Pasi Sahlberg Blog

Finnish education reform

Pasi Sahlberg on Finland’s recent PISA results

For years following the release of the 2001 and subsequent PISA results, edutourists visited Finland hoping to uncover their secrets.  In the most recent survey, Finland's position had slipped from 2nd to 5th in reading, from 6th to 12th in mathematics and from 3rd to 5th in science.  I recently talked with Pasi Sahlberg to better understand what could have contributed to this fall in the rankings.  As former Director General…

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Overhaul of schools is the wrong diagnosis

Andy Hargreaves, Pasi Sahlberg and Dennis Shirley Boston Globe, 28 March 2014 Monday’s hot-off-the-press report on “The New Opportunity to Lead: A Vision for Education in Massachusetts in the Next 20 Years,” commissioned by the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education, presents an erroneous diagnosis of the state of education in the Commonwealth and proposes remedies that are based on ideology, not evidence. While there…

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The brainy questions on Finland’s only high-stakes standardized test

Many Americans who visit Finland to examine its education system are surprised by how rarely students are required to take standardized tests during their 12 years of schooling. They learn that students are primarily assessed by multiple teacher-made tests that vary from one school to another. At the national level sample-based student assessments similar to NAEP that have no stakes for students, teachers, or schools are the main…

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The PISA 2012 scores show the failure of ‘market based’ education reform

"A truly successful education system has students of all socio-economic backgrounds scoring highly on PISA tests" When PISA results were first presented 12 years ago, the participating countries were excited to see how their school systems perform compared to one another. Now the launch of the fifth PISA results is accompanied by more criticism than before due to the issues with cross-country comparisons and the dominant role…

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PISA 2012 reinforces the key elements of the Finnish Way

When the OECD published its fifth PISA results this week, they became the main news in England, Sweden, the U.S. and Finland, among other places. What the public was told in all of these countries was the position of their school systems in the global PISA league tables. Although PISA is first and foremost a yardstick for the wealthy OECD countries, these league tables include rapidly developing cities from Far East and less-developed…

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Is PISA dimming the Northern Lights?

The world has now had a week to recover from the hangover caused by the release of fifth OECD PISA results. All Asian countries, including newcomer Vietnam, have celebrated success of their education reforms, especially improved test scores in mathematics, reading and science. Politicians and pundits in Estonia, Poland, Germany, Ireland and Switzerland had also reasons to toast their advanced ranks in global PISA league tables.…

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Are Finland’s vaunted schools slipping?

The irony of Finland’s successful school system is that the Finns never aimed to be better than anyone else — except, it is often humorously claimed, Sweden. Since the announcement of the first results of the Organization for Economic and Cooperation and Development’s Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, in 2001, Finland has been the center of educational attention.  Finland’s PISA scores  topped the…

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The Finnish Paradox

Since the release of the first OECD PISA results in December 2001, Finland has become the mecca of education pilgrimage. Some visitors wish to discover the secrets of Finland’s high scores in reading, mathematics, and science. Others hope to find out how great teachers are prepared or what successful schools look like. There are also those who want to take a first-hand look at education’s “ultimate slacker,” as Fareed…

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What if Finland’s great teachers taught in U.S. schools?

Many governments are under political and economic pressure to turn around their school systems for higher rankings in the international league tables. Education reforms often promise quick fixes within one political term. Canada, South Korea, Singapore and Finlandare commonly used models for the nations that hope to improve teaching and learning in their schools. In search of a silver bullet, reformers now turn their eyes on teachers,…

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Why gender equality matters in school reform

Finland has come to be known as a nation where educational quality, equity, and productivity exist simultaneously.  Those interested in understanding how the Finns have managed to achieve this level of educational performance often point to good teachers, rigorous curricula, and small class sizes. Indeed, some believe that there is a set of such factors that make education systems work well. Then there are those who claim that…

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