School Systems Around the World

It’s that time! The beginning of the academic school year!

Such a turn of the calendar makes one reflect upon what is “working” in schools and/or the field of education, globally, especially after the “end,” of sorts, of an international pandemic in which children were forced to take extensive periods of time AWAY from classrooms.  It is hard to know the “state” of education after this pandemic, until further studies are concluded, but we do know, in 2018, the proportion of children and youth out of primary and secondary school had declined from 26 per cent in 2000 to 19 per cent in 2010 and 17 per cent in 2018.  The world was on its way to higher quality education!

We also know which countries were excelling in reading in 2018, according to the prestigious Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) results – China, Estonia, Finland, Canada, Ireland, and Korea.  The United States was a trailing #13, and PISA indicated that our data results did not meet appropriate technical standards, so who really knows where we were at the time?  And, as we see, only one country in North America enjoyed top results – Canada.  Is global leadership shifting continents, we might ask?

A Finnish child is all smiles in the classroom!

Finland, we know, has scored in the top five for over 13 years, and has been showcased as a “model” educational system.  They do not have a homogeneous population, as some might criticize, but instead, in some of the country’s schools, more than half of the elementary-level students are immigrants—from Somalia, Iraq, Russia, Bangladesh, Estonia and Ethiopia, among other nations.

What are they doing right?

First, they emphasize the human aspect of teaching, not the statistics.  They have no mandated standardized testing.  There is no rankings of schools or competitive triteness.

Second, the teachers run the schools.  Not business people, not politicians.

Third, teachers are selected from the top 10% of high-school students and must earn a Master’s Degree in Education. They stand in the same social status as doctors and lawyers.

Fourth, Finnish schools value play and outdoor time.  Play is considered a component of learning.

Fifth, students are allowed to be children.  They do not begin school until the age of 7 and finish basic education at age 16, at which time they choose between university or apprenticeship training.  A full 93% of high school students graduate.

Sixth, teachers are encouraged to “find what works,” participating in cooperative teaching strategies.  They are provided assistants to help with students requiring additional help.

Seventh, Finnish educators are trained in the philosophies of America’s giant educators and theorists, such as Dewey.  These ingenious theories are not abandoned and ignored to benefit “money in education,” or corporate influence/interference.

Basically, all-in-all, Finland is preparing its students for life, not a standardized test.

How are we preparing US students for life in the 21st century, a century in which literacy levels will determine which countries stand strong as global economic super-powers?

Something to reflect upon as we start our schools “running” again.