The Finland Phenomenon (2011): DVD about Finland’s educational system

I’ve been reading about Finnish education.

Finland does really well in international standardized testing. Some people say standardized testing is of relevance only to some extent, but that’s another story.

Anyway, a key thing about Finnish education is that the selection of teachers is highly rigorous. Teacher-training candidates need to have high marks but only a small percentage of candidates are accepted. The acceptance rate, according to one source that I’ve read, is about the same as for getting into MIT. As well, every teacher in Finland is required to get a master’s degree as part of preparation for teaching.

As is characteristic of Northern Europe, students don’t start school until age 7.

There is very little standardized testing in Finish schools, except in the very last stages. There’s a very concise national curriculum but aside from that teachers and schools determine how to proceed. There is very little homework. There’s a lot of focus on independent work, and learning situations that focus on development of skills related to innovation and entrepreneurship.

In Finland, the vocational path to employment is highly respected. Teachers are seen as having highly prestigious jobs. Education of young people is seen by everybody as a key focus for the entire nation. There’s a realization that brain power is a key resource for Finland, and warrants close attention. This orientation developed in the 1970s, as I recall from my reading, when there was a national project to figure out how to make Finland competitive in the world economy.

That scenario is in contrast to teacher-training in North America – and also, as I was interested to learn, in Norway. The selection process for teacher training in the latter jurisdictions tends to be less rigorous than for Finland. The scores on international standardized tests tend to be middling.

An excellent DVD about Finland’s approach to education is one entitled: The Finland Phenomenon (2011).

Outdoor learning

I very much like the focus on learning outdoors that is a characteristic feature of Northern European / Scandinavian eduction. That’s a focus in early childhood education in Ontario and elsewhere in the world these days. The connection with nature appears to be an important part of life in Finland also.

An Ontario Ministry of Education policy document (with a focus particularly on the early years) entitled How Does Learning Happen? speaks at length about the value of outdoor learning, and about the research that strongly supports it.


The DVD that I’ve mentioned speaks about how high-school projects typically bring in every possible subject area. The DVD was truly a revelation for me.

All kinds of thoughtful details have been attended to. By way of example, lessons are set up so that there are long periods of time, devoted to a particular learning activity. That’s because people have learned that otherwise so much time is wasted just putting things away, and going from one class to another.

An additional feature that really stands out is that the entire Finnish educational system is based on trust. People aren’t spending all day looking over other people’s shoulders – of students or of teachers. The attitude is that if trust is bestowed, people will work hard to live up to being highly trustworthy in all they do. The teachers work hard. The students work hard. Everybody benefits.


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