Pasi Sahlberg Blog

Finnish education reform

Why Finland’s schools are top-notch?

Published on CNN 8 October 2014 Millions of American parents spend countless hours trying to figure out how to help their children get better grades, better teachers or better schools. They may want to take a page from Finland, which is considered to have one of the leading education systems in the world. Finnish students consistently score near the top in the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, for reading,…

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Minimalism in educational reform

My address at the opining of the 2014 Frankfurt Book Fair on 7 October 2014 Alvar Aalto, Finland’s most renowned architect and designer, made the wise statement that “we should work for simple, good, undecorated things, but things which are in harmony with the human being and organically suited to the little man in the street.” Similarly, one might say that Finnish teachers prefer traditional, reliable, calm teaching over…

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A Conversation On Lessons from Finland

With John Graham Published in Professional Voice, 10(1), pp. 46-53, summer 2014 Australia Education Union   JG Finland is seen to have one of the best schooling systems in the world. What elements of the Finnish system do you think make the difference and elevate the performance of its students above those in many other countries? PS Finland may be seen as having the best school system in the world by foreign media and…

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Howard Gardner’s comment on “Five U.S. innovations that helped Finland’s schools”

You have written a thought-provoking piece, noting that the United States may produce promising ideas in education but lags in the implementation of those ideas—except perhaps the proliferation of standardized, high stake testing. A few comments: 1. In the US, experimentation has too often occurred in so-called "junk works", which are separate from the funding source. The most dramatic example is Xerox PARC—a research setting…

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Five U.S. innovations that helped Finland’s schools improve but that American reformers now ignore

Originally published in Washington Post, 24 July 2014 An intriguing question whether innovation in education can be measured has an answer now. The Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development in its recent report “Measuring Innovation in Education: A New Perspective, Educational Research and Innovation” measures Innovation in Education in 22 countries and 6 jurisdictions, among them the U.S. states Indiana, Massachusetts…

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Australia has its own education solution: Gonski

by Pasi Sahlberg and Dennis Shirley Originally published in the Drum on 19 June 2014 Australia doesn't need to import education reform ideas from the US or elsewhere - its own Gonski reforms would remove the inequality which is holding its schools back, write Pasi Sahlberg and Dennis Shirley. One riddle of education debate today concerns the strange disconnect that occurs between how schools actually perform and how they are perceived.…

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Are there common core standards in Finland?

One thing that is common to successful education systems is that teaching and learning are guided or steered by system-level expectations that all schools must follow. But there are significant differences in how these expectations are technically employed. Many Canadian provinces, for example, set specific learning targets for most of the school subjects that all teachers and schools must respect. East Asian countries also set…

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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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