Thursday, December 1, 2011

Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland?

December, and I commuted by bicycle. Not bad. But there were some patches of black ice on the way, and the back wheel slipped alarmingly sideways a few times. (And I'm still thinking about the studded winter tires...)

Yesterday I wrote some words about reading poems in different languages, English and Finnish, and I even offered you a Finnish lesson.

But this time I decided to write about another kind of Finnish lessons, namely a book about the Finnish school system, which is regarded by many to be one of the best in the world.

A book titled Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland? (Teachers College Press, 2011) has just appeared. The book is generating interest in many countries, including the USA.

The book was written by Pasi Sahlberg, who really knows this stuff, and I'm thinking of getting a copy of it. The local library didn't have it yet, but it is available through Amazon.

Addition: The local library didn't have the book, but they offered some articles on this topic: "Lessons From Finland" by Pasi Sahlberg (Education Digest, Nov 2011, Vol. 77 Issue 3, p. 18-24) and "A+ for Finland" by Lynnell Hancock (Smithsonian, Sep 2011, Vol. 42 Issue 5, p. 94-102).

Addition 2: I'm often asthonished by the quality of material available through our local library system.

Addition 3: A quote from Hancock's article: "When compared with the United States school children in Finland perform at a much higher level and yet far fewer dollars are spent per pupil." And Hancock quotes Sahlberg: "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."


Anonymous said...

Hi Juha,

I read your comments on education and thought that you might like to use the following video link to see a presentation by Mr. Sahlberg which took place in Canada recently.

Please note that I have not watched the videos but I will very soon. Right now I am about to meet up with a friend to go for an evening walk. I hope this link is of use to you.

BTW I have been enjoying the night pictures that you have been posting over the last few weeks.

Best regards,


John said...

No comments about your thoughts on education, but I will say I love the photo blur. Nicely done!

Juha Haataja said...

@Errol: Thanks for the link!

@John: I have taken dozens of photographs of these birches, and they constantly surprise...

Paul said...

Juha: No surprise here that most any educational system can be better than here in the USA.

Our system has been so compromised by political correctness (no one can fail or be 'made' to feel bad because of grades), teachers unions, focus on pay for performance (teachers get raises depending on how their students do on year end tests), etc. The focus is on teacher pay and teacher fear (remember! Can't offend anyone).

Little emphasis is placed on learning. Here, it's turning to students have lots of 'rights' but no responsibilities. It is truly a sad state.

Juha Haataja said...

@Paul: Here the profession of a teacher seems to be well regarded, and the education of teachers is generally quite good. And you need to get a Master's Degree to qualify as a teacher of children.

If I have understood this right, a Master's Degree doesn't seem to be required of teachers in all countries.

Paul said...

Correct. Here in the US, most schools require a bachelor's degree and a teaching certificate, except for a substitute teacher, which requires basically nothing! If you do have a master's degree, you can get higher pay.

Juha Haataja said...

@Paul: In August, just before the start of the schools, there was on radio an interview of young people in their first "real" jobs.

One of these was a young man who originally studied chemistry. But then he decided to try pedagogy, and now was going to start with his own class of 1st graders.

When asked about difficult situations he answered that there is always a way to reach any child. If one approach doesn't work then just try another - and then he gave practical examples how you can use ordinary life to teach school topics and make them interesting. I almost wished I would be young enough to start school with a teacher of this motivation and capability...

Andreas said...

Amazon can't deliver the book and it's not available on the Kindle. Hmm ... it should be mandatory to make books available as eBooks :)

I've registered my interest and I guess if it ever becomes available as eBook, Amazon will remember me. Or maybe not.

Juha Haataja said...

@Andreas: A pity, maybe it will be available later.

I have it ordered from Amazon, estimated delivery Jan. 24, 2012 - Feb. 13, 2012, so I won't be able to read the book any day soon.

Andreas said...

Jan. 24, 2012 - Feb. 13, 2012??? Oh dear! It's interesting. In reality having everything available as eBook would perfectly release the publishing houses of their plight. I do not even care about the price. May it be almost as much as that of a printed copy, being able to read it on my phone and being able to buy it on impulse would be worth it to me. I'd have bought the book the moment I read your comment. I even considered buying the printed copy, but when I looked for it, there wasn't anything available at all. Seems like you ordered the "Copy for Europe" :)

Well, maybe they'll learn it in a few more decades. Groan.

Juha Haataja said...

@Andreas and all: I finally got around to reading Sahlberg's book, and it was a good one. A book review is now available as a posting.