Imagine this for a public education system:
-Delayed start in education (7 years old)
-A shorter school year
-Little or no standardized testing
-A new focus on the highest, not the lowest achievers
-Elementary and middle schoolers educated together
-Valuing teachers as professionals, not obstacles
-A tradition of avoiding political meddling
A disaster, right? This whole system is antithetical to Obama, Deval, and their private sector friends. It’s also widely regarded as the strongest national public ed. system on the planet. It’s Suomi…aka Finland.
I recommend this BBC article to summarize the key points of the Finnish success story for outsiders.
A few pull-quotes to get you started:
Finland’s schools score consistently at the top of world rankings, yet the pupils have the fewest number of class hours in the developed world…in previous PISA tests Finland also came out top.
Pupils are all kept in the same classroom, regardless of their ability in that particular subject…
“we have started a pilot project about how to support those pupils who are very gifted in certain areas.”…
Finnish children spend the fewest number of hours in the classroom in the developed world….pupils don’t have to change schools at age 13…
Children in Finland only start main school at age seven. The idea is that before then they learn best when they’re playing and by the time they finally get to school they are keen to start learning…
Teachers are highly valued and teaching standards are high.
Standardized tests? No national regime.
Indeed, I read a bemused commentary by a Finnish teacher about her students’ adjustment to the parade of international observers in her classroom.
I’m not trying to be unfair, here. It’s clear that there are many aspects of Finland that are irreplicable in our country. Finland is a rather homogeneous country, and struggles with a diversity achievement gap. Every system I’ve ever studied outside of Lake Wobegon deals with an achievement gap, no matter how hard the hustlers pretend this is an American problem. Finland has a strong tradition of literacy and education at home, different than the right’s promotion of ignorance. It also doesn’t blow a huge part of its budget on military (we’ve spent more federal dollars on “liberating” Afghanistan than on public education lately).
I’m not saying that all America has to do is import Finland’s system wholesale. That wouldn’t work. What I am saying, and will say repeatedly, is that when a bunch of private-school hothouse flowers are formulating public ed policy, they’d be served to examine what is actually happening on this planet, and not rely on their gut instinct and their rich friends to tell them what to do.