The more I read about the successes of the Finnish school system the more convinced I become that the key is in its teachers. You can check it out here.
In Finland the length of the school day is shorter – that’s because great teachers know how to make the most of every minute. Many studies have revealed the enormous amount of time devoted to non-learning tasks in the classroom. Good teachers know how to organize a school day and a group of kids so that time is never wasted.
Time is provided in the school day for professional learning. Good teachers understand they are lifelong learners and are eager to build on their skills. They are committed to learning in their own lives.
There is no strict curriculum, no pacing guides, just broad outlines of areas to be covered. This is because the community and the authorities know they can trust teachers to do what is best. They believe they have the knowledge, the training and the intellectual discipline needed to make the best choices about what kids need to learn and when they need to learn it.
There is no ‘payment by results’ because there is a proven belief that all the teachers are good teachers. They do not gain entry to the profession until they have demonstrated that.
Children have around 75 minutes of free play each day because teachers understand that ‘the work of childhood is play’ and they understand how to integrate the things children learn in the playground with the things going on in the classroom.
Teacher candidates are selected from the top 10% of high school graduates. No one becomes a teacher in Finland because they couldn’t get into another course and because of good pay or long holidays.
The profession is held in high regard and much is expected of teachers. It is more difficult to enter university to become a primary teacher in Finland than it is to enter medical school in some universities.
There is no whole scale testing of children until they are 16. Teachers are trusted to know what is needed and then to provided it.
30% of primary school aged children receive some form of additional learning support as soon as their teachers deem it necessary. Learning problems are addressed as they are revealed and noticed by highly skilled teachers.
93.2% of students graduate from high school in Finland compared with 76.82% in the USA. And in the USA we need to keep in mind the reality that this percentage is inflated by the “credit recovery’ programs that allow for a D graduation after the completion of a short summer course for failing students. Finnish students stay at school and succeed because they have had a history of quality teaching.
In other words the quality of the Finnish education system rests on the quality of the teachers.
The quality of the teachers is ensured by a demanding initial selection system and a lengthy period of professional preparation during which the ongoing suitability for teaching is constantly monitored.
You don’t get into a classroom in Finland if you are anything other than a highly skilled teacher.
Sir Ken Robinson (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iG9CE55wbtY) has commented that all over the world nations are tinkering with education. Mostly they look at rewriting standards and curriculum and then they work at designing tests.
What they fail to do, and the single thing that they MUST do, is look at the teachers.
Finland began reforming its education in the 1960s.
There are no magic bullets.
There are no short cuts.
If we don’t begin the hard work now, when will we?