Very easy to read and enjoyable as well as some very useful information on Finland's educational system, it's history (extremely important) as well as very insightful graphs on Finland and it's comparison towards other countries' educational systems.
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159 de 166 personas piensan que la opinión es útil
A Must-Read for Anyone Concerned About the Misdirection of U.S. Education16 de noviembre de 2011
Concerned Mom of Two
- Publicado en Amazon.com
Formato: Tapa blanda
Pasi Sahlberg's book is a must-read for all concerned parents, educators, administrators, government officials, union leaders, policy-makers, scholars, and philanthropists who are alarmed that our current market-driven/competitive/punitive model isn't working in the U.S. and that a radical change of course is required. It's amazing that Sahlberg shares the Finnish roadmap with the world in what can only be described as an act of altruism. As a concerned mother of two whose children are now enrolled in public schools after five years of unaffordable private schooling, this book is a godsend. It is a relief to learn about the existence of a more effective, humane, equitable, and cost-effective approach to public school education. Sahlberg's book offers hope to those of us who yearn for a better and more thoughtful system for our children both in the U.S. and elsewhere.
Finland is consistently ranked as one of the top performing countries in the international test known as PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) that measures the knowledge and skills of 15-year olds in the subject areas of reading, math, and science. (In 2009, 65 developed countries participated in PISA.) According to Sahlberg, Finland has achieved this distinction since 2000 almost by accident and without intent. The driving force behind the redesign of the Finnish educational system in the 1980's and '90's was not to achieve high international test scores, but to provide an equitable education for all students.
It is astonishing to learn that Finnish teachers spend less hours per day teaching in classrooms than their U.S. counterparts. It seems counterintuitive to Americans and begs the question of how a country can achieve such outstanding results with less teaching? Sahlberg shares with us the national philosophy that permeates almost every aspect of Finnish society, including education: "Less is More." Finland has wisely chosen not to impose a standardized testing regime upon its schools (against the advice of some of its more conservative government officials and business leaders at the time its policies were being formulated). Without the need to devote precious time and resources to test preparation, Finnish teachers instead have freedom to spend school hours on something more useful: actual learning. Sahlberg describes how Finnish teachers are rarely found standing in front of classrooms lecturing students. Instead, they are found milling about - whether inside their classrooms, in the school kitchen for cooking class, or outside in the woods for a lesson that incorporates nature. In other words, hands-on, project-based learning is common in Finland. This approach to pedagogy engages children, while inspiring them to think creatively, become absorbed in thoughtful analysis, problem-solve, and work with others in a collaborative manner. (Preparation for the real world of work anyone??) Elementary school education does not begin until the age of seven. The school day is much shorter for children. Daily recess is mandatory. There is less homework. The Finns are strong believers in not stifling the joys of childhood and allow plenty of time for children to play outside of school where they believe most learning is done.
As a result of this Finnish climate of inspired learning, not only are there better academic results as objectively measured by PISA, students feel less stress and anxiety about school. Engaging students in this manner has resulted in a very low high school drop-out rate (less than 1%). This approach to education also results in a happier society. According to an array of international "happiness surveys" that Sahlberg cites, Finland is also ranked at or near the top. And, if you think that the Finnish Way couldn't get any better, Sahlberg claims that Finland spends less money per pupil than the U.S., while managing to pay its teachers slightly higher salaries.
Salhberg recounts how Finland decided to go its own way in educational reform by not following either the "Asian Model" (wherein test scores & college-graduation rates may be high, but students are reportedly overworked and as stressed-out as their U.S. counterparts) or the market-driven model of the U.S., Britain, and a host of other Western countries. You'll learn about the irony of while having rejected these alternatives (in what Sahlberg playfully describes as the "GERM" countries - Global Education Reform Movement), at the micro level, Finland has adopted many of the best pedagogical practices that are research-based from these same countries (e.g., U.S., Britain, Australia, Germany, etc.). Finally, it is noteworthy that Finland's progress has been achieved with a union that includes over 95% of its teachers.
What is the secret to Finland's success? It starts with the teaching profession. On average, Finland accepts only 10% of applicants into its teaching universities. Applicants must not only have strong academic records, they must also possess interpersonal skills that will enable them to teach well. Next, Finland's teaching students must complete a 5-7 year course of study, earning both undergraudate and master's degrees. Sahlberg explains how course requirements include those in an underlying substantive area (e.g., science, math, etc.), along with pedagogy, research, and student teaching. Once the newly minted teachers are placed into schools, they will be paid well (with no student loan debt since their university education is free), while also having autonomy to adapt a loose national curriculum into one that meets local needs. They are free to choose their own teaching methods as they see fit. In other words, Finland trusts that its teachers will teach well without outside interference or oversight. (Much as doctors are free to operate on patients without hospital administrators or policitians telling them how best to do their jobs.) Finnish teachers are given ample time each day to collaborate with their colleagues. Sahlberg points out that schools have specially designed spaces to make collaboration easier. Finally, Finnish teachers also attend continuing education classes throughout their careers in order to constantly learn and improve their teaching methods.
In the 1970's, Finland's educational system was considered to be mediocre. When it set its mind to change course, it was wise enough not to behave as a petulant child (behavior exhibited by many reformers and politicians in the U.S.) and expect that change would come overnight or in a couple of years. It was only through a societal desire for a new direction, well-thought out strategies, systemic changes to both the teaching profession and organization of schools, and implementation of research-based pedagogy, that Finland brought about dramatic change over the course of a few decades.
Had the U.S. listened to its own warnings as set forth during the Reagan era in the Department of Education's 1983 report, "A Nation at Risk," and implemented some of the common sense recommendations made then, perhaps we wouldn't find ourselves in the dismal spot that we now hold (and may have rendered the ideas behind No Child Left Behind as unnecessary). If you take anything away from reading Finnish Lessons it is this: Pasi Sahlberg argues that it is never too late to make the societal decisions that are necessary to turn around a country's (or a state's) educational system.
As we U.S. citizens sadly know, our country remains split both politically and ideologically, resulting in what seems to be never-ending government paralysis. It has been argued that the bipartisan consensus on education that existed in the past when the U.S. was considered a world leader in education, no longer does. Therefore, let us challenge any one of our 50 states to cut the purse strings from the federal government's education money (approx. 10% of state education budgets as noted by Sahlberg) and implement what's adaptable from the Finnish Way. If successful (which I would expect), over time other states would surely follow and perhaps even the federal government. In my opinion (and this is coming from a resident of Virginia), Vermont would be a perfect candidate to implement this kind of change because of its small size, its dedication to young children as evidenced by the many programs it already has in place for preschoolers to arrive at elementary school ready to learn, its tradition of independence, and its progressive and humanistic values. However, let's all think about this challenge and focus on our respective states (especially those not receiving Race to the Top funding from the Obama Administration). We have nothing to lose but a public education system that isn't working for everyone.
28 de 28 personas piensan que la opinión es útil
Wider lessons27 de noviembre de 2011
- Publicado en Amazon.com
Formato: Tapa blanda
Pasi Sahlberg has written a remarkable book showing how Finland established a high performing education system by adopting policies counter to that which came in across most Western education systems. He calls these the GERM - the Global Education Reform Movement. The features of the GERM are: standardizing teaching and learning with common criteria for measurement and data; increased focus on core subjects, particularly literacy and numeracy; teaching a prescribed curriculum; transfer of models of administration from the corporate world; high stakes accountability policies - control through testing, inspection, division between schools and an ethos of punishment (for educators).
Sahlberg shows how Finland took another route, yet which led to high performance, even by international comparators. Its success was achieved by the simple solution of framing the development of the system around dialogue based on professionalism, trust and responsibility. It fostered practice change through reflection over theories and models of education whilst other countries focused on performance management, standardized testing and inspection.
As so many education systems opted for public grading, `shaming and blaming' of schools and teachers (for what?), ratcheting up pressure, and a mantra of `excellence' proclaimed as a threat not an aim, Finland went another way looking for the conditions which promote success and set about involving school communities in the process. This book is an antidote to `Race to the Top' (USA) `Journey to Excellence' (Scotland) and `raising the bar to outstanding' (England) by a process which works by more humble means, yet would seem to work very well indeed. Read this book to find out how this success was achieved.
59 de 69 personas piensan que la opinión es útil
Intriguing, provocative but potentially misleading11 de abril de 2012
- Publicado en Amazon.com
Formato: Tapa blanda
Diane Ravitch's The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education powerfully argued that much of what passes for school reform costs a lot, accomplishes little and frequently exacerbates the weaknesses of education in the US. Therefore, when she praises a book for pointing education reformers in the right direction, it made sense to me to take a careful look. [New York Review of Books, March 22, 2012] On the surface the Finnish education miracle is startling. Sahlberg, a former teacher and an established education policy expert with both the Finnish Government and the OECD, argues that Finnish schools in three or four decades of focused, government inspired, equity driven, educator friendly education policy changes have moved from average to the top of international comparison charts. The Finns have done this while achieving demonstrably high levels of learning across all social groups and intellectual levels, with teachers and students spending dramatically less time in the classroom than other OECD countries and in particular the US, and without the widespread use of standardized tests. It is a remarkable accomplishment: No child has been left behind! Specifically, "Finland's response to improving learning of all students since the early 1970s has relied on four strategic principles: 1. Guarantee equal opportunity to good public education for all. 2. Strengthen professionalism of and trust in teachers. 3. Steer educational change through enriched information about the process of schooling and smart assessment policies. 4. Facilitate network-based school improvement collaboration between schools and non-governmental associations and groups." (Page 126) Sahlberg highlights a number of key features of education in Finland. The one that caught Ravitch's attention (and mine)was the fact that in Finland, teaching and teachers are highly respected and while in the US, the majority of teachers are not high academic achievers, in Finland the strong desire to enter teaching means that teachers are high academic achievers. For example, recently there were 6000 candidates for 600 positions in primary teacher education programs. Moreover from the beginning these prospective teachers receive, according to Sahlberg, a rigorous academic and practical education. Sahlberg also argues that in Finland, Teacher Unions are an essential and positive part of efforts to maintain and improve the education process. Curriculum decisions, especially at the comprehensive school level (7 to 16 years of age), are largely in the hands of the teachers in a school rather than some centralized body. Sahlberg's argument for the success of Finland's education system also highlights the fact that it is part of an explicit and continuing national policy to establish and maintain a democratic welfare state that ensures that the basic health and economic welfare needs of the population are provided to all. In Finland, according to UNICEF, only 3.4% of children are deemed to be in poverty compared to 21.7% in the United States and Sahlberg (and Ravitch) argues that this poverty disparity needs to be addressed as part of any effort to improve educational outcomes. I see no reason to doubt the educational successes of the Finnish education system. However, I do see Sahlberg as having a strong political agenda that leads to the downplaying of key factors that are distinguishing and potentially important contributors to the success of the Finnish education system. First, I believe he overstates the recent turnaround in the Finnish education system and downplays the long term successes of education in Finland. For example, Finland's 12th graders were already ranked 2nd in the 1981-82 International mathematics assessment (Table 364, NCES Digest of Educational Statistics 1990). I believe that this level of attainment was too soon after many of the dramatic changes in the Finnish education system for these changes to be the primary reason for the success of Finnish schools in mathematics. Second, Sahlberg pays little attention to the potential impact of the size of Finnish schools on educational processes and outcomes. While it is true there are no longer single classroom schools in Finland, their schools are dramatically smaller than US schools at each level. According to Statistics Finland (personal communication) the average size of the 2836 comprehensive schools covering 526556 students aged 7 to 16 is 186! By comparison in the US the average size of Elementary Schools (typically Grades 1 through 5) is 473 students, Middle Schools is 595 and High Schools is 752. Another way of looking at these numbers is that in Finland a student will be in a group of 20 or 21 students through the first 9 years of his or her education, while in the US they will be part of a group of between 90 and 200! The pedagogical consequences are likely very significant. It is not hard to see how, given the high caliber of teachers in Finland, that a student can expect considerably more individual attention over his or her first 9 years of education than could be reasonably expected in a typical US school. Third, Sahlberg pays little attention to the role of the principal in Finnish schools. The small size of these schools guarantees that building principals will have an enormous impact on the school climate, interactions with parents and the work environment for the 10 or so teachers in each of these schools and in the classroom since many Finnish principals are also classroom teachers. Finally, Sahlberg in strongly criticizing the recent massive emphasis on standardized testing in US schools downplays the role of matriculation exams on the overall curriculum and learning processes in Finnish schools. These Finnish exams are equivalent to A-levels in the UK or AP exams in US schools and are critical though not exclusive in getting into university, which are 100% publically funded. It would have been helpful to see what Finnish education research says about the role of these exams in shaping curriculum at the Upper Secondary Schools and throughout the system. In sum this is an intriguing, inspiring and provocative book. However, the reader needs to understand the full context of this Finnish education miracle and to carefully reflect on the issues confronting educators in the US that shaped the recent improvement strategies of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. One final note is that the cost of this 165 page paperback book is extraordinary: $35 list versus $17 for Diane Ravitch's book.
31 de 35 personas piensan que la opinión es útil
Finland; A Land of Trust, Love, and Applied Research14 de noviembre de 2011
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Formato: Tapa blanda
I've spent several years looking for information on the Finnish school system, and "Finnish Lessons" is exactly what I wanted; a clear, well-ordered book that describes the development of Finnish schools, the culture that allowed them to be developed, and the thinking behind each step. I've already lent this book to several friends with an interest in improving schools in the United States, and they've all been as excited and stunned as I have to learn about the interaction between educational research and humanity that forms the foundation of Finland's remarkable schools. I think there are many lessons to be taken from this book that, if taken to heart, can go a long way in improving the educational prospects of any nation.
11 de 11 personas piensan que la opinión es útil
Valuable perspectives but not the best read and overpriced19 de abril de 2012
- Publicado en Amazon.com
Formato: Tapa blanda
I read this book from the perspective of a non-mainstream educator; my background is graduate studies in physics in the US, minimal teaching of college-age students, and some experience tutoring 6th-12th graders.
The evidence presented by Sahlberg, as well as his descriptions of the Finnish educational system, are quite persuasive in convincing the reader that not only is our American educational system failing, but that there are more efficient and more effective alternatives out there. While our American system operates with the presuppositions that increased competition and increased pressure (i.e. stress/testing) will improve learning outcomes at lower costs, Sahlberg suggests that the exact opposite is true (which is demonstrated in his numerous histograms of international test results). One could summarize his evidence succinctly by inspecting a single graph of cost of education vs. outcomes comparing the different nations participating in international testing; The US puts far more money into their education and gets far less out of it than other nations, especially finland (which puts the least money in and gets the most student performance out).
Sahlberg doesn't prescribe how America could make the transition from a culture that discourages quality teaching to one like Finland that encourages quality teaching. However Finland's educational success comes from a holistic view of national economics and education (what he calls a "competitive welfare state") which developed over a long period of time, after conquest by neighboring countries (including communists) but eventually to the development of a national identity that includes a knowledge-based economy.
Some specifics of interest: -teachers in Finland teach about half as many hours as in America, but spend considerably more time collaborating with each other, improving their lesson plans, and interacting with parents and students outside of class; they are highly autonomous and there is no centralized control over their activities. They are viewed as top-notch professionals capable of leading their students to success based on their own best judgement. -students don't begin academic curricula until age 7, don't have any exams until about age 16, and spend much less time outside of school working on homework in comparison to American students -primary school has a focus on developing the whole person--health, mental wellness, and finally deciding on a career. Special education is incorporated within regular education and students aren't classified as special needs; 50% of students receive special attention for learning difficulties at some point. Mental health counselling is widely available, as is career counselling; students meet regularly with career counsellors. -Students are allowed to progress in their studies at more or less their own pace; grade level is viewed as secondary to mastery of subject matter and intellectual development. In this way students don't repeat grades, although some stay in lower-secondary school for longer than others.
I gave this book 4 stars because it is not the best read. I had trouble interpreting some of his minimalistic histograms and in general the book feels as if it were pasted together hastily from materials intended for a powerpoint presentation; many topics get repeated over and over again without adding new insight or evidence, perhaps so that one could start at any chapter without requiring to review any previous chapters. The book is overpriced at $30 US when it is a paperback in all black-and-white.