because of well-trained and motivated teachers who are valued? Is it because of the national curriculum?

According to the World Economic Forum, Finland’s education system is the best in the world , at least partly because of

  • No standardized testing
  • Teacher training and requirements
  • Making the basics a priority
  • Starting age

You can dive deep into the topic as there are a number of books available and countless expert opinions you can explore. But these things are something most Finns can agree are good about the Finnish system.

One of the things many Finns remember from their early school years and kindergarten is playing outside.

Serious school work starts relatively late in Finland, and early childhood education (ECEC) focuses on the right to play, learn, and participate.

Preschool Finland

Children usually start their first school year at the age 7. They then continue to attend comprehensive school between the ages 7-16 through classes 1-9.

All municipalities in Finland offer preschool education, which consists of at least 700 hours of learning skills in creativity, language, and other areas that will help at school. There are no specific subjects or tests but different competence areas. 4 hours of preschool education a day is provided for free at kindergartens for every 5- and 6-year-old.

Learning at this level differs greatly from countries where school starts at ages 4-5. For example, in the UK, 6-year-olds take part in national curriculum assessments, while Finnish children don’t generally take part in national tests during comprehensive school.

In Finland, all children must receive comprehensive education, and this consists of years 1 to 9 of comprehensive school.

Recent changes now require students to also attend school until they either complete their secondary education like upper secondary school or vocational training in a vocational college, or turn 18, which ever comes first.

The vast majority of schools in Finland, including around 80 private schools, follow the national core curriculum. Pupils attend a local school in their assigned catchment area, and “school shopping” is harder and less common than in some other countries.

The purpose of basic education is “to enable pupils to evolve into humane and ethically responsible members of society as well as to provide them with the knowledge and skills needed in life”, according to the ministry of education and culture . Comprehensive school covers a total of 20 subjects, and learning some languages is also compulsory.

Finnish schools subjects

How does Finland’s education system compare to other countries?

In general, the Finnish education system stands out because of

  • Master’s level teacher training
  • More chances to play and take breaks
  • Shorter school days and less homework
  • No fees, free meals and free books

There are also downsides. Since students learn in the same groups regardless of being talented in a subject, some find there are no opportunities to make fast progress. It is often possible to attend a weighted-curriculum education emphasizing languages, maths, music, or arts, for example.

The same goes for children requiring more time or attention to help them learn. In many cases where the child has special needs, they can get a personal assistant.

The maximum length of a Finnish school day is determined by grade. For 1st and 2nd grade, when the children are 7 and 8 years old, they can have a maximum of five hours of school a day. From there on, the maximum is 7 hours a day, with a little extra allowed if they attend a class that follows a weighted curriculum.

There are also guidelines for the minimum amount of teaching each student has the right to receive weekly.

Each lesson consists of around 45 minutes of teaching. There are breaks between learning, but they can have different lengths. 15-minutes between lessons is common, and the lunch break is at least 30 minutes long.

For your 15-minute break, you always head outdoors – unless it’s -15 degrees Celsius or colder. I have fond memories throughout the primary school of how fun the breaks were. Playing outdoor games or soccer until the bell rang.

A typical school day usually starts sometime between 8 am and 9 am. After some lessons and a few short breaks, a free lunch is served, usually between 11 and 12. Lunch breaks are usually long enough for the children to play outside after lunch.

Finnish school day

Lessons continue into the afternoon before it’s time to go home. Cities provide after-school activities for young pupils.

If you live far away from your school, the school provides you with free bus or group taxi rides that take you closer to home.

Despite what you might have heard, Finnish pupils get homework.

It may be a little less than in some countries, with some studies citing an average of 30 minutes of homework a day. Since the days are relatively short, there is plenty of time to get it done before hobbies and play.

Finnish students usually take their first standardized test, the matriculation examination, at 18 and only if they attended an upper secondary school and in their chosen topics.

Together with subject-specific entrance examinations, the results from this examination are used to apply to study a University degree.

That doesn’t mean that pupils have no tests, though.

Since the schools follow the national core curriculum, students have regular tests and exams based on learning goals.

Students get grades on each subject they study based on their performance throughout the year from 4th grade onward. For the youngest pupils, the teacher usually writes notes on how they did at regular intervals.

At the end of year 9, students get a final grade for each subject they studied. These grades are used to apply to upper secondary schools and vocational training.

Finnish school tests exams grades

All pupils in Finland study

  • Finnish or Swedish (mother tongue and literature)
  • The other national language (Swedish or Finnish)
  • At least one other foreign language
  • Environmental studies
  • Health education and physical education
  • Religion or ethics, history, and social studies
  • Mathematics, biology, chemistry, physics, and geography
  • Music, visual arts, crafts, and home economics

These differences are often mentioned about Finland:

  • Finns start school at age 7
  • Less homework and shorter school days
  • Goal of testing is to see if the child needs help with learning, not comparisons
  • No great differences between schools
  • Schools are publicly funded and free to attend
  • Schools follow the national core curriculum
  • Books and free lunch provided

Some other differences that might be interesting include that teacher requirements in the US vary from state to state. In contrast, Finnish teachers need a specific Master’s degree and most people value the profession. Only 34% of US teachers feel the general public values their profession.

How does Finland’s education system promote equity and equality?

Finland’s education system is based on the idea that everyone should be able to have a basic level of skills and learning regardless of their background.

That’s why schools are publicly funded, and students get books, free school meals, and, in some cases, even devices they might need for their studies. Finnish schools don’t have school uniforms.

Finnish schools equality equity

There are guidelines for what the schools and cities need to provide to help children with special needs, but each case is assessed based on the circumstances. The aim is to provide support while the child attends normal classes. Different levels of support can be arranged depending on what the situation calls for.

Primary education is free in Finland. Higher education is also free, but students have to do well in the matriculation examination and often take an entrance examination to be accepted to study for a degree. Students from outside the EU have to pay fees for higher education programmes.

Finnish schools are publicly funded through the government, municipalities, and the European Union (mostly higher education).

What is the role of teachers in Finland’s education system?

Finnish teachers are valued professionals with Master’s degrees and meet the requirements to teach their subjects. The degree focuses on skills for independent problem-solving.

Teachers design the classes they teach according to the national core curriculum. Their role is to support and advance the development, learning, and skills of children and young people.

The average salary of a teacher in Finland ranges from 3680 to 4090 € depending on what grades they teach. The number of years they have worked affects how much they are paid, and 10% make 2990 € or less a month.

Most teachers in Finland have long paid vacation times: 14 weeks annually.

There are two routes to becoming a teacher in Finland. You can start studying the subject matter at University and add pedagogical studies to become qualified to teach that specific subject or you can apply directly to study to become a subject teacher.

Finnish teachers

The same Master’s level education is required to become a classroom teacher for a comprehensive school. To teach at the preschool level, teachers must have a bachelor’s degree in educational science.

Finland’s education system became well known after success in the PISA surveys from 2000 onward. While the results have declined since then – some say partly due to challenges like digitalization which takes some time to adapt to – there are still many positive outcomes worth pointing out.

For comprehensive school, the number is below 1% compared to 25% in the US.

Finland’s literacy rate has been 100% for over 15-year-olds. Finland has also been ranked as the most literate nation in the world.

Do you have more questions about Finland’s education system? I will answer them in the comments!

Here are some other facts about Finland that you might find interesting:

Finnish Culture: Discovering Everything You Need to Know

50 Cool Things Finland is Known for

Moving to Finland: Living in the 20 Largest Cities

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About Varpu I’m the founder of Her Finland. I love cultural tidbits, aha moments, Finnish folklore, and cinnamon buns. My newest interest is learning bird songs. Read more about me..

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There's no Homework in Finland

THERE'S No Homework In Finland Finland's school system accomplishes some impressive feats: 93% THEIR HIGH SCHOOL 78% GRADUATION RATE IS AT 93%. 75% COMPARED TO 78% IN CANADA. AND 75% IN THE US. %! ABOUT 2 IN 3 STUDENTS IN FINLAND WILL GO ON TO COLLEGE. That's the highest rate in all of Europe. AND THEIR TEST SCORES DOMINATE EVERYONE ELSE. Mean scores for PISA test (Program for International Student Assessment) 2006. 520 530 540 550 560 570 Finland Hong Kong Canada Taiwan Estonia Japan New Zealand Australia Netherlands Liechtenstein So what makes Finnish students so successful? STUDENTS GET PLENTY OF TEACHER INTERACTION. Finland and New York City have the same number of teachers. But Finland has nearly half the number of students. FINLAND NYC Students: Students: 600,000 ALMOST 1.1 MILLION Student to teacher ratio: Student to teacher ratio: 1 TO 12 1 TO 24 THOUGH 1 IN 3 FINNISH STUDENTS RECEIVES SOME SORT OF SPECIAL HELP IN SCHOOL... There are no separate classrooms for accelerated learning or special education. STANDARDIZED TESTING IS KEPT TO A MINIMUM. BEFORE A NEW YORK STUDENT REACHES HIGH SCHOOL, HE OR SHE WILL HAVE TAKEN 10 STANDARDIZED TESTS. Collectively, US students take 100 million standardized tests a year. FINLAND'S ONLY STANDARDIZED TEST IS TAKEN WHEN STUDENTS ARE 16 YEARS OLD. KIDS HAVE MORE TIME TO BE KIDS. AN AVERAGE US 5TH Finnish students GRADER HAS 50 MIN. rarely do homework OF HOME WORK until their teens. PER DAY. 10-11 YRS. ÖLD 13-14 YRS. ÖLD And while US elementary students average 27 minutes of recess... ... STUDENTS IN FINLAND GET 27 MIN 75 MIN ABOUT 75 MINUTES DAY. Most importantly? Finland knows good teachers are essential. TEACHERS IN FINLAND ARE ALL REQUIRED TO HAVE A MASTER'S DEGREE. (Which is fully subsidized by the state.) ONLY THE TOP 10% OF GRADUATES ARE ACCEPTED INTO TEACHING PROGRAMS. AND FINLAND'S TEACHERS ARE AS ESTEEMED AS THEIR DOCTORS OR LAWYERS. The rest of the world could learn a lot from you, Finland. Sources: [1] [2] work-overload-gets-f-experts/ [3] [4] [5] [6] This work is under a Creative Commons license. Brought to you by: Online BY NO ND

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What US Schools Can Learn From Finland’s Approach to Education

Four strategies for creating a positive school culture that focuses on the whole student and fosters long-term, holistic well-being.

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By Vanessa Wilkins & Emily Corrigan Nov. 6, 2019

does finland have no homework

What happens when a country decides that one of its most precious natural resources is its children? Finland’s educational system provides a clue. New scores on the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD’s) Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) test are set for release in December 2019 and will draw the attention of education leaders as a measure of which countries best educate their children. American students ranked 31st on the most recent iteration of the exam, which tests 15-year-olds around the world on multiple subjects. Finland, on the other hand, has won international acclaim since it first topped PISA’s charts in 2000. Not only did it remain there several rankings in a row, but also its students displayed remarkably low variability across schools ( 8 percent versus 30 percent OECD-wide ) and within schools. In other words, even Finland’s below-average schools still prepare students to succeed in their personal and professional lives.

How Finland has achieved these results makes it particularly relevant for US reformers. Rather than focusing efforts on new schools, programs, and technology, it has taken a sustainable approach that leverages education infrastructure and spending similar to that of the United States. In 2016, the Finnish National Education Agency reported that Finland spent the equivalent of about $10,000 per student on basic education— less than the US average and about half of what top-spending states dole out. Furthermore, Finland’s success cannot be attributed solely to societal differences. As Columbia University’s Samuel Abrams has noted , Finland’s scores have surpassed those of other Nordic countries despite similar levels of child welfare, social support, and homogeneity. Improvements within the last few decades are products of sound policy and practices.

Finland has approached education reform as a strategy to leverage the country’s scarce natural resources. As one Finn put it, “We have only our forests and our people.” Accordingly, its approach has been holistic, student-centered, and focused on teachers as the main driver of quality. It has defined education as a way to “support pupils’ growth into humanity and into ethically responsible membership of society and to provide them with knowledge and skills needed in life.” Culturally, this manifests in a focus on student well-being in all of its facets. American education reform, on the other hand, has focused on increasing standards and accountability measures ever since the 1983 Nation at Risk report identified failing schools as a primary threat to American economic dominance.

On the surface, Finnish schools don’t look very different from the traditional American model. Students, grouped by age, visit a brick-and-mortar building and learn from a teacher in a classroom for a defined period of time. Yet underlying the Finnish system are fundamental differences in policy that produce better outcomes for students. Ironically, many of these effective practices stem from American research and thought leadership, at least according to Finnish education expert Pasi Sahlberg . Finland can therefore provide a helpful blueprint to implement what we already know works within the schools we have now, while American innovators continue to experiment with new models for the future.

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In November 2018, our organization, Future School Lab , organized an expert-led tour of Finnish schools and meetings with education leaders as part of HundrED’s Education Innovation Summit . When we reflected on the experience, we came away with four main reforms any US state or school could implement to make sustainable improvements within the current system.

1. Articulate a Target Profile for Graduates That Informs Education Policy

Finnish education is based on a clearly stated vision of target abilities, rather than prescriptive, content-based curriculum. In 2016, following a co-creation process that included public input and 30 working groups, the Finnish government defined seven transversal skills and knowledge areas important to students’ success in life:

  • Thinking and learning to learn
  • Cultural competence, interaction, and self-expression
  • Taking care of oneself and managing daily life
  • Multi-literacy
  • Information and communications technology competence
  • Working life competence and entrepreneurship
  • Participation, involvement, and building a sustainable future

These competencies are aspirational rather than fixed benchmarks; they define a relevant vision of how all students can function in society, rather than specific content knowledge. Local municipalities and schools adapt this curriculum to their context and classrooms, and since there are no national achievement tests, the Finnish National Agency for Education can focus on effectively integrating this shared vision into curriculum and school policy, rather than on accountability.

In the United States, some schools, districts, and even a few states are beginning to reorient education toward the development of a more-holistic set of skills, similar to Finland. The Mastery Transcript Consortium , founded by a group of elite private schools with increasing public school membership, for example, is cocreating a digital transcript that reflects each student’s skills, strengths, and interests far beyond the course completion version schools use today. And to help schools looking to articulate a more-holistic vision for their graduates and engage communities in a visioning process, Transcend Education (with which the authors are affiliated) has created a database that provides research-based measures to evaluate learning outcomes for social-emotional skills like empathy and sense of purpose.

2. Recruit Talented Teachers, Train Them Well, Then Give Them Autonomy

Finland attributes its success in education to getting the right people to become teachers, developing them into effective instructors, and putting systems and supports in place to ensure that all children benefit from excellent instruction. Teacher training programs are competitive (admitting about 1 in 10 students) and rigorous. The profession is highly regarded despite average pay as compared to other OECD countries, and according to the Finnish National Agency for Education , 90 percent of teachers report being satisfied with their job.

These high marks are due in part to the trust and autonomy Finnish teachers have. Local governance elevates their voices in policymaking. School boards must, by law, include teachers alongside parents, classified staff, and students. Freed from teaching to the test, teachers can focus on project-based learning (called “phenomenon-based learning” in Finland), and other, deeper learning approaches that we know work for students but that American teachers sometimes avoid for fear of sacrificing content standards.

Finnish teachers also have more time. Because school days are shorter and teachers spend fewer hours in classroom instruction— about 55 percent of US teachers’ annual hours —they devote more time to preparing lessons, collaborating with colleagues to create engaging projects, and meeting with parents and kids.

In the United States, on the other hand, districts struggle to recruit and retain qualified teachers. Recent teacher walkouts reflect frustration over more than pay and insufficient school funding. Seventy-one percent of teachers in a 2015/2016 survey reported a lack of influence over what they teach, 50 percent said they lacked support and encouragement from administration, and 62 percent didn’t experience a great deal of cooperation among colleagues.

does finland have no homework

To develop a larger pool of qualified teachers, schools can make use of alternative pathways to certification by recruiting high-potential teachers with skills and lived experiences that are relevant to students. For example, Roosevelt High School in Portland, Oregon, recruited award-winning journalist S. Renee Mitchell through a professional track that leveraged her career experience but required college courses to learn classroom skills. Mitchell quickly became an important role model and impactful educator. She entered the school, one of Oregon’s most diverse, as its only black teacher, and created the nationally recognized I Am M.O.R.E. program to elevate the voices of students who have experienced trauma. In the longer term, policy makers need to create and fully fund career pathway programs for promising teachers from all backgrounds. Beyond recruitment, we need to invest in ongoing training and support systems, and give teachers time and autonomy to collaborate and integrate new methods and ideas.

3. Give Students Rights and Agency Over Their Own Learning

In Finland, the 1998 Basic Education Act entitles students to pre-primary education, a safe learning environment, and instruction that includes guidance counseling and learning support. In our experience, teachers and administrators routinely referenced children’s rights to explain shorter days, healthier lunches, less homework, and 15 minutes of physical activity for every 45 minutes of class. Legislation based explicitly on students’ rights not only informs practices, but also supports underlying expectations of how education should work. This model places students at the center, creating a decision-making framework that prioritizes their learning and interests over pleasing parents or reporting high test scores. It also justifies giving students more of a say in the policies that affect them. After all, who better to advocate for student interests than students themselves? As a result, students in Finland have real responsibility, including authority over parent-teacher meetings and positions on school boards, and teachers expect students to be the primary agents in their own educational journeys.

does finland have no homework

In the United States, a missing parent permission slip can exclude a child from the best field trip of the year or an important learning opportunity in class. Such policies reflect the expectation that students should receive the education given to them, rather than take a proactive role in it. Perhaps one way to engage students and encourage them to take ownership of their own education and school experience is to quite literally give them ownership. Some districts, such as Los Angeles, have already introduced ballot measures that would lower the legal voting age to 16 for school board elections. Others have given students voting positions on school boards and site councils. In Maryland, student board members have advocated for their young constituents by introducing resolutions to dismantle student ranking systems and diversify schools by redrawing boundaries. Absent legislative changes, individual schools can develop student ownership by giving students voice and choice in how they learn. The Achievement Gap Institute at Harvard University’s “ The Influence of Teaching ” provides a useful study of teaching practices that drive student agency.

does finland have no homework

4. Align Schools and Social Support Services

In Finland, education legislation guarantees free pupil welfare, meaning it integrates health care referred to in the Public Health Act, and mental and social services referred to in the Child Welfare Act. This legislation forms the basis for Student Welfare Committees comprised of principals, special education teachers, nurses, psychologists, social workers, and counselors. Committees meet regularly to discuss individual students and staff, and to create personalized support plans. These may include emotional or academic support services or intensive supplemental support, which benefits 10 percent of Finnish students. While a similar 14 percent of students receive special education services in the United States, what’s unique in Finland is the integration of health and welfare into the school day for both students and staff. School psychologists and social workers on the Welfare Committees meet with students individually and then make referrals to outside services as needed. During school, all students and staff eat free, healthy meals prepared on site, and active, outdoor play and social breaks throughout the day are the norm.

Many schools and programs in the United States, such as Communities in Schools , have already created successful local partnerships with social service providers. However, the onus is on schools to find and partner with community resources and creatively meet students’ needs. Funders and policy makers should support the coordination and development of wrap-around services to take the burden off of schools, and foster community and family engagement, which we know helps students succeed.

A Path Forward for All Kids

Educators and policy makers interested in adapting Finnish approaches to the American context must be mindful to create culturally competent learning environments that serve all children. Finnish policies are intended to promote equity by balancing socio-economic diversity across school boundaries, providing native language services to immigrants, and reducing barriers to nutritious food, health, and social services that contribute to disparities in the United States. However, student rights in Finland prevent the disaggregation of data to determine whether these inclusive measures truly do result in better outcomes for immigrants and historically underserved populations. Any effort to improve educational outcomes must include data-driven equity practices and community-led solutions.

Finally, reforms to our current system must coincide with new solutions for excellence and equity. In the United States, collaboration between public and private sectors, and a cultural emphasis on leadership and entrepreneurship have led to the creation of completely new school models in small pockets across the country. The best of these models may help determine the future of education and better prepare kids for the demands of a rapidly changing workforce. However, until we can test and scale them, they are only a drop in the ocean of the American school system. We need to simultaneously make improvements within our current system to better serve all students.

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Covering Innovation & Inequality in Education

OPINION: How Finland broke every rule — and created a top school system

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Finland's education system

Spend five minutes in Jussi Hietava’s fourth-grade math class in remote, rural Finland, and you may learn all you need to know about education reform – if you want results, try doing the opposite of what American “education reformers” think we should do in classrooms.

Instead of control, competition, stress, standardized testing, screen-based schools and loosened teacher qualifications, try warmth, collaboration, and highly professionalized, teacher-led encouragement and assessment.

At the University of Eastern Finland’s Normaalikoulu teacher training school in Joensuu, Finland, you can see Hietava’s students enjoying the cutting-edge concept of “personalized learning.”

Related: Everyone aspires to be Finland, but this country beats them in two out of three subjects

But this is not a tale of classroom computers. While the school has the latest technology, there isn’t a tablet or smartphone in sight, just a smart board and a teacher’s desktop.

Screens can only deliver simulations of personalized learning, this is the real thing, pushed to the absolute limit.

This is the story of the quiet, daily, flesh-and-blood miracles that are achieved by Hietava and teachers the world over, in countless face-to-face and over-the-shoulder interactions with schoolchildren.

Related: Ranking countries by worst students

Often, Hietava does two things simultaneously: both mentoring young student teachers and teaching his fourth grade class.

“Finland’s historic achievements in delivering educational excellence and equity to its children are the result of a national love of childhood, a profound respect for teachers as trusted professionals, and a deep understanding of how children learn best.”

Hieteva sets the classroom atmosphere. Children are allowed to slouch, wiggle and giggle from time to time if they want to, since that’s what children are biologically engineered to do, in Finland, America, Asia and everywhere else.

This is a flagship in the “ultimate charter school network” – Finland’s public schools.

Related: Why Americans should not be coming up with their own solutions to teacher preparation issues

Here, as in any other Finnish school, teachers are not strait-jacketed by bureaucrats, scripts or excessive regulations, but have the freedom to innovate and experiment as teams of trusted professionals.

Here, in contrast to the atmosphere in American public schools, Hietava and his colleagues are encouraged to constantly experiment with new approaches to improve learning.

Hietava’s latest innovations are with pilot-testing “self-assessments,” where his students write daily narratives on their learning and progress; and with “peer assessments,” a striking concept where children are carefully guided to offer positive feedback and constructive suggestions to each other.

Related: In Singapore, training teachers for the classroom of the future

The 37 year-old Hietava, a school dad and Finnish champion golfer in his spare time, has trained scores of teachers, Unlike in America, where thousands of teacher positions in inner cities are filled by candidates with five or six weeks of summer training, no teacher in Finland is allowed to lead a primary school class without a master’s degree in education, with specialization in research and classroom practice, from one of this small nation’s eleven elite graduate schools of education.

As a boy, Hietava dreamed of becoming a fighter pilot, but he grew so tall that he couldn’t safely eject from an aircraft without injuring his legs. So he entered an even more respected profession, teaching, which is the most admired job in Finland next to medical doctors.

I am “embedded” at this university as a Fulbright Scholar and university lecturer, as a classroom observer, and as the father of a second grader who attends this school.

Related: Schools exacerbate the growing achievement gap between rich and poor, a 33-country study finds

How did I wind up here in Europe’s biggest national forest, on the edge of the Western world in Joensuu, Finland, the last, farthest-east sizable town in the EU before you hit the guard towers of the Russian border?

In 2012, while helping civil rights hero James Meredith write his memoir “ A Mission From God ,” we interviewed a panel of America’s greatest education experts and asked them for their ideas on improving America’s public schools.

One of the experts, the famed Professor Howard Gardner of the Harvard University Graduate School of Education, told us, “Learn from Finland, which has the most effective schools and which does just about the opposite of what we are doing in the United States. You can read about what Finland has accomplished in ‘Finnish Lessons’ by Pasi Sahlberg.”

Related: While the U.S. struggles, Sweden pushes older students back to college

I read the book and met with Sahlberg, a former Finnish math teacher who is now also at Harvard’s education school as Visiting Professor.

After speaking with him I decided I had to give my own now-eight-year old child a public school experience in what seemed to be the most child-centered, most evidence-based, and most effective primary school system in the world.

Now, after watching Jussi Hietava and other Finnish educators in action for five months, I have come to realize that Finland’s historic achievements in delivering educational excellence and equity to its children are the result of a national love of childhood, a profound respect for teachers as trusted professionals, and a deep understanding of how children learn best.

Related: In Norway, where college is free, children of uneducated parents still don’t go

Children at this and other Finnish public schools are given not only basic subject instruction in math, language and science, but learning-through-play-based preschools and kindergartens, training in second languages, arts, crafts, music, physical education, ethics, and, amazingly, as many as four outdoor free-play breaks per day, each lasting 15 minutes between classes, no matter how cold or wet the weather is. Educators and parents here believe that these breaks are a powerful engine of learning that improves almost all the “metrics” that matter most for children in school – executive function, concentration and cognitive focus, behavior, well-being, attendance, physical health, and yes, test scores, too.

The homework load for children in Finland varies by teacher, but is lighter overall than most other developed countries. This insight is supported by research, which has found little academic benefit in childhood for any more than brief sessions of homework until around high school.

Related: Demark pushes to make students graduate on time

There are some who argue that since Finland has less socio-economic diversity than, for example, the United States, there’s little to learn here. But Finland’s success is not a “Nordic thing,” since Finland significantly out-achieves its “cultural control group” countries like Norway and Sweden on international benchmarks. And Finland’s size, immigration and income levels are roughly similar to those of a number of American states, where the bulk of education policy is implemented.

There are also those who would argue that this kind of approach wouldn’t work in America’s inner city schools, which instead need “no excuses,” boot-camp drilling-and-discipline, relentless standardized test prep, Stakhanovian workloads and stress-and-fear-based “rigor.”

But what if the opposite is true?

What if many of Finland’s educational practices are not cultural quirks or non-replicable national idiosyncrasies — but are instead bare-minimum global best practices that all our children urgently need, especially those children in high-poverty schools?

Related: China downturn, increased competition could affect supply of foreign students

Finland has, like any other nation, a unique culture. But it has identified, often by studying historical educational research and practices that originated in the United States, many fundamental childhood education insights that can inspire, and be tested and adapted by, any other nation.

As Pasi Sahlberg has pointed out, “If you come to Finland, you’ll see how great American schools could be.”

Finland’s education system is hardly perfect, and its schools and society are entering a period of huge budget and social pressures. Reading levels among children have dropped off. Some advanced learners feel bored in school. Finland has launched an expensive, high-risk national push toward universal digitalization and tabletization of childhood education that has little basis in evidence and flies in the face of a recent major OECD study that found very little academic benefit for school children from most classroom technology.

Related: In Brazil, fast-growing universities mirror the U.S. wealth divide

But as a parent or prospective parent, I have spent time in many of the most prestigious private schools in New York City and toured many of the city’s public school classrooms, in the largest public school system in the world. And I am convinced that the primary school education my child is getting in the Normaalikoulu in Joensuu is on a par with, or far surpasses, that available at any other school I’ve seen.

I have a suggestion for every philanthropist, parent, educator and policymaker in the world who wants to improve children’s education.

Start by coming to Finland. Spend some time sitting in the back of Jussi Hietava’s classroom, or any other Finnish classroom.

If you look closely and open your mind, you may see the School of Tomorrow.

William Doyle is a 2015-2016 Fulbright Scholar and New York Times bestselling author from New York City on the faculty of the University of Eastern Finland, and father of an eight year old who attends a Finnish public school.

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Enjoyed reading William Doyle’s piece on school education in Finland. Am independently developing a flexible, interdisciplinary, interactive, and affordable learning model for K-12 education in India that integrates concept learning, hands- on activities, and life skills. Look forward to read more on new thinking in learning and education!

> But it has identified, often by studying historical educational research and practices that originated in the United States, many fundamental childhood education insights that can inspire, and be tested and adapted by, any other nation.

Can you elaborate on this? Did Finland learn from specific research that originated from the USA or studies from the USA? If so, which ones?

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does finland have no homework

Finland has one of the world's best education systems. Here's how it compares to the US

Coloured pencils are pictured in a wooden box at a nursery school in Eichenau near Munich June 18, 2012.   REUTERS/Michaela Rehle (GERMANY  - Tags: EDUCATION SOCIETY) - RTR33VKH

Finland is renowned for its approach to schooling. Image:  REUTERS/Michaela Rehle

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Finland is an innovative country when it comes to education, and its innovation yields results.

It's consistently one of the highest performing developed countries on the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), an important tool for measuring education systems worldwide.

While Finland's ranking dropped to 12 in the most recent PISA ranking, it's still a lot higher than the US ranking of 36.

Here are some things Finland does differently — and arguably better — than the US when it comes to education:

1. Better standardized tests

Finnish students only take one standardized test during their entire primary and secondary schooling.

By contrast, the US, driven by No Child Left Behind and Common Core mandates, requires students in third through eighth grade to take annual standardized tests to track their performance. Critics claim constant testing doesn't make students any smarter but instead creates a "teaching to the test" environment in schools.

Karen Magee, the president of the largest teachers union in New York, went so far as to urge parents to boycott standardized tests recently.

The Finnish test, called the National Matriculation Examination, is taken at the end of high school and graded by teachers, not computers, as Pasi Sahlberg a professor and former director general at the Finland Ministry of Education, explained to the Washington Post in 2014. The test also doesn't shy away from controversial or complex topics.

Here are some typical questions, according to Sahlberg:

"In what sense are happiness, good life and well-being ethical concepts?"

"Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels predicted that a socialist revolution would first happen in countries like Great Britain. What made Marx and Engels claim that and why did a socialist revolution happen in Russia?"

Sahlberg added, in the Washington Post, "Students are regularly asked to show their ability to cope with issues related to evolution, losing a job, dieting, political issues, violence, war, ethics in sports, junk food, sex, drugs, and popular music. Such issues span across subject areas and often require multi-disciplinary knowledge and skills."

2. More time for play

Students in Finland spend relatively little time on homework, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). A 2014 study of 15-year-olds around the world by the OECD said that on average, Finnish students spend 2.8 hours a week on homework. This contrasts noticeably from the 6.1 hours American students spend per week.

Finns place a lot of value on free time and play. By law, teachers must give students a 15-minute break for every 45 minutes of instruction.

It's a different story in the US where kids typically get less than half an hour of recess every day .

This "deficit of play" for US students may lead to additional anxiety and other mental health issues, the psychologist and research professor Peter Gray has written.

3. College is free

In Finland, not only are bachelor degree programs completely free of tuition fees , so are master and doctoral programs. Students pursue higher education goals without the mountains of student loan debt that many American students face . And the same goes for foreign students. Tuition is free for any student accepted into a college or graduate program in Finland.

This contrasts greatly with the US, where the average student loan debt now approaches $30,000, according to the Institute for College Access and Success's 2014 report.

4. Elevated teaching profession

In Finland, teaching is one of the most revered professions with a relatively high barrier to entry.

 Hours per year teachers required to spend teaching for 2012.

Only one in 10 students who apply to teacher education programs are admitted, according to the Center on International Education Benchmarkin g (CIEB) .

Teachers in Finland are treated like professors at universities, and they teach fewer hours during the day than US teachers, with more time devoted to lesson planning.

They also get paid slightly more in Finland. The average teacher in the US makes about $41,000 a year, compared to $43,000 in Finland, according to OECD data .

And while teachers in the US make less money than many other countries, the OECD found that they work the longest hours of all.

It's easy to understand why America's teachers — who are overworked and get relatively little respect — might not be as effective as teachers in Finland.

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What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland's School Success

The Scandinavian country is an education superpower because it values equality more than excellence.


Everyone agrees the United States needs to improve its education system dramatically, but how? One of the hottest trends in education reform lately is looking at the stunning success of the West's reigning education superpower, Finland. Trouble is, when it comes to the lessons that Finnish schools have to offer, most of the discussion seems to be missing the point.

The small Nordic country of Finland used to be known -- if it was known for anything at all -- as the home of Nokia, the mobile phone giant. But lately Finland has been attracting attention on global surveys of quality of life -- Newsweek ranked it number one last year -- and Finland's national education system has been receiving particular praise, because in recent years Finnish students have been turning in some of the highest test scores in the world.

Finland's schools owe their newfound fame primarily to one study: the PISA survey , conducted every three years by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The survey compares 15-year-olds in different countries in reading, math, and science. Finland has ranked at or near the top in all three competencies on every survey since 2000, neck and neck with superachievers such as South Korea and Singapore. In the most recent survey in 2009 Finland slipped slightly, with students in Shanghai, China, taking the best scores, but the Finns are still near the very top. Throughout the same period, the PISA performance of the United States has been middling, at best.

Compared with the stereotype of the East Asian model -- long hours of exhaustive cramming and rote memorization -- Finland's success is especially intriguing because Finnish schools assign less homework and engage children in more creative play. All this has led to a continuous stream of foreign delegations making the pilgrimage to Finland to visit schools and talk with the nation's education experts, and constant coverage in the worldwide media marveling at the Finnish miracle.

So there was considerable interest in a recent visit to the U.S. by one of the leading Finnish authorities on education reform, Pasi Sahlberg, director of the Finnish Ministry of Education's Center for International Mobility and author of the new book Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland? Earlier this month, Sahlberg stopped by the Dwight School in New York City to speak with educators and students, and his visit received national media attention and generated much discussion.

And yet it wasn't clear that Sahlberg's message was actually getting through. As Sahlberg put it to me later, there are certain things nobody in America really wants to talk about.

During the afternoon that Sahlberg spent at the Dwight School, a photographer from the New York Times jockeyed for position with Dan Rather's TV crew as Sahlberg participated in a roundtable chat with students. The subsequent article in the Times about the event would focus on Finland as an "intriguing school-reform model."

Yet one of the most significant things Sahlberg said passed practically unnoticed. "Oh," he mentioned at one point, "and there are no private schools in Finland."

This notion may seem difficult for an American to digest, but it's true. Only a small number of independent schools exist in Finland, and even they are all publicly financed. None is allowed to charge tuition fees. There are no private universities, either. This means that practically every person in Finland attends public school, whether for pre-K or a Ph.D.

The irony of Sahlberg's making this comment during a talk at the Dwight School seemed obvious. Like many of America's best schools, Dwight is a private institution that costs high-school students upward of $35,000 a year to attend -- not to mention that Dwight, in particular, is run for profit, an increasing trend in the U.S. Yet no one in the room commented on Sahlberg's statement. I found this surprising. Sahlberg himself did not.

Sahlberg knows what Americans like to talk about when it comes to education, because he's become their go-to guy in Finland. The son of two teachers, he grew up in a Finnish school. He taught mathematics and physics in a junior high school in Helsinki, worked his way through a variety of positions in the Finnish Ministry of Education, and spent years as an education expert at the OECD, the World Bank, and other international organizations.

Now, in addition to his other duties, Sahlberg hosts about a hundred visits a year by foreign educators, including many Americans, who want to know the secret of Finland's success. Sahlberg's new book is partly an attempt to help answer the questions he always gets asked.

From his point of view, Americans are consistently obsessed with certain questions: How can you keep track of students' performance if you don't test them constantly? How can you improve teaching if you have no accountability for bad teachers or merit pay for good teachers? How do you foster competition and engage the private sector? How do you provide school choice?

The answers Finland provides seem to run counter to just about everything America's school reformers are trying to do.

For starters, Finland has no standardized tests. The only exception is what's called the National Matriculation Exam, which everyone takes at the end of a voluntary upper-secondary school, roughly the equivalent of American high school.

Instead, the public school system's teachers are trained to assess children in classrooms using independent tests they create themselves. All children receive a report card at the end of each semester, but these reports are based on individualized grading by each teacher. Periodically, the Ministry of Education tracks national progress by testing a few sample groups across a range of different schools.

As for accountability of teachers and administrators, Sahlberg shrugs. "There's no word for accountability in Finnish," he later told an audience at the Teachers College of Columbia University. "Accountability is something that is left when responsibility has been subtracted."

For Sahlberg what matters is that in Finland all teachers and administrators are given prestige, decent pay, and a lot of responsibility. A master's degree is required to enter the profession, and teacher training programs are among the most selective professional schools in the country. If a teacher is bad, it is the principal's responsibility to notice and deal with it.

And while Americans love to talk about competition, Sahlberg points out that nothing makes Finns more uncomfortable. In his book Sahlberg quotes a line from Finnish writer named Samuli Paronen: "Real winners do not compete." It's hard to think of a more un-American idea, but when it comes to education, Finland's success shows that the Finnish attitude might have merits. There are no lists of best schools or teachers in Finland. The main driver of education policy is not competition between teachers and between schools, but cooperation.

Finally, in Finland, school choice is noticeably not a priority, nor is engaging the private sector at all. Which brings us back to the silence after Sahlberg's comment at the Dwight School that schools like Dwight don't exist in Finland.

"Here in America," Sahlberg said at the Teachers College, "parents can choose to take their kids to private schools. It's the same idea of a marketplace that applies to, say, shops. Schools are a shop and parents can buy what ever they want. In Finland parents can also choose. But the options are all the same."

Herein lay the real shocker. As Sahlberg continued, his core message emerged, whether or not anyone in his American audience heard it.

Decades ago, when the Finnish school system was badly in need of reform, the goal of the program that Finland instituted, resulting in so much success today, was never excellence. It was equity.

Since the 1980s, the main driver of Finnish education policy has been the idea that every child should have exactly the same opportunity to learn, regardless of family background, income, or geographic location. Education has been seen first and foremost not as a way to produce star performers, but as an instrument to even out social inequality.

In the Finnish view, as Sahlberg describes it, this means that schools should be healthy, safe environments for children. This starts with the basics. Finland offers all pupils free school meals, easy access to health care, psychological counseling, and individualized student guidance.

In fact, since academic excellence wasn't a particular priority on the Finnish to-do list, when Finland's students scored so high on the first PISA survey in 2001, many Finns thought the results must be a mistake. But subsequent PISA tests confirmed that Finland -- unlike, say, very similar countries such as Norway -- was producing academic excellence through its particular policy focus on equity.

That this point is almost always ignored or brushed aside in the U.S. seems especially poignant at the moment, after the financial crisis and Occupy Wall Street movement have brought the problems of inequality in America into such sharp focus. The chasm between those who can afford $35,000 in tuition per child per year -- or even just the price of a house in a good public school district -- and the other "99 percent" is painfully plain to see.

Pasi Sahlberg goes out of his way to emphasize that his book Finnish Lessons is not meant as a how-to guide for fixing the education systems of other countries. All countries are different, and as many Americans point out, Finland is a small nation with a much more homogeneous population than the United States.

Yet Sahlberg doesn't think that questions of size or homogeneity should give Americans reason to dismiss the Finnish example. Finland is a relatively homogeneous country -- as of 2010, just 4.6 percent of Finnish residents had been born in another country, compared with 12.7 percent in the United States. But the number of foreign-born residents in Finland doubled during the decade leading up to 2010, and the country didn't lose its edge in education. Immigrants tended to concentrate in certain areas, causing some schools to become much more mixed than others, yet there has not been much change in the remarkable lack of variation between Finnish schools in the PISA surveys across the same period.

Samuel Abrams, a visiting scholar at Columbia University's Teachers College, has addressed the effects of size and homogeneity on a nation's education performance by comparing Finland with another Nordic country: Norway. Like Finland, Norway is small and not especially diverse overall, but unlike Finland it has taken an approach to education that is more American than Finnish. The result? Mediocre performance in the PISA survey. Educational policy, Abrams suggests, is probably more important to the success of a country's school system than the nation's size or ethnic makeup.

Indeed, Finland's population of 5.4 million can be compared to many an American state -- after all, most American education is managed at the state level. According to the Migration Policy Institute , a research organization in Washington, there were 18 states in the U.S. in 2010 with an identical or significantly smaller percentage of foreign-born residents than Finland.

What's more, despite their many differences, Finland and the U.S. have an educational goal in common. When Finnish policymakers decided to reform the country's education system in the 1970s, they did so because they realized that to be competitive, Finland couldn't rely on manufacturing or its scant natural resources and instead had to invest in a knowledge-based economy.

With America's manufacturing industries now in decline, the goal of educational policy in the U.S. -- as articulated by most everyone from President Obama on down -- is to preserve American competitiveness by doing the same thing. Finland's experience suggests that to win at that game, a country has to prepare not just some of its population well, but all of its population well, for the new economy. To possess some of the best schools in the world might still not be good enough if there are children being left behind.

Is that an impossible goal? Sahlberg says that while his book isn't meant to be a how-to manual, it is meant to be a "pamphlet of hope."

"When President Kennedy was making his appeal for advancing American science and technology by putting a man on the moon by the end of the 1960's, many said it couldn't be done," Sahlberg said during his visit to New York. "But he had a dream. Just like Martin Luther King a few years later had a dream. Those dreams came true. Finland's dream was that we want to have a good public education for every child regardless of where they go to school or what kind of families they come from, and many even in Finland said it couldn't be done."

Clearly, many were wrong. It is possible to create equality. And perhaps even more important -- as a challenge to the American way of thinking about education reform -- Finland's experience shows that it is possible to achieve excellence by focusing not on competition, but on cooperation, and not on choice, but on equity.

The problem facing education in America isn't the ethnic diversity of the population but the economic inequality of society, and this is precisely the problem that Finnish education reform addressed. More equity at home might just be what America needs to be more competitive abroad.

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  • Study in Finland /

Finland Education System

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Finland Education System

Revered as the best education system in the world , Finland has meticulously curated an apparatus for academia and learning that is at par with almost all countries around the globe. Bordering Sweden , Norway , and Russia by land and Estonia by sea, the country is home to a unique mix of modern and natural with its clean and sophisticated towns blossoming with coniferous forests in the countryside. Emerging as an intellectual in the domain of education, the Finnish education system is meant to have cracked the code of imparting quality education and following the motto of eternal learning. Have you ever thought about why Finland has the best education system in the world? Through this blog, let’s explore what makes Finland’s education system unique as well as how it is designed. 

This Blog Includes:

Finland education system ranking, top 10 reasons why finland has the best education system, finland education system facts, finland education policy, schooling in finland, early childhood education and care (ecec), pre-primary education, basic education , upper secondary education, higher education (universities/universities of applied sciences), adult education, finland education statistics, free education in finland, restructuring of higher education in finland , finland education system ppt, list of popular universities in finland, top public universities in finland, cost of studying in finland, best cities in finland, student visas for finland .

Click here to download Finland Education System PDF!

Finland is, no doubt, one of the best countries to study. So, let’s check out some of the rankings that the country has received:

  • Finland is the 8th most educated country in the world.
  • In Education ranking by Countries, Finland has a total score of 1.631K ranking in 3rd position in 2021.
  • Finland has the highest ranking in High School Completion Rate.
  • World Economic Forum’s Global Competitive study ranks Finland as having the most well-developed education in the world.

Now being admired as the best of them all, the Finnish education system wasn’t always like this. If we go back in time, it happened almost 50 years ago when the Finnish government examined the education system and added better, progressive though untested reforms that would prove to be imperative in the future years. That’s when the whole structure was redeveloped going from the basic early education stage to the higher education level, it got recreated with the motto to equip students with incremental life skills.

Here are the top 10 reasons why Finland has the best education system in the world:

  • Free Education Access (from Pre-Primary to Higher) to Finnish Citizens as well as to those coming from EU /EEA countries because education is considered an equal right for everyone.
  • Implementation of a holistic teaching and learning environment that aims to emphasise equity over excellence.
  • No standardized testing system as students is graded individually with a grading system created by their teacher. Also, overall progress is mapped by the Ministry of Education by sampling groups of varied ranges of schools.
  • Finnish children begin their academic journey at an older age, i.e. only when they turn seven years old do they commence their schooling and before that learning is made free-flowing.
  • The “bar is higher for teachers”, i.e. only master’s degree holders (from specialised teaching schools) can opt for teaching positions and even then an individual principal is allotted to every teacher to keep a tab on their progress.
  • Exemption from the Artificial Parameters of Academic Progress by removing any kind of competition between academic institutions but rather cooperation is made the norm.
  • Better Alternatives to the Same-Old Degree those planning for a college education can choose from professional options, be it vocational schools, university education or training classes.
  • Focuses on fostering cooperation over competition in schools by inculcating the skills of teamwork, collaboration and team spirit in students.
  • Emphasis on foundational basics is an important reason why Finland has the best education system in the world because students are provided with the time and scope to build the best foundation and basics at their own pace.
  • Only 9 years of compulsory education are there in Finland’s education system and after that students are encouraged to find out what’s best for them academically and career-wise.

Explore New Zealand Education System !

Want to know why Finland has the best education system in the world? Well, here are the top characteristics of Finland’s Education System:

  • The minimum age for starting elementary education in Finland is 7 years thus Finnish kids get to enjoy their childhood and kickstart their learning with their families rather than spending excessive time in schools.
  • Finnish teachers formulate their grading systems for the students rather than relying on class exams and standardised tests.
  • The only mandatory test that Finnish students give is at the age of 16.
  • Finnish teachers only spend around 4 hours every day teaching in the classroom while they devote 2 hours every week to professional development.
  • The school system in Finland is wholly 100% state-funded.
  • Graduates from the top 10 percentile can only apply to become a Teacher in Finland.
  • Every teacher in Finland is a master’s degree holder which is completely subsidized by the country’s government.
  • On average, the starting salary of a teacher in Finland is somewhere around $29,000.
  • Teachers are considered equivalent in status to doctors and lawyers in Finland.
  • In 2018, the literacy rate in Finland was 99.0% .
  • Finnish students spend only 20 hours a week at school.
  • Every student in Finland can speak 2-3 languages .
  • No competition between Finnish schools since every academic institution has the same facilities as any other.
  • Students get to learn new things in schools from baking and industrial works to music and poetry .
  • For every 45 minutes of learning in schools , Finnish students get to spend every 15 minutes playing or doing leisure activities .
  • Finnish students receive free healthy meals from their schools.
  • Every Finnish student is provided special services that fit their special needs and requirements.
  • The Finland education system also fosters the teacher-student relationship as every student gets the same teacher for up to 6 years in their school.
  • The students get very less homework and almost finish up everything they get during school hours only.
  • The Finnish schools have mixed ability classes to nurture diverse interests and hobbies.

Click here to know all about Studying in Finland!

Finland Education Policy

The uniquely created Finland Education Policy is one of the key reasons why Finland has the best education system in the world. Here are the important features of Finland’s Education Policy:

  • The main aim of Finland’s Education policy is to ensure that every citizen has equal educational opportunities to avail.
  • The most important focus of the education policy is emphasised quality, efficiency, equity and internationalization.
  • It is founded on the principles of ‘Lifelong Learning and ‘Free Education.
  • Finnish teachers are provided with the autonomy they need but they are fully trained and shortlisted only with higher qualifications which are usually a master’s degree.
  • Teachers are also intensively involved in creating the best curricula as well as learning plans for students.
  • Finland’s education system fosters an environment of trust between educators as well as the community.
  • Students are motivated to work on collaborative projects especially through interdisciplinary projects and specialisations.

Finland Education System

The Finnish Education System contains nine years of compulsory basic education, early education and care, pre-primary education, upper secondary education, higher education, and finally adult education. The description of all these levels has been given below.

  • Early Childhood Education and Care (Provided to the students before the beginning of compulsory education)
  • Pre-Primary Education (1-year duration for 6-year-olds)
  • Basic Education (Compulsory 9-year education for children aged 7-16))
  • Upper Secondary Education (Vocational Education and Training / General Upper Secondary Education)
  • Higher Education (Education offered by Universities / Universities of Applied Sciences )

Now, let’s explore these levels of education in further detail:

This level of education aims to support the development, learning and well-being of a child while giving them plentiful learning opportunities. Local Authorities and Municipalities are tasked with the responsibility of regulating the mechanism of Early Children’s Education and Care. At this level of the Finland Education System, only municipal daycare cover is charged which mainly relies on family income as well as the number of children. Taking approval of the Finnish National Agency for Education, the National Curriculum Guidelines (NCG) is designed for the ECEC level and also constitute of open early childhood education activities which are conducted by municipalities for kids and their families.

Playing a vital role in the continuum expanding from ECEC, this stage aims to enhance the children’s opportunities for learning and development. For the children in the country, participation in pre-primary education has been made compulsory, since 2015. Also, another significant feature of the Finland education system under the stage of Pre-primary education is that the guardian of the kid must ensure their participation in different types of activities at this level. With the approval of the Finnish National Agency for Education, the National Core Curriculum for Pre-Primary Education guides the planning and implementation of the contents of Pre-Education.

In the Finland Education System, Comprehensive Schooling or Basic Education is where the compulsory education of 9 years begins for all children aged between 7 and 16. It strives to support the student’s growth towards becoming an ethically responsible member of society as well as imparting them the essential knowledge and skills needed in life. Further, all the schools providing basic education follow a national core curriculum which constitutes the objectives and core fundamentals of varied subjects, and the local authorities, such as municipalities and other education providers, maintain the Comprehensive Schools and often create their curricula as part of the national framework.

After the basic education stage of the Finland education system, students are given the choice between pursuing general and vocational education. General Education usually takes three years to complete and does not qualify students for pursuing any particular profession or occupation. After completing the General Upper Secondary Education, the students have to take the Finnish matriculation examination to be eligible for various educational universities or universities of applied sciences for bachelor’s degrees. 

The other route which students of Finland can choose is Vocational Upper Secondary Education and Training in which students are provided with basic skills required in their chosen field by allotting them to workplaces through an apprenticeship agreement or a training agreement. The institution facilitating the program curates a personal capability development plan for its students, drafting the content, schedule, and schemes of study. After concluding this level, the students are eligible to opt for further studies at universities or universities of applied sciences to enter the higher education stage in Finland’s education system.

Under the higher level of the Finland Education system, the academic institutions are bifurcated into regular universities and Universities of Applied Sciences. There are various postgraduate degrees as well in higher scientific and artistic education, i.e. licentiate and doctoral degrees. The time duration to complete a bachelor’s degree in regular universities is 3 years and the master’s program is of 2 years. Whereas, the students who pursue their higher education at Universities of Applied Sciences in Finland, are awarded UAS Bachelor’s and UAS Master’s degrees. 

In Finland’s education system, the degrees offered by the Universities of Applied Sciences usually take between 3.5 and 4.5 years to get completed. Those students who want to pursue UAS Master’s program in these universities must have completed their bachelor’s degree or any other suitable degree along with having 3 years of relevant work experience in their field.

Must Read: Finland Student Visa

Adult education and training in Finland’s Education System are added to provide education leading to a qualification, degree studies, apprenticeship training, further and continuing education updating and extending the professional skills, studies in different crafts and subjects on a recreational basis, and much more. For this stage of education, the training is either paid by the student or the employer facilitating apprenticeship training, staff development, or labour policy education. Adult education is provided by educational institutions mainly for working professionals, private companies, and workplaces.

Also Read: Japan Education System

Around 93% of graduates in Finland from academic or vocational high schools, 17.5% points higher than the US, and 66% of them choose to opt for higher education, the highest rate in the European Union. Yet Finland spends around 30% less per student than the US.

Finland does not just boast quality education but also offers free education for many students. The public universities in Finland are divided into regular universities and universities for applied sciences. These universities have no tuition fees for students coming from EU/EEA countries and Switzerland. Although Non-EU/EEA country students have to pay the tuition fees, programs taught in Finnish or Swedish are free for international students as well. 

The Ministry of Education has called for system-wide reorganisation as a result of globalisation and increased competition for dwindling younger age groups. Since 2006, all higher education institutions have started exchanging collaboration methods. Within 10–15 years, the total number of institutions is likely to shrink dramatically. The University of Eastern Finland was formed in 2010 when the University of Kuopio and the University of Joensuu merged to become the University of Eastern Finland. On August 1, 2009, three local institutions in Helsinki, notably the Helsinki University of Technology, Helsinki School of Economics, and Helsinki University of Art and Design, united to form Aalto University. Several applied science universities have also announced mergers. Within universities, new forms of collaboration such as consortia and federations have been introduced (e.g., the University of Turku and Turku School of Economics Consortium). Traditional institutions and universities of applied sciences are forming partnerships (e.g., the University of Kuopio and Savonia University of Applied Sciences formed the Northern Savonia Higher Education Consortium). In general, system-wide change in Central Europe , the United States , Spain , and Hungary follows a similar pattern.

Several universities in the country have earned international accreditation and are on the wish lists of many students. Examine the following list of universities in Finland, along with their respective QS Rankings for the year 2023:

Listed below are the top public universities offering academic degrees to international students –

  • University of Helsinki
  • Abo Akademi University
  • Aalto University
  • Tampere University
  • University of Jyväskylä

Finland’s public institutions did not charge tuition fees until 2017. However, there have been attempts at the government level since the 1990s to impose tuition fees on students from outside the European Union/EEA . Those ideas have been met with opposition from student organisations. Students from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) have had to pay at least 1,500 euros a year to study in Finland since the autumn semester of 2017, while students from the EEA continue to study for free. Non-European students’ tuition fees typically range from roughly EUR 6,000 to EUR 18,000 (INR 5.19 – INR 15.58 Lakhs) per year, depending on the university and programme.

While planning to pursue higher studies in Finland, students might be confused about the cities. Well, to help you with that, we have listed the best cities in Finland in this section, to help make your university selection process easier –

As an Indian student wanting to study in Finland, you need to have a valid passport and a visa to enter a new country. The Single-entry visa enabled entry to the Schengen zone once and for up to 90 days in any 180 days while the Double-entry visa increases your entry to twice. Other than this, there is a Multiple-entry visa granted for various consecutive visits to the Schengen area and the total duration of the stay cannot exceed 90 days in 180 days and this is valid for a maximum of 5 years. In case you wish to extend the validity of your visa while in Finland, you need to contact the local police authorities there.

Finland ranks third in the Education Ranking by Countries in 2021, with a total score of 1.631K. Finland has the highest rate of high school completion in the world. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report, Finland has the best-developed education system in the world.

Finland has been named one of the world’s happiest and most prosperous countries, and The Economist just named it the best country in the world for higher education.

In Finland, for example, students spend just around 5 hours per day in school and have little homework outside of school. Students in many Asian countries, however, attend school for longer days, and many attend private “cram schools” for hours each day outside of official school hours.

Regular universities and universities of applied sciences are the two types of public institutions in Finland. They are all tuition-free for students from the EU/EEA and Switzerland. Non-EU/EEA students enrolled in English-taught degrees must pay tuition.

The fact is that in a country with one of the best education systems in the world, there is hardly any homework. Finnish people think that, aside from homework, several other factors might improve a child’s academic achievement, such as eating supper with their family, exercising, or getting a good night’s sleep.

Thus, the Finland education system strives to emphasize equal educational opportunities imparting every pupil with the essential life skills and core knowledge of basic disciplines while giving them the necessary liberty at the latter stages to experiment, explore and follow their callings.

If you are intending to study in Finland but are confused about how to go about it, let our Leverage Edu experts guide you in finding a suitable program and university as well as kickstarting the application process promptly so that you get to embrace an incredible experience in the intellectual land of opportunities.

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The Finnish miracle

by: Hank Pellissier | Updated: June 12, 2023

Print article

The Finnish miracle

Can you name a famous person in Finland? Historical episode? Imposing landmark? Foodstuff? It’s not that Finland doesn’t have its share of Olympic athletes, brilliant architects, and technology moguls, but “Nokia” is all most people can mutter when asked about this small northern nation.

Unless you’re a teacher. Then the word “Finland” fills you with awe. Because everyone in the schooling profession knows that Finland is the international all-star of education.

In 2006 the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) conducted a survey of 15-year-olds’ academic skills from 57 nations. Finland placed first in science by a whopping 5% margin, second in math (edged out by one point by Chinese Taipei), and third in reading (topped by South Korea ).

Comparisons that involve so many variables are … difficult. Some might say impossible. Still, just a glance at PISA’s scores year after year prompts the question: How does Finland churn out so many avid learners?

“No sweat,” except in the saunas

At first glance, the Finnish educational system looks like it would only produce hippie slackers. Check out the casual amenities : Schools often have lounges with fireplaces but no tardy bells. Finnish students don’t wear uniforms, nor do they often wear shoes. (Since Finns go barefoot inside the home, and schools aspire to offer students a nurturing, homey environment, the no-shoe rule has some pedagogical logic.) And although academic standards are high, there’s not the grind one associates with high-performance schooling. Never burdened with more than half an hour of homework per night, Finnish kids attend school fewer days than 85% of other developed nations (though still more than Americans), and those school days are typically short by international standards.

Finnish teachers enjoy an equally laid-back arrangement. They work an average of 570 hours a year, nearly half the U.S. total of 1,100 hours. They also dress casually and are usually called by their first names (Aino, Helmi, Viivi, Eetu, etc.).

Is the secret massive financial investment? No. Finland spends only $7,500 per student, considerably less than the United States’ average $8,700.

So how does Finland produce the world’s best young scholars via minimal hours and cash? Since PISA began ranking nations and revealing Finland’s special sauce, plane-loads of inquisitive teachers from every corner of the globe have been making pilgrimages to this educational mecca. Here’s a taste of what they’ve observed:

More cred than doctors

The level of respect accorded to Finnish teachers tends to grab attention, especially in America where teaching is viewed as a “fallback” profession occupied primarily by the lower third of college graduates. That equation is flipped in Finland, where teachers boast the highest vocational status (followed by physicians.) A full 25% of Finnish youngsters select teaching as their career goal, but only a fraction succeed. Only 10% to 13% of applicants gain acceptance into the masters’ degree in education program.

After all this hard work, the rewards are generous, but not necessarily financially so. Teachers earn a generous $45 to $50 per hour for elementary school, $75 to $80 for secondary school. Yet some far lower-performing nations such as Spain and Germany pay teachers more. Instead, Finnish teachers enjoy immense independence. Allowed to design their own lesson plans and choose their own textbooks (following loose national guidelines), Finnish teachers regard their work as creative and self-expressive.

Free preschool, free college

Finnish toddlers have access to free preschools supervised by certified college graduates. Ah, you wonder — are the little innocents getting a jump-start there, reading and writing all day? Wrong! Truth is, Finland’s preschools offer no academics but plenty of focus on social skills, emotional awareness, and learning to play. Remarkably, Finnish children don’t approach reading until age seven (Waldorf nation?). They learn other concepts first, primarily self-reliance. One American observer noted that first-graders were expected to walk unescorted through the woods to school and lace up their own ice skates.

Twenty colleges exist in Finland, and they’re all free. Imagine the financial relaxation this provides for both parents and children. Universities are not widely stratified either; the disparity between the “best” and “worst” is not terribly large.

Curbing the dog-eat-dog competition

Americans give lip service to the notion that “all men are created equal,” but our appetite for competition creates an intense focus on ranking low and high performers — whether they’re schools or students.

Finland downplays educational competition in a number of ways. Schools aren’t ranked against each other, and teachers aren’t threatened with formal reviews. At many schools, teachers don’t grade students until the fifth grade, and they aren’t forced to organize curriculum around standardized testing. Gifted students aren’t tracked into special programs, invited into honor societies, or chosen to be valedictorians. Instead, struggling students receive free extra tutoring. After ninth grade, students attend either an academic program (53%) or vocational one (47%) — this flexibility results in a 96% graduation rate, dwarfing the United States’ measly 75%. Finally, since there are no private schools to speak of, there’s no sense that the best students are being skimmed off the top.

Overall, such attitudes go hand in hand with Finland’s socialist-style egalitarian society, which focuses on meting out fees and services according to need rather than merit. Even parking ticket penalties are determined according to income: A wealthy sausage factory heir was fined $204,000 for going 50 miles per hour in a 25-mph zone!

Additional differences

Finnish schools lack some of the extracurriculars — such as sports teams or musical bands — considered so essential to U.S. high schools. But free lunches are available to all students. “School choice” doesn’t exist; everyone goes to the neighborhood school. Students learn at least three languages: Finnish, Swedish, and English. Finally, Finland is a culture of readers, with a great library system and book mobiles reaching even remote locations.

Although the Finnish system seems antithetical to South Korea’s (the Asian nation placed second in the 2007 PISA surveys), the two small countries share much in common. Both cultures hold teachers in the highest esteem. Both achieved independence relatively recently — Finland in 1917, South Korea 1946 — and both are resource-poor nations that decided education was the path out of poverty. Finnish and Korean languages are easy to read and spell; they don’t have the illogical phonetics of English.

Comparing lingonberries to hamburgers

Is it fair to compare the small, homogenous northern nation to our roiling melting pot of diversity? Many experts say no. After all, given our higher immigration rate and wider socioeconomic stratification, our schools tend to become social experiments not simply for learning but also for many other social functions schools aren’t designed to handle.

Still, should these challenges prevent us from learning what we can from Finland’s schools?  If nothing else, it’s worth noting the central importance of inspired, highly educated teachers and what keeps the United States from doing the same.

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Does Finland Have it Right?: Cutting Down on Homework


Homework takes up far too much time of the day for students who are also involved in extra clubs or sports. It leaves no room for time to relax at home, spend time with family or even get jobs.

December 21, 2017

After a grueling eight hours of schoolwork and learning, students should be able to go home and relax, right? Wrong. Instead, they have to spend what should be free time doing homework. On average, high school students have about 3.5 hours of homework every night. This means that students spend 11.5 hours of school and homework every day, 47.9% of their day. This is a ridiculous expectation to e for teens who are also to join clubs and involved in extracurricular. With almost half of their day being school, how are students supposed to have time for anything else?

Assuming teens get the recommended eight hours of sleep, adds up to 19.5 hours taken up of a 24 hour day. Add on to that an hour for eating, 20.5 hours. Let’s say the student is involved in a school activity or sport, which practice for three hours day. All together, adds up to 23.5 hours, giving the student just half an hour to relax, be with family, or just have time to themselves. Research shows that homework actually does not boost student achievement when and the only homework is stress. Understand that teachers will never completely eliminate homework, but they should instead focus on quality vs. quantity. , more homework would mean that the student would understand the topic, but in actuality, it really only hurts the student. Imagine you have a lump of homework sitting in front of you and you would like nothing more than to just lay down and sleep. Do you spend your time completing the work to your full ability, or do you look up the answer key because you cannot stand the idea of doing 30 math problems? Most would choose option two so they could move on to the. However, if the student saw five problems that covered what they had done in class, they would be able to complete them to their full ability, retain the information, and move onto their project without feeling overwhelmed.

Homework also has physical repercussions. With the amount of work assigned today, pulling all-nighters is not foreign to high school students. Not to mention, stress caused by too much homework results its own physical side-effects. c cause headaches , exhaustion and weight loss, which are ridiculous to experience because teacher assign too much homework.

Finland has banned homework entirely, and it has shown incredible boosts in student achievement. In fact, the graduation rate in Finland is at 93% , America falls at just 75%. They also have a rate of 2 in 3 of their students attend college, the highest rate in Europe. They also far exceed international standardized testing. Their tests scores on the PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) beat out everyone else, with them scoring n average 20 points higher than their runner up, Hong Kong. Although the success of Finland could not be solely on the fact that they do not have homework, it is still one of the main factors that differ from America and cause them to be more successful.

Banning homework clearly shows better success rates and that American students are overworked when it comes to homework. 3.5 hours of homework is completely unnecessary for student success, and teachers should heavily consider cutting down their workload for the benefit of the student body.

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Do Finland students have no homework?


Do schools in Finland give homework?

According to the information available, Finnish schools have a relatively low amount of homework. Required subjects are most often covered during the school day, which reduces the need for homework. Homework is seen more as a recap of what has been learned in class, rather than a time-consuming task at home.

What are the disadvantages of Finland education system?

The Finnish education system does have some disadvantages. These include the downsides of mixed ability teaching, decreasing importance of education, lack of enjoyment in school, budget cuts, and structural weaknesses.

How is Finland’s education compared to the United States?

Teachers in Finland spend fewer hours at school each day and less time in classrooms compared to American teachers. Finnish education emphasizes building curriculums and assessing students during the extra time. Children in Finland also spend more time playing outside, even in the winter season. Homework is kept to a minimum.

How long is a school day in Finland?

Typically, the Finnish school day starts between 9:00 and 9:45 a.m. and students spend approximately five hours in the classroom each day. Finnish students also have little to no homework.

Education in Finland (No Homework, No Standardized Testing)

Unfortunately, there is no information available about the specifics of the education system in Finland related to homework and standardized testing.

Is school in Finland stressful?

It is considered that the education system in Finland promotes stress-free learning. Finnish students do not have to face excessive amounts of homework. The system values free time and play for children’s development.

Which country has the shortest school year?

The country with the shortest school year is typically Luxembourg, with an average of 163 days of school per year. However, it’s important to note that school year lengths can vary based on specific regions within a country and other factors.

What country is #1 in education?

Based on the information available, Iceland is ranked as the country with the best education system, followed by Germany and New Zealand.

Why is Finland #1 in education?

The Finnish education system is often praised for its high-quality and inclusive approach. Finland emphasizes equal opportunities, well-trained teachers, and a focus on learning through play and exploration.

Does Finland have shorter school days?

In Finland, children have a 15-minute break every 45 minutes, resulting in an average of three hours and 45 minutes of educational instruction each day. In comparison, children in the United States spend approximately 6.5 hours a day in the classroom.

What are the downsides of living in Finland?

Living in Finland has some disadvantages, including high taxes, difficulties in finding a job due to high competition, remote areas with expensive air travel, and other factors.

Is Finland school hard?

According to the OECD, Finnish students have less homework and outside work compared to students in other countries. They spend only about half an hour a night working on school-related tasks. Additionally, Finnish students do not have tutors.

Is Finnish education hard?

Finnish schools have a less intense atmosphere with shorter school days and less homework compared to many other countries. The education system emphasizes creativity, critical thinking, and practical skills rather than standardized testing.

How long is lunch in Finland schools?

Each class in Finland meets three times a week for 75 minutes, and each marking period is about a month and a half long. School typically starts at 8:15 a.m. and ends at 2:45 p.m., with an hour allocated for lunch and 15 minutes between each class to allow students plenty of time to relax.

Is school lunch free in Finland?

Finland’s national school meal program provides a free daily meal to all children and young people from pre-primary to upper secondary school. This program has been in place since 1990.

How long is school recess in Finland?

In Finnish schools, students have 15-minute breaks after every 45-minute class. Regardless of the weather, they are usually required to go outside during recess.

What is the toughest education system in the world?

The Korean educational system is often considered the toughest in the world. South Korea is renowned for its challenging and rigorous nature, and Korean students consistently outperform their global counterparts in academic achievement.

Why do kids start school at 7 in Finland?

In Finland, kids often start school at the age of 7 because it is believed that before this age, they learn best through play. Finland also provides free universal daycare for children aged eight months to five years, along with a year of “preschool/kindergarten” at age six to prepare children for their formal education.

Why is Finland so happy?

Finland’s happiness is attributed to factors such as lower income inequality, high social support, freedom to make decisions, and low levels of corruption.

Which country has the toughest education?

Some countries known for having tough education systems include South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Finland.

Which US state is #1 in education?

According to U.S. News & World Report, Florida ranks as the number one state for education.

Where does USA rank in education?

The United States ranks among the top countries in education and is home to eight of the 10 best global universities. U.S. students perform above average in reading and science, but below average in math according to the OECD’s 2018 Program for International Student Assessment.

What time does school start in Finland?

In Finland, students usually begin school between 9:00 and 9:45 a.m. Finland recognizes the negative impact of early start times on students’ well-being and health.

Does Finland have a good education system?

Finland has one of the best education systems in the world, attracting international students who seek a high-quality and inclusive approach to higher education.

What country has 4 days of school?

Several countries, from Poland to Australia to the U.S., are implementing four-day school weeks, either as a short-lived fad or as a long-term approach to reduce student stress, recruit teachers, and rethink the concept of learning.

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On a Frozen Border, Finland Puzzles Over a ‘Russian Game’

As it votes on Sunday for a new president, NATO’s newest member says Moscow is testing it by turning asylum seekers into a political pressure point.

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A border guard dressed in an army green uniform stands next to a fence in a snowy landscape.

By Erika Solomon

Erika Solomon reported from Helsinki and Nuijamaa, Finland, on the border with Russia, speaking to asylum seekers, political leaders and security experts.

Poking up through the snow drifts on the Finnish-Russian border lies a symbol of Moscow’s biggest provocation yet toward NATO’s newest member : a sprawling heap of broken bicycles.

The battered bikes are sold for hundreds of dollars on the Russian side to asylum seekers from as far away as Syria and Somalia. They are then encouraged — sometimes forced, according to Finnish guards — to cross the border. Finns say it is a hybrid warfare campaign against their country, using some of the world’s most desperate people, just as it is staking out a new position in a shifting world order.

“Some of the bikes didn’t even have pedals — sometimes they’d link arms, to help each other keep moving,” said Ville Kuusisto, a Finnish border guard master sergeant, at the crossing near the Russian town of Vyborg.

As Finns vote on Sunday for a new president, who will be responsible for foreign policy and act as commander in chief, Finland has become fixated on its 830-mile border, the longest with Russia of any NATO country. How Finns handle the challenges there is critical not only for them, but also for their new allies on both sides of the Atlantic.

The presidential election, now in its second and final round , is the first since Finland officially joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization last year after decades of nonalignment, looking to bolster its own security after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Russia warned Finland of “countermeasures” for its accession, which the Finns suspect they are now seeing in the form of infrastructure sabotage and cyberattacks. But it is the arrival of some 1,300 “human weapons,” as Finnish politicians have described them, in the past few months that has stirred the most public attention and anxiety.

European officials have repeatedly raised alarm over migrants being encouraged to cross into their borders by Russia and its allies, with many concerned that the aim is to destabilize European governments and stoke discord in a bloc sharply divided over how to handle immigration.

In December, Finland closed all of its crossings with Russia. Now, it is preparing a law that Finnish media has said may include provisions to allow Finland to force people back over the border — a practice known as “pushbacks,” which are illegal under European and international law. Finnish officials have so far declined to comment on such measures.

Both presidential candidates headed to the final round on Sunday — Pekka Haavisto, of the left-leaning Greens, and the center-right Alexander Stubb — have staked out a hard line not only against Moscow, but also the asylum seekers.

“People see through this Russian game quite clearly,” Mr. Haavisto said in an interview. Asked how he felt about the calls for potential pushbacks, he said humanitarian laws banning pushbacks may need to be changed to recognize what he described as a new form of hybrid warfare.

Mr. Stubb said force on the border was necessary because “the only thing Putin and Russia understand is power, usually raw power,” referring to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

Whoever wins on Sunday will take the lead in shaping Finland’s new role in NATO. But the migration issue is now likely to absorb much of their attention, something security experts say could be an intended distraction.

“This border problem is not the most urgent issue right now, but it’s now an issue that will consume the bandwidth of the future president and the Finnish government,” said Matti Pesu, a security analyst at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs.

The crossings into Finland are the latest iteration of the deadly border politics that have played out since 2021, when Belarus, a veritable satrapy of Moscow, offered entry to thousands of migrants, allowing them to cross to Poland. Many ended up trapped between the two countries, beaten by border guards, who forced them back and forth over the border.

This is not the first time an influx has reached the country — there were surges in 2015 and 2016, when over a million people made their way to Europe, mostly fleeing war in Syria and ending up in Germany. But since then, the border has gone mostly quiet.

Finnish officials say that, counter to a past understanding between the two countries, Russia is now letting people without Finnish visas through its checkpoints.

Finnish border guards said that when they called their counterparts last year to complain, the Russians insisted they were simply following procedures and could not deny people the right to cross.

Moayed Salami, 36, a Syrian who reached the crossing in November, said his experience showed Russia was clearly using the asylum seekers as pawns — but willing ones.

He and seven other applicants interviewed, all of whom arrived before Finland closed its border, described being escorted through three layers of Russian checkpoints, where their passports were taken and their entry visas to Russia were canceled. He and some others said the Russian authorities then followed them until the very last stretch before the border.

“What I keep telling the Finnish media, when they say we are being exploited by Russia, is that it does not matter,” Mr. Salami said. “How could it? We needed a way out. If we had to flee via Mars, we would do it.”

Maria Zacharova, Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, has said the accusation that Russia was deliberately facilitating the migrants was not only false, but “another example of the West’s double standards or lack of standards at all.”

Before Sunday’s election, the crossings have forced a debate in Finland about what the risks of these arrivals really are for the NATO member.

Finland’s security and intelligence services have publicly said Russia could try to recruit some migrants as spies, but they have shared no evidence to back this hypothesis.

Others say the risk is of Finland undermining its image of itself as a nation that shares liberal values and acts in accordance with international conventions regarding asylum.

“It’s Russia trying to turn us against our own values,” said Iro Sarkka, a fellow at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs. “We claim to be a liberal democracy, with a rules-based international order, and then we are not even respecting those treaties ourselves?”

On Wednesday, Finland’s popular departing president Sauli Niinisto argued that humanitarian law was being used as a “Trojan horse” for those trying to cross.

Europe’s commissioner on human rights, as well as Finland’s own ombudsman on human rights, have warned that Finland risks violating humanitarian protections if it does not also offer places for people to make asylum claims.

“These players probably look at this issue from the one side,” said Mari Rantanen, the interior minister. “But as a government, we have to see the whole picture. We have to take care of our national security, too, because nobody else will.”

Finland uses drones and plans to build several stretches of 13-foot-high fences along 125 miles of the southern border, with the aim of getting migrants to cross at specific points that can be monitored. With the help of Frontex, the European Union’s border agency, they have bolstered technical surveillance, including heat sensors and cameras.

For now, Finland’s closures have blocked most new arrivals. But Marko Saareks, a deputy chief of division at the Finnish Border Guard, said that hundreds, if not thousands, of asylum seekers who are stuck in Russian border towns may still try to trek through the woods, especially come spring.

Already, more than 30 people have made life-threatening winter treks, including Rakan Esmail and Abdullah al-Ali, who are from the Syrian town of Kobani.

Two weeks ago, they said, smugglers drove them deep into the forest in freezing night temperatures, then robbed them at gunpoint of the last $6,000 they had borrowed for their journey.

“They just shouted at us, ‘Go die!’ and drove off,” Mr. Esmail, 20, recalled.

They almost did. With only their pajamas beneath their pants and jackets for extra warmth, they trudged through snow banks up to their thighs until they made it to the Finnish side and knocked on the door of a small wooden cabin. Using Google Translate, they said, they begged its lone, aged inhabitant to call them an ambulance and the border patrol.

Their brush with an icy death scared them, but was no deterrent.

Told that asylum seekers like him were being described as human weapons, Mr. Esmail was shocked. “We’re not weapons,” he said, shaking his head. “We’re just human.”

Johanna Lemola contributed reporting from Helsinki and Nuijamaa, and Emma Bubola from London.

An earlier version of this article misspelled the surname of a fellow at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs. She is Iro Sarkka, not Sarkaa. Also misspelled was the surname of the departing president. He is Sauli Niinisto, not Niniisto.

A caption in an earlier version of this article misstated Pekka Haavisto’s party affiliation as a candidate. He ran as an independent, not as a Green party candidate.

How we handle corrections

Our Coverage of the War in Ukraine

News and Analysis

Ukrainian troops have withdrawn from the eastern frontline city of Avdiivka , allowing Russia to score its biggest battlefield victory in months  and dealing a blow to Ukraine’s stretched and outgunned forces .

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine called on world leaders not to abandon his country and pushed back against the idea of a negotiated resolution to the war .

As a bill with $60.1 billion in military aid for Kyiv languished in the House, the Biden administration blamed Congress for Ukraine’s withdrawal from Avdiivka .

Wounded Soldiers: The number of Russian troops with amputated limbs or serious injuries is believed to be staggering . When these veterans return home, they face a patchwork system of treatment and, often, efforts to keep them out of the public eye .

Creative Use of Weapons: Ukraine’s use of a Patriot missile to take down a plane in January is an example of how novel battlefield tactics can be fraught with peril as well as promise .

Broadcasting Rage: Residents of the battered Ukrainian city of Kharkiv turn to a station called Radio Boiling Over to vent their anger at Russian attacks .

Reined In: Ukraine’s oligarchs have lost billions from the shelling of their factories. Now the government hopes to break their political influence .

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Our team of visual journalists analyzes satellite images, photographs , videos and radio transmissions  to independently confirm troop movements and other details.

We monitor and authenticate reports on social media, corroborating these with eyewitness accounts and interviews. Read more about our reporting efforts .


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  22. Do Finland students have no homework?

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