Pasi Sahlberg Blog

Finnish education reform

Small Data for Big Change: What does it mean for teachers?

You know “big data”—petabytes of digital information, smart machines calculating with algorithms what’s likely to happen next. That’s how global financial markets are run today. Personalized advertisements pop up on your smartphone screen based on data from your web browsing history, or millions of others like you. Even in professional basketball, coaches set their game plans based on millions of data items caught by…

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How we teach our children: The methods and myths behind Finland’s education success

Published in The Irish Examiner, Wednesday, June 07, 2017 IMAGINE reading this story in the year 2000. News about shining educational innovation included how literacy and numeracy strategies had caused steady rises of student test scores in England, how free schools had vitalised education markets in Sweden, and how higher external expectations for all children promised closing the achievement gap between those who have and those…

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Big Data or Small Data: What’s the key to unlocking learning opportunities?

Some say that schools don’t change. Many things may have remained the same but one thing is new: data. Today the walls of principals’ offices display performance results and data walls in teachers’ lounges highlight whether students have accomplished their learning targets. Data has become hot currency in school reforms. For some, making performance data visible promotes accountability and evidence-based practice. For others,…

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Why Finland Isn’t Overly Concerned By Declines in Student Test Scores

Interview in World Politics Review, 15-3-2017 Last year, schools across Finland began implementing the country’s new National Curriculum Framework, which was first approved in 2014. Though the country, long praised for its school system, has seen test scores decline in recent years, the reforms show the Finnish government is more focused on other problems. In an email interview, Finnish educator, author and policy adviser Pasi…

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Interview with Washington Post: What has happened to Finland’s schools?

By Joe Helm, Washington Post, Dec 8,2016 What has happened to Finland’s schools? That’s a question educators around the globe are asking in the wake of the latest results of an ongoing study that measures academic achievement in 73 countries. For much of the 21st century, Finland has been one of the very top performers in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), an ongoing study administered every three years…

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Next Big Thing in Education: Small Data

By Pasi Sahlberg and Jonathan Hasak* Published in Washington Post, 9 May 2016 One thing that distinguishes schools in the U.S. from schools around the world is how data walls, which typically reflect standardized test results, decorate hallways and teacher lounges. Green, yellow, and red colors indicate levels of performance of students and classrooms. For serious reformers, this is the type of transparency that reveals more data…

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Why Students Need to Know How to Write an Op-Ed

By Pasi Sahlberg and Jonathan Hasak “Atticus told me to remove the adjectives and I’d have the facts.” – Harper Lee (To Kill A Mockingbird, 1960) Schools of education everywhere aim at preparing their graduates to change the world. The challenge, however, is that typical means of communicating reform knowledge are too slow and too weak to make an impact. Students may have knowledge about what to do, but they often don’t…

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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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