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A look at Finland's attitude toward schools and teachers. A world apart from views here.

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madfloridian Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Dec-11-10 07:38 PM
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A look at Finland's attitude toward schools and teachers. A world apart from views here.
Edited on Sat Dec-11-10 07:40 PM by madfloridian
Linda Darling-Hammond was President Obama's education advisor during his campaign. Many of us hoped she would be Secretary of Education, but Arne got the honors.

She published a study last year of how Finland handles education. The attitude there toward teachers is of respect and admiration.

The attitude in this country is..to be blunt..almost contempt. There's a reason for that. There has been a propaganda blitz against public education that started even before Reagan, but it really came to the forefront then. Romald Reagan literally attacked the profession of teaching.

Three years into his first term Mr. Reagan's criticism of public education reached a crescendo when he hand picked a "blue ribbon" commission that wrote a remarkably critical and far-reaching denunciation of public education. Called "A Nation At Risk," this document charged that the US risked losing the economic competition among nations due to a "... rising tide of (educational) mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people." (The commissioners did not consider the possibility that US firms were uncompetitive because of corporate mismanagement, greed and short sightedness.)After "A Nation At Risk" the nation's public schools were fair game for every ambitious politician or self-important business boss in the country. Its publication prompted a flood of follow-up criticism of public education as "blue ribbon" and "high level" national commissions plus literally hundreds of state panels wrote a flood of reform reports. Most presupposed that the charges made by Mr. Reagan's handpicked panel were true. Oddly though, throughout this entire clamor, parental confidence in the school's their children attended remained remarkably high. Meanwhile Mr. Reagan was quietly halving federal aid to education.

That sums up Mr. Reagan's educational legacy. As governor and president he demagogically fanned discontent with public education, then made political hay of it. As governor and president he bashed educators and slashed education spending while professing to valued it. And as governor and president he left the nation's educators dispirited and demoralized.


The report was not true, but it was spread so completely by the media that no criticism ever took hold.

When I write about education here from the viewpoint of a retired teacher, I expect anything to happen. The attacks through the years have taken hold, and there is little respect for teachers from the top of both parties down to the students. A sad situation.

Here are some of the things Darling-Hammond wrote about schools and teachers in Finland. The atmosphere there must be amazing.

How Finland Is Building a Strong Teaching and Learning System

First there is a quote from the Ministry of Education.

Finland offers an example of how a nation built a comprehensive teaching and learning system that has raised achievement and closed achievement gaps.

The aim (of Finnish education policy) is a coherent policy geared to educational equity and a high level of education among the population as a whole. The principle of lifelong learning entails that everyone has sufficient learning skills and opportunities to develop their knowledge and skills in different learning environments throughout their lifespan.

Government of Finland, Ministry of Education


The goal in our country used to be almost the same, allowing the development of the whole child. No longer. Our philosophy has quickly changed to a high-stakes testing concept.

More about Finnish schools.

Strategies for Reform

Because of these trends, many people have turned to Finland for clues to educational transformation. As one analyst notes: Most visitors to Finland discover elegant school buildings filled with calm children and highly educated teachers. They also recognize the large autonomy that schools enjoy; little interference by the central education administration in schools everyday lives, systematic methods to address problems in the lives of students, and targeted professional help for those in need. (Sahlberg 2009, p. 7)

However, less visible forces account for the more tangible evidence visitors may see. Leaders in Finland attribute these gains to their intensive investments in teacher education all teachers receive three years of high quality graduate-level preparation, completely at state expense plus a major overhaul of the curriculum and assessment system designed to ensure access to a thinking curriculum for all students. A recent analysis of the Finnish system summarized its core principles as follows (Laukkanen 2008; see also Buchberger & Buchberger 2003):

* Resources for those who need them most
* High standards and supports for special needs
* Qualified teachers
* Evaluation of education
* Balancing decentralization and centralization





Look at those core principles in Finland.

"Resources for those who need them most"

Today in the US if a school doesn't perform as expected, resources are taken away and the schools are closed or made into charters. So there are FEWER resources for those who need them the most.

"High standards and supports for special needs"

I and others have posted example after example of charter schools having a high attrition rate of students with special needs. They simply don't have to keep them.

"Qualified teachers"

There is a tendency since Arne took over to hire teachers who are not certified and given only weeks or a few months of training...paying private agencies such as TFA and the New Teacher Project big money to recruit these non certified teachers.

I could go on, but you get the point. Finland respects its well-educated teachers, the US does not.

There was an article several months ago at Rethinking Schools. It told about a visit to a classroom in Finland and what it might entail. Much of the article is now behind a subscription firewall, but part is still available.

Wise, Wiser, Teacher What I Learned in Finnish Schools

On a tour of an elementary school in Tampere, Finland, I was thrilled by the teachers lounge. It was large and stocked with long tables, full bookcases, and not just comfortable-looking, but stylishthat great Finnish designcherry red armchairs. A table held a coffeepot and a box of Fazer chocolates; a large window looked out on a stand of birch trees. During the 20 minutes I spent there talking to the schools director, teachers stopped in to chat with each other, to sit and rest, or to work.

I also loved other things I saw at this school: boys and girls knitting puppets in an art room; sock-footed children sitting on their classroom floor playing chess; a hot lunch served on china plates and eaten by students and teachers together at tables with flowers in vases. But I was awestruck by what the teachers room indicatedsomeone who made decisions about space and resources knew that teachers should have lots of both.

That was 2006. Three years later I returned to spend a semester as a Fulbright scholar at the University of Helsinki. While there I visited seven elementary and high schools, and four universities. I talked to many parents, teachers, and professors about education in their country.

Finns are proud of their uniformly high-quality schools. Unlike in the United States, where parents fret about getting their children into good and often private schools with restrictive enrollment, virtually all schools are public, and most Finnish parents send their children to the school closest to their home. Everyone I spoke with told me that teaching is a desirable profession in Finland, albeit not very highly paid, and also largely female. The nations positive view of the field is expressed in the slogan on T-shirts made for the teacher education program at the University of OuluWise, Wiser, Teacher. Teaching is seen as comparable to information technology employment; it is considered exciting and contemporary work.


What an amazing picture of a classroom in which both teachers and students are treated with respect and intelligence.

Unfortunately Arne is having a huge conniption fit about how the schools in Shanghai scored so much better. One of the principals from a school in Peking, China, explains that as the world is oohing and aahing about the test scores in Shanghai.... educators there are realizing serious weaknesses.

It's ironic that just as the world is appreciating the strengths of China's education system, Chinese are waking up to its weaknesses. These are two sides of the same coin: Chinese schools are very good at preparing their students for standardized tests. For that reason, they fail to prepare them for higher education and the knowledge economy.

But don't the PISA results at least show that China's K-9 education is the best in the world, and that standardized testing, as U.S. President Barack Obama seems to believe, is necessary to improve American schools?

Not really. According to research on education, using tests to structure schooling is a mistake. Students lose their innate inquisitiveness and imagination, and become insecure and amoral in the pursuit of high scores.

Even Shanghai educators admit they're merely producing competent mediocrity.


Competent mediocrity, how about that? From the words of a Chinese educator.





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Bozita Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Dec-11-10 07:43 PM
Response to Original message
1. Sure didn't take long for the unreccers to find this thread
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msongs Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Dec-11-10 07:45 PM
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2. Finnish and American society are quite different, economically, socially, culturally nt
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CurtEastPoint Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Dec-11-10 07:47 PM
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3. Thank you for posting. Excellent read.
I used to teach high school, many years ago, and what we have that passes for 'education' now is truly sad. This is perhaps THE most crippling deficit in the US, and it has effects that will last many years.

We need to look at Finland's model and any other country that teaches children to THINK.
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upi402 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Dec-11-10 07:52 PM
Response to Original message
4. My friend teaches in a Scandinavian country
Everything is smarter. First aid response practices, public transport, economic fairness, safety net, public safety, education, medical.

But they have not acquiesced to money elites - there's still opposition- my friend says.

When I travel outside the country, people ask in astonishment, :What's wrong over there?" They are as shocked as we are (many of us).
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madrchsod Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Dec-11-10 08:05 PM
Response to Original message
5. the Nordic countries have`t waged war against anyone in a long time
sweden in the early 1800`s ,finland civil war in 1918,and norway not enough to worry about!

education or war...we chose war.
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Starry Messenger Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Dec-11-10 08:08 PM
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6. k&r
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leftstreet Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-12-10 12:53 AM
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7. K&R
This was very interesting. Thanks for posting!
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