Taking a lesson from Finland: our school needs to change

You may have heard the iconic line from your parents, “You’re getting the best education in the world here!” This is sometimes followed with, “You should be more thankful that we’re doing this for you!”

However, this isn’t the case. Yes, you’re getting a good education, but it’s not the brightest of the bunch.

Singapore was among the highest in the world in 2012 on the international PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) test, receiving 2nd place in Maths and 3rd in Science and Reading, below only Hong Kong and China. But think about how you and your peers make this happen. Do you achieve all of those high grades having amazing fun and almost not even trying, or do you achieve them by studying like a slave, trying your hardest, and hating your life?

If you’re like me, it’s the latter.

Does this make you happy? Of course not. You want to be 10 years old again and go outside and pretend the world is yours. You want that deep pit of anxiety and stress inside of you gone. You want to be free of these test prep factory-like conditions.

Well, I have good news: Change can be made. And the answer is Finland. Yes, Finland – a country largely known for saunas, tall Nordic men, and never-ending winters – has made a new education system that goes against all common educational standards and has also managed to surpass worldwide superpowers like the United States, France, and Britain on the PISA test.

Photo taken by Flickr user, "Hugovk".
A typical Finnish school. Photo by Flickr user, “Hugovk” (Creative Commons license)

How have they done this? How could you possibly change the education system? Isn’t that, y’know… impossible?

Obviously not.

The Finnish – brace yourselves – don’t take any standardized tests and have a bare minimum of homework. Shocking, right? The only test they have to take is a big test at the end of senior year in high school and homework is as minimal as possible.

This is the biggest reason why the Finnish excel in learning, as stress and pressure are almost completely eliminated from the students’ lives, allowing them to have actual free thought and the ability to pursue what they wish. This is contrary to the experience of those of us who are constantly looking at our grades on PowerSchool to judge how well we have to do on the next test to maintain a fairly decent GPA. Also, Finnish students are happier to learn and go through school as a result.

Just-imagine-neverJust imagine never having to take a chemistry, calculus, or English exam ever again until senior year. You could spend all the time you normally spend on homework and studying on more important things like family, friends, extracurriculars and, of course, sleep.

Even more important to Finland’s success is their thinking on equality. In a passage in the Smithsonian magazine article, “Why Finland’s schools are successful,” one Finnish principal, Karl Louhivuori, is stated as saying, “Children from wealthy families with lots of education can be taught by stupid teachers. We try to catch the weak students. It’s deep in our thinking.”

They don’t worship and praise the highly successful students – instead they treat everyone equally and pay special attention to the weak ones so that they may excel like everyone else. This creates an interesting dynamic. Instead of the high getting higher and the low only getting lower (much like the widening income gaps in the capitalist world), all are in the middle-high range and excelling together.

It’s much like a camping adventure. There will always be that leader, but because all of you are in it together no matter what, no one is taken for granted or ignored. And everyone has fun in the end.

Compare this to the American system that SAS is based on, where instead of joining hands and working together to survive the night, all are in it for themselves. Some starve and others become gluttonous and powerful. And only a select few have fun in the end.

So, do I think we should adopt a more Finnish style of education? Of course.

This isn’t a debate, these are facts. It is a fact that Finnish schools do better than American schools. Sixty-six percent of Finns go to college, the highest rate in Europe. And while America’s percentage is close at 65.9%, it is declining, according to The Bureau of Labor Statistics. Ninety-three percent of Finns graduate high school, compared to 80 percent of Americans. And the Finns accomplish all this without tests and homework. Interesting.

There is no reason why we shouldn’t adopt a more Finnish system. Price of reform? High. But students enjoying our childhoods while succeeding in our studies? Priceless.

Author: klauer46100

Matt Klauer is a sophomore Global Section editor for The Eye. He’s originally from Jacksonville, Florida, and is an out-of-the-box thinker, an enjoyer of precious sleep, and wants to colonize Mars sometime in his life. He can be contacted at klauer46100@sas.edu.sg.

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