I want to provide a service to the students I teach, offering
them a multitude of learning opportunities in my classroom.
That stems from believing that they can succeed, despite our
society’s current emphasis on data collection and testing.
I believe that Finland is succeeding in providing quality
education to its children without the pressure of testing.
I want to instill some of those values in my classroom and
inspire others to do the same.
I want to be a champion to my students, by doing my part to
follow in the footsteps of educational leaders.
Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) is
Finland’s approach to schools and learning.
ECEC focuses on strong educational foundation early
on through interventions.
Heavy focus on quality of experience children
PROGRAM IN PRACTICE
Finland scorns almost all standardized testing before the age
ECEC discourages homework, which is seen as a violation of
children’s right to be children
Children start school at the age of 7
“The first six years are not about academic success. Its all
about finding your passion.” Pasi Sahlberg, Finnish educator.
Finland is going against the tide of “global educational reform
movement,” which is based on core subjects, competition,
standardization, test-based accountability, and control
PROGRAM IN PRACTICE
In the 1970s, Finland’s educational system was very similar to
that of the U.S.
Mediocre and inequitable
Highly variable teachers
Government Reboot/Economic Recovery Plan
ALL teachers must have a government paid-for Master’s Degree
96% of all teachers are unionized
Highly desirable and respected field, along with doctors and lawyers
Anderson, “From Finland, an Intriguing School-Reform Model” New York Times
HISTORY OF REFORM
In 2000, the first results of the Programme for International
Students Assessment (PISA) were published.
The assessment is a standardized test given to 15 year-olds in
more than 40 “global venues”.
Finnish youth were revealed to be the best young readers in
In 2003, the Finnish youth led the pack in math.
In 2006, Finland was in first science, out of 57 countries.
The world began to take notice of their educational reform
methods, especially the US, whose scores barely changed in
more than ten years.
Hancock. “Educating Americans for the 21 st Century.” 2011. Smithsonian.com
HISTORY OF REFORM
ECEC has identified five policy levers that can encourage
quality education among young students:
Policy Lever 1: Setting out quality goals and regulations.
Policy Lever 2: Designing and implementing curriculum and
Policy Lever 3: Improving qualifications, training and working
Policy Lever 4: Engaging families and communities.
Policy Lever 5: Advancing data collection, research and monitoring.
Finland has determined Policy Lever 3 their current policy
focus: improving qualifications, training and working
All of Finland’s 62,000 teachers will have a Master’s degree.
Well educated staff are better able to create more effective work
environments and increase efficiency.
Improved understanding of child development
Improved problem solving and leadership skills.
Strong lesson plans through collaboration.
Continued professional development opportunities throughout
“Quality Matters in Early Childhood Education and Care: Finland” OECD.com
Early education is about finding one’s passion, not about
academic data collection.
High regard for students’ well-being
Students are not tracked or ability grouped
Rejected the practice of holding back under-acheivers
School after 16 becomes vocational training.
Education is about preparing kids for life, “to serve as an
equalizing instrument for society.”
Children should be children and play
Finnish kids get 75 minutes of recess a day
Mandated arts and crafts during the school day
Indicator on child
Value for Finland Minimum Value Maximum Value
Fertility Rate 1.86 Korea (1.15) Israel (2.96)
formal care for the
28.6 Czech Republic
Enrollment rate at
46.1 Netherlands (0.05) France (100)
Enrollment rate at
62.6 Turkey (50.9) Australia, France,
PISA Reading score 536 Mexico (425) Korea (539)
PISA Math score 541 Mexico (418) Korea (546)
PISA Science score 554 Mexico (415) Finland (554)
High qualification requirements for ECEC teaching staff.
Professional development is mandatory for ECEC staff. The
costs for PD are split between government, employer and
Teacher to student ratio is the lowest documented in the
OCED, Organization of Economic Co-operation and
Development, listed countries; currently 34.
1:4 for zero to 3 year-olds
1:7 for older children
1:4 in family day care
“Quality Matters in Early Childhood Education and Care: Finland”
STRENGTHS OF THE PROGRAM
Finland is working against the norm by creating and
educational system that does not follow the global model of
standardized testing and data collection.
One cannot argue that their success is based on their size and
relative homogeneity: Norway, Finland’s neighbor has similar
statistics and rates near the US on PISAs scoring rubric.
Trying to replicate Finland’s education system here will not
work, due to the complex nature of education in general.
The idea is to understand that children are more than just data in a
system but parts of the whole society.
Understanding standardized testing has continuously failed to
improve the US’s test scores.
The US should put more emphasis on child centered learning.
Understanding children’s developmental needs.
Focus on arts and crafts and hands-on learning.
Removal of most standardized testing practices (i.e. “teaching to the
Understanding that our traditional methods have failed to
improve our education system.
There should be more emphasis on societal success rather
than academia and university enrollment after high school.
We, the US, can turn around our educational system and
create a successful environment that the world will take
Abrams, S. “The Children Must Play.” January 28, 2011.
Anderson, J. “From Finland, an Intriguing School-Reform Model.”
New York Times. December 12, 2011.
Hancock, L. “Why are Finland’s Schools so Successful?”
September 2011. smithsonian.com.
Taguma, M. “Quality Matters in Early Childhood Educationa and
Care: Finland. 2012. oecd.com.