Pasi Sahlberg Blog

Finnish education reform

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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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   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 some others but certainly…

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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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