Our recent scan of education news in the Nordic countries reveals that the quality of Finnish education has been in the news again. This time, however, articles are both praising and raising questions about recent performance.
William Doyle, reporting in The Washington Post on a recent stay in Finland, highlighted his son’s experience in school and the benefits he sees in the system. From his perspective, the Finnish school system is a “beacon of hope in a world that is struggling, and often failing, to figure out how to best educate our children.” The Globe and Mail also described ways in which Finland’s education system may be helping to address issues of inequality. They argued, “The Finnish obsession is not with education per se, but with making sure that kids…get the maximum possible school experience.” The article goes further, suggesting that the odds of a child born below the poverty line “becoming a middle-class adult are better in Finland than in almost any other country. More important, those odds are measurably better than they were 20 years ago. And it’s almost all because of the way the Finns changed their schools.”
But the Helsingen also reported on a recent doctoral dissertation Education as Finland’s Hottest Export?: A Multi-Faceted Case Study is the Finnish National Education Export Policies. This research raises questions about the extent to which Finland has been able to capitalize on the perceived strength of its education system. The Economist also weighs in with “Europe’s top-performing school system rethinks its approach,” a story on the concerns in Finland about recent declines in performance among Finnish 15-year-olds on the PISA tests. As the article explains, “PISA scores fell in 2009 and 2012 (the next results will be published in December). Data suggest the slide began around the turn of the century. Children of immigrants tend to score worse, but native Finns’ scores have dipped, too.”
At the same time, as we reported earlier, Samuel Abrams, author of Education and the Commercial Mindset, has also stirred up some controversy in Finland with recent comments that the declines are an artifact of the improving scores of other top performers rather than an indicator of a meaningful decline in Finland’s educational performance.