How Finland Really Can Help Us Improve Our Education System

Ian Taylor's picture
How Finland Really Can Help Us Improve Our Education System

A lot of Mr Gove’s education policy seems to come from examples of education systems in other countries. These examples are chosen because their school systems are producing better “results” than ours. Finland receives hundreds of visits a year from the world’s educationalists, who are all trying to find the secret of Finland’s educational success.

This article by Anu Partanen, a Finnish journalist based in New York City, gives an insight into the causes of Finland’s educational success. She believes that Americans do not want to hear the real reasons for Finland’s success. I guess Mr Gove would be equally resistant.

The vision behind Finland’s education system is miles away from that of Michael Gove’s. In fact it is in exactly the opposite direction.

Perhaps someone in the Labour Party could read this article. It might be the start of a new education policy for this country that really could improve the system for everyone: not holding my breath though.
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Mr Chas's picture
Fri, 30/12/2011 - 19:34

I doubt you should hold you breath. either. As I have just written on another thread here, even when Labour had a massive majority it did nothing to move towards a Finnish model of education, in fact it did quite the converse....

Allan Beavis's picture
Sat, 31/12/2011 - 08:28

What "converse" are you referring to? Labour's education policy did not fully address the inequalities in the system but they made attempts at cohesion. Even BSF was implemented to make a difference to the majority of schools. The coalition's policies - not just the education ones - are tearing open a huge chasm between those that have a lot and those that have very little and it is the latter that the Tories are pushing deep down into the depths.

There is no arguing that poverty is a major contribution to low attainment in school. What Finland did was to tackle the economic inequalities of society whilst restructuring the way they educate their children. But Scandinavian countries - capitalist and egalitarian - are committed to equal rights for everyone. The Tories are committed only to lining the pockets of their own, propping up social hierarchies, encouraging selfish greed and silencing opposition.

Leonard James's picture
Sat, 31/12/2011 - 00:32

It sounds great but it'll take more than a change in will from the government.

Leonard James's picture
Sat, 31/12/2011 - 10:38

Do you have any evidence at all that social inequality decreased under Labour?

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 31/12/2011 - 13:47

OECD found that the best-performing educational systems tended to be those that were the most equitable. One of these equitable systems was Finland. OECD found that the Finnish education system was based on a political consensus that all children should be educated together in a common school system which serves all students equally well regardless of background. OECD concluded that "the single most important education policy decision taken [in Finland]... was to create a common, untracked comprehensive school system that would serve students from all walks of life." However, OECD conceded that a comprehensive system was no absolute guarantee of improvement. Rather, it was the "steady, thoughtful way" in which the comprehensive structure was implemented that was mostly responsible together with professional accountability based on fundamental trust between educators and the community.,3746,en_2649_201185_46623628_1_1_1_1,0...

Discussing social inequality and whether or not it decreased under Labour risks moving the discussion away from Finland. Readers who wish to keep focussed on lessons that could be learned from Finland need read no further, but the latest ONS data is here for those interested:

The Office of National Statistics (ONS), Social trends 41, says that in 2008/9, 18% of UK individuals lived in a household with income below the low income threshold. This proportion was similar to that recorded in 1987. However, between 1998/99 and 2008/09 the proportion of children and pensions in low income households has decreased, from 26% to 22%, and from 27% to 20% respectively.

From the ONS data, we can see that the number of individuals living in low income households has not changed since 1987, although the number of pensioners and children living in low income households has fallen. The ONS offers no explanation for this – it just presents the data.

Social trends 41 (Income and Wealth) can be downloaded from:

Tom Arnold's picture
Thu, 05/01/2012 - 14:08

I think Finland model will help only if the political system has the heart to change.

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