26 Amazing Facts About Finland’s Unorthodox Education System – Adam Taylor, Businessweek

Not recent, but interesting. If you are thinking it’s just the demographic, look at the stats against Norway…

26 Amazing Facts About Finland’s Unorthodox Education System

Adam Taylor | Dec. 14, 2011, 9:00 PM | 1,379,202 | 65

Since it implemented huge education reforms 40 years ago, Finland’s school systemhas consistently come at the top for the international rankings for education systems

So how do they do it?

It’s simple — by going against the evaluation-driven, centralized model that much of the Western world uses.

Finnish children don’t start school until they are 7.

Finnish children don't start school until they are 7.

Elinag / Shutterstock.com

(Source: NYtimes)

They rarely take exams or do homework until they are well into their teens.

(Source: NYTimes)

The children are not measured at all for the first six years of their education.

There is only one mandatory standardized test in Finland, taken when children are 16.

There is only one mandatory standardized test in Finland, taken when children are 16.

Getty: Tony Lewis

(Source: Smithsonian)

All children, clever or not, are taught in the same classrooms.

All children, clever or not, are taught in the same classrooms.

(Source: Smithsonian)

Finland spends around 30 percent less per student than the United States.

Finland spends around 30 percent less per student than the United States.

(Source: Smithsonian)

30 percent of children receive extra help during their first nine years of school.

66 percent of students go to college.

The highest rate in Europe.

(Source: Smithsonian)

The difference between weakest and strongest students is the smallest in the World.

The difference between weakest and strongest students is the smallest in the World.

Getty: Tony Lewis

(Source: Smithsonian)

Science classes are capped at 16 students so that they may perform practical experiments every class.

(Source: TNR)

93 percent of Finns graduate from high school.

17.5 percent higher than the US.

(Source: Smithsonian)

43 percent of Finnish high-school students go to vocational schools.

Elementary school students get 75 minutes of recess a day in Finnish versus an average of 27 minutes in the US.

Elementary school students get 75 minutes of recess a day in Finnish versus an average of 27 minutes in the US.

AP

(Source: TNR)

Teachers only spend 4 hours a day in the classroom, and take 2 hours a week for “professional development”.

Finland has the same amount of teachers as New York City, but far fewer students.

600,000 students compared to 1.1 million in NYC.

(Source: NYTimes)

The school system is 100% state funded.

All teachers in Finland must have a masters degree, which is fully subsidized.

The national curriculum is only broad guidelines.

Teachers are selected from the top 10% of graduates.

(Source: Smithsonian)

In 2010, 6,600 applicants vied for 660 primary school training slots

The average starting salary for a Finnish teacher was $29,000 in 2008

Compared with $36,000 in the United States.

(Source: NYTimes)

However, high school teachers with 15 years of experience make 102 percent of what other college graduates make.

In the US, this figure is 62%.

(Source: TNR)

There is no merit pay for teachers

Teachers are given the same status as doctors and lawyers

(Source: Smithsonian)

In an international standardized measurement in 2001, Finnish children came top or very close to the top for science, reading and mathematics.

In an international standardized measurement in 2001, Finnish children came top or very close to the top for science, reading and mathematics.

katutaide on flickr

It’s consistently come top or very near every time since.

(Source: OECD/PISA)

And despite the differences between Finland and the US, it easily beats countries with a similar demographic

And despite the differences between Finland and the US, it easily beats countries with a similar demographic

Neighbor Norway, of a similar size and featuring a similar homogeneous culture, follows the same same strategies as the USA and achieves similar rankings in international studies.

(Source: Smithsonian)

Tags: EuropeFeaturesFinlandEducationSchoolsReformsTeachers |Get Alerts for these topics »

 is International Editor at Business Insider

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ataylor@businessinsider.com

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The Water Cooler
65 Comments

Comment kicked to The Bleachers.

Alecaldi on Dec 14, 9:34 PM said:

Envy: I have it.

DI on Dec 15, 2:25 AM said:

@Alecaldi:

What a bunch of crap. :/
As a Fin with 18 years in the school system, now M.Sc Tech, I can’t recognize most of the stuff.
And to remind you, there is no High school in any Scandinavian countries. It’s more like a pre-college for 3 years if you choose to go academic.

Popo on Dec 15, 9:14 AM said:

@DI:

This article explains why there have been so many Nobel prizes per capita in Finland, and why Finnish technology companies like Nokia are currently destroying the competition, and why Finland leads the pack on biotech.

Oh… wait…

Comment flagged as offensive.

Ray on Dec 15, 10:07 AM said:

@Alecaldi:

All this and all they have is Nokia and even that is going down the tubes. Analyze why the system with all there student Einsteins is stuck in the mud and doesn’t create economically as much as US ??
Comment flagged as offensive.

Showing first 5 of 13 replies. View All

jdam! on Dec 14, 9:53 PM said:

it makes no sense. in the fiinish formula of successful education system, i think there must be a incentive to motivate teachers to teach. but what motivates these finish teachers? (is it their reputation?)

RightLies on Dec 14, 10:09 PM said:

@jdam!:

You missed the part that with 15 years experience they make twice the college education salary. I.e. they make doctor/lawyer salaries. That’s why they draft from the top 10% plus Master’s degrees.

The logic is hire the best and pay them according and students will need less class time. net effect is better education at lower costs.

snedly on Dec 14, 10:11 PM said:

@jdam!:

Ever notice in the USA that our education problems started about the time we invented pre schools. Then we went to pre pre schools. Now we have some idiots who believe we need to get 2 year olds into classes. Exceptionally small numbers of kids thrive on this while the rest suffer emotionally. Studies have shown that in later years that kids sent to early education tend to have behavioral problems. Studies have also shown that any advantage gained by early schooling is long gone by the time kids are 7. This is another example of our education industry and it’s ignorant supporters living in a fantasy world where quantity equals quality. In the meantime we are sacrificing our kids and their long term mental health to a failed “religion”. A religion based on those “superior ” educators wanting to control our lives along with a profit motive.

joe poncakia on Dec 14, 11:45 PM said:

@RightLies:

“However, high school teachers with 15 years of experience make 102 percent of what other college graduates make.”

I read that to mean they make 2% more than other college grads. 200% would be twice as much. Whoever wrote these captions needs to double check their work. I found numerous mistakes.

Pekka on Dec 15, 4:41 AM said:

@jamesxxxx:

You do understand that the article is about Finland?

Ted on Dec 15, 5:25 AM said:

@RightLies:

You misread that. Finnish teachers make 102% of what other college graduates make who are 15 years into their respective careers, while in the US, teachers make 62% of what other college graduates make who are 15 years into their respecitve careers.

Americans can’t even comprehend their own language; no wonder everyone else is kicking our asses on standardized tests.

Showing first 5 of 15 replies. View All

Teachers are selected from the top 10% of graduates. onDec 14, 10:14 PM said:

uhhhh, so what happens to the other 90% of teaching graduates?

not convinced on Dec 14, 10:32 PM said:

not convinced that that system is better.

do they lead in science, or technology?

ODC on Dec 14, 11:59 PM said:

@not convinced:

OMG, did our US education system fail yet another person

It says right there in 26 :
In an international standardized measurement in 2001, Finnish children came top or very close to the top for science, reading and mathematics. It’s consistently come top or very near every time since. Go check out any of those international test and studies, they do come out on top (besides asia)

Hah on Dec 15, 2:00 AM said:

@jamesxxxx:

Then why isn’t it?

Some models are scalable.

And the finnish model has never been viewed by anyone as exceptional

Ted on Dec 15, 5:37 AM said:

@jamesxxxx:

This is all such crap. Compare Finnish universities with our universities. Also, the article states the first compulsory standardized tests are taken when a Finnish student turns 16. But guess what? As a Finnish poster above has stated, by 16, those who are in pre-university are the ones who have been pre-selected for doing well in academics. Meaning, the kids who bring down the score in Finland, never take the tests at 16. Instead, they go to vocational school. In the US, ALL kids take the global standardized tests, and therefore the scores as a whole will be much lower. Have the American students who are in the top 10% of their class take the test, and see what results you get.

jasno on Dec 14, 10:33 PM said:

my USA 1st grader has about 30 minutes of homework each night. They burn the curiosity right out of the kids from day 1.

Ted on Dec 15, 5:32 AM said:

@KCRob:

So moron, what are the demographics of Norway, which as stated in the article, doesn’t do well as Finland and in fact, ranks with the US on those national tests?

Some of you white people really make our “race” look especially bad.

Bernardo Trejos (URL) on Dec 15, 6:10 AM said:

It should read “The differences between weakest and strongest students are the smallest in the world”

Buzz Gross on Dec 15, 6:41 AM said:

No mention of genetics. Nature versus nurture. I’m sure Adam Taylor will lose his job if he says anything that anyone would find offensive or “racist”.

mad scientist on Dec 15, 7:16 AM said:

Wait..let me guess that the biggest difference is that (1) their teachers do not belong to a union and (2) actually care about their students and their profession!

Bergamon on Dec 15, 9:27 AM said:

@mad scientist:

Of course the teachers belong to a union. Almost everyone in Finland does, at least those who have tenure. There have even been some strikes because of recent cutbacks in the education budget. So, yes, they care enough about their profession to unite in order to protect the quality of their work, and their salary

dargoola on Dec 15, 7:53 AM said:

Here in the US we believe that lack of flogging is at the root of the educational deficit. That goes both for teachers as well as students. More flogging = better results. And cheaper too!

Here’s Johnny on Dec 15, 8:16 AM said:

They also do not have a significant portion of student leeching in from borders, living off the government dole and seeing not reason to reach for more. Nor do they have to teach Finnish as a second language to any of their students

democraticsocialist on Dec 15, 9:30 AM said:

@Here’s Johnny:

Right, that’s why the US education system does work, it just has to deal with more problems. So stop blaming the unions!!!

Here’s Johnny on Dec 15, 9:57 AM said:

@democraticsocialist:

It works? For some certainly not for all. And while I did not mention unions, thanks for bringing that up. Guess where the schools fail the most? In urban areas where union leadership has put their members interests ahead of those of the students. That said, the student and their single head of household lifestyle of living (primarily off the government) doesn’t really send kids who are ready to learn to school.

democraticsocialist on Dec 15, 1:19 PM said:

@Here’s Johnny:

So it doesn’t work? That’s what i’m talking about, the finnish one is better.
Comment flagged as offensive.

MHRobson on Dec 15, 11:47 AM said:

I think that most of those ideas would work here in the States, except for the Federal government funding part. Each state should retain control of their own educational systems, subdivided into districts like we do now and only be required to operate within loose guidelines, just as Finland does. That way parents can use the power of the market to force failing districts to change. As far as the Fed. Gov. is concerned, keep them out as much as possible, especially with regard to funding! Sending money to Washington first, and then shipping it back to the state where it originated will only ensure a substantial amount of skimming to pay for bureaucrats.

Mojoron on Dec 15, 3:37 PM said:

The problem with the US system is that we have stupid parents.

hansus on Dec 16, 4:28 AM said:

Finland is most European contry where is innovation very high level
You can see every place.
schools, offices econimics, political.
I bean there twice It ´s wonderland, safety.
and mobilephones network and games in mobile, working best all on he world.

Dracul on Dec 16, 2:46 PM said:

@sk3ptic: Funny you should mention Japan. My son teaches English there, went to high school in NJ, University in Vancouver and his girlfriend is Finnish. So he has experience with all 4 systems. They are vastly different.

In Japan, students must perform academically in middle school and apply to, and be accepted into the high school of their choice. It is very competitive. In addition, many of the housekeeping tasks in the schools are performed by the students including cleaning the bathrooms. Even the teachers allot time for cleaning the school on periodic intervals. They don’t have janitors.

His Finnish girlfriend speaks Finnish, Swedish, French, perfected English in her senior HS year spent in Australia and is finishing her 4th year of Mandarin at UBC.

We have a lot to learn from these countries because they’re obviously doing something correct.

how much of this did her government pay for and how much did the family get to save with finland haveing a basic healthcare single payer system? She is a shining star that is to be said and the boy isnt so bad but where are they when compared to the average in each country?

Blurayps3 (URL) on Dec 17, 7:07 AM said:

Even if you do, what do you propose should happen to the students who would go uneducated in your ideal world?

poro007 on Dec 26, 4:56 AM said:

Where are these so-called “facts” been taken from? Several of them are simply not true! Finnish teachers are not selected from the top 10% of graduates. All pupils take exams and have homework. All children are certainly not taught in the same classrooms. And what in the world is this “mandatory standardized test which is taken when children are 16”?! I’ve never heard of it and I work as a teacher in Finland. And excuse me…according to these “facts” I only spend four hours per day in the classroom?! That is so not true!

This article is just unbelievable propaganda and it would be very interesting to know who fed you all this rubbish.

Comment flagged as offensive.

Nerdygirl1177 on Dec 30, 11:46 PM said:

I went through the Finnish education system so I can correct a few “facts”.

1. We start to get homework since the first grade. Of course not that much in the beginning, but there definitely is homework.
2. We definitely are measured since grade one at school.
3. The standardized exam during the last year of high school is done usually the year we turn 19. We have exams in one subject per one day. For example, I wrote English in my matriculation exams, and it took 6 hours. Then I did four other subjects in five days (the Finnish exam took two days).
4. All kids are taught in the same classroom except when a kid is having difficulties with learning, and then he/she can go to a special teacher’s little class to be taught.
5. Teachers spend way more than 4 hours a day in a classroom, except maybe when his/her class is the first or second grade and their days are shorter. But I remember being 10 and had 7-8 hour days and my teacher was there all the time.
6. Although teachers are highly regarded, they are not regarded as highly as doctors and lawyers. Especially if you teach Swedish in Junior High School.

Melva Plotzker on Jan 2, 11:50 PM said:

The stats are actually astonishing, the stakes are typically massive, it truly is difficult to talk about and even more difficult to do something about it. Technologies, guidance, communicating… each of them compete with human nature. And each circumstance is unique.

Marilee Geller on Jan 2, 11:54 PM said:

The facts are really shocking, the stakes unquestionably are massive, it truly is tough to speak about and even more challenging to do something about it. Technology, therapy, communication… all of them compete with human nature. Plus each and every scenario is unique.

Marcia Scow on Jan 5, 11:56 AM said:

The facts are shocking, the stakes tend to be substantial, it truly is difficult to speak about and even more difficult to do something about it. Technology, counseling, communication… all of them compete with human nature. And each and every circumstance is different.

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