Pasi Sahlberg Blog

Finnish education reform

The Myth of Education Marketplace

Today education policymakers and politicians around the world face a twin challenge. Schools should do more with less, and at the same time, education systems should score higher in international education league tables. As a consequence, governments are looking for education policies and reform models from better performing countries, often by employing fashionable ideas, such as corporate management models, to catch up the leading…

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Just let me teach!  

Professional autonomy allows teachers in Finland to do what their peers in the U.S. can’t Imagine this: You spend a day in a typical American public school cruising from one classroom to another observing what teachers do. Then you do the same in Finland. What would you expect to see? Many things would probably look similar. But, without a doubt, you would notice one big difference: Teachers in Finland would be much less concerned…

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Myth of the Myth about Standardized Testing in the U.S.

“Education myth: American students are over-tested,” says the title in the Hechinger Report on 7 December 2015. That story covers the frustration of OECD’s education chief Andreas Schleicher after he attended recent education summit held at the White House. Schleicher concluded that the United States is not a country of heavy testing and that standardized testing is not the bottleneck for improvement. Wait a minute. So,…

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Britain should be wary of borrowing education ideas from abroad

Posted in The Guardian, 27 April 2015 Policymakers need to be careful of myths about foreign education systems, such as Finland’s, and what has made them successful arliamentary elections in Finland this month passed without parties making any references to education. In the UK general election, education is at least on the agenda for the two main parties. One of them, Labour, has recently been courting the idea of adopting…

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What makes United States and Finland so great?

Conversation with Howard Gardner - Published in The Huffington Post on April 2, 2015 "American scholars and their writings, like Howard Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences, have been influential in building the much-admired school system in Finland." -- Pasi Sahlberg A little over 4 decades ago, Finland transformed its education system as part of the country's economic recovery plan. Finnish students had become the best…

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Finland’s school reforms won’t scrap subjects altogether

Published in The Conversation, 25 March 2015 Finland’s plans to replace the teaching of classic school subjects such as history or English with broader, cross-cutting “topics” as part of a major education reform have been getting global attention, thanks to an article in The Independent, one of the UK’s trusted newspapers. Stay calm: despite the reforms, Finnish schools will continue to teach mathematics, history, arts,…

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Q: What makes Finnish teachers so special? A: It’s not brains

Published in The Guardian, March 31, 2015 David Cameron argues we need to train the smartest to teach. But Finnish universities select only 10% of applicants – and not the cleverest When my niece was finishing school in Finland, more than anything else she wanted to become a primary teacher. Despite her genuine interest in teaching she failed to get into a teacher education programme at the University of Helsinki. She was…

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The Leaning Tower of PISA

with Andy Hargreaves - Published in Washington Post on March 24, 2015 What if three-quarters of American school students voluntarily attended daily after-school classes to boost their knowledge of mathematics, literacy, and science? On top of that, imagine if American students were to spend more than two hours a day on homework related to these subjects. This is what their peers do in envied Shanghai, Singapore and South Korea.…

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Teach For Finland? Why it won’t happen

If you ask anyone why kids do better in school in Finland than other countries, you will probably hear one answer more often anything else: They have great teachers. It is true that Finnish teachers are well prepared, widely respected and commonly trusted professionals. But are education systems successful just because of great teachers? Many would emphatically say “yes.” I would say, however, “not so fast!” Many of us…

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Evaluate education reforms today to avoid mistakes being repeated for our grandchildren

For most governments, it’s their platform of education reforms that is politically one of the hardest programmes to push through. Yet push it through they do, in what has become a constant effort by politicians to keep reforming the structure and content of education systems to keep up with a fast and unpredictably changing world. Now a new report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, looking at the…

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