Pasi Sahlberg Blog

Finnish education reform

Finnish Lesson #4: What are the most pressing change issues today?

Global benchmarking of education systems has radically changed the geography of educational change in the world. Ten years ago, the epicenter of high educational performance and innovation was the Anglo-Saxon part of the world: United Kingdom, Australia, United States, New Zealand and Canada. Many of these countries then believed that their education system is among the best in world. Now several Asian countries and Finland are…

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On a Road to Nowhere

The popularity of international student assessments, especially the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), allows us to compare national education systems in ways that were not possible before. These comparisons are made by looking at the national averages of 15-year-old students’ standardized test scores in reading, mathematics and science. Many countries are increasingly obsessed by such rankings. These league…

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Please, Don’t Say We Are Irrelevant!

Many are fascinated by the fact that Finland has been able to transform its educational system from something elitist, unknown, and inefficient into a paragon of good learning, equity and efficiency. Foreign visitors have been particularly surprised to find out that Finland doesn’t employ any corporate-style education reforms or allow private money to pay for education of its children. Many wonder how teaching has become the…

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Letter to Next Education Minister

As a frequent visitor to your country and an admirer of its cultural richness, I was delighted to read of your recent appointment as minister of education. In your previous job, you often voiced your concerns about the state of your country’s education system. I have also read your writings where you call into question old ways of thinking about education and are highly critical of how education policy has been put into practice…

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Finnish Lesson #3: What can we learn from educational change in Finland?

Surprisingly, educational change in Finland has been studied more by foreigners than by the Finns themselves. Analysis by Andy Hargreaves, Dennis Shirley, Linda Darling-Hammond, Sam Abrams, Diane Ravitch, Tony Wagner and several international journalists have helped us to understand the nature of whole system reform in Finland. These scholars emphasize the importance of making the entire system work well, not just it’s ‘output…

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Finnish Lesson #2: Why “The Finnish Way” is grabbing attention in the world?

“The Finnish Way” of educational change is unique in many ways. Some observers in the United States confess that their current education reform policies are not only different from the Finnish ones but they are orthogonal to them. During the last decade, American schools have been steered by the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation and more recently by the Race to the Top (RTTT) program that both adopt similar logic of…

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Finnish Lessons #1: Where are the roots of Finland’s education success?

The roots of our current education system date back to the 1960s when it became clear that the country needed better-educated citizens if it wanted to catch up to its western neighbors in prosperity. The twin imperative for education reform was thus both social and economic. The welfare state ideal required that people have equal opportunities and access to basic services, such as education, health and employment. Economic imperative…

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