Saturday, March 13, 2010

Lots of responses to the article about Finland that was in my last email

Here's Sara Mead:


Since you're curious about Finland: I organized a group of journalists to go to Finland and learn about their education system a little bit over a year ago--thought you might be interested in some of the things they wrote about it.


This piece by Dana Goldstein tackles some of the questions you raise:


Matt Yglesias wrote a whole bunch of blog posts basically dedicated to explaining the details of things we learned about over there (scroll down to the bottom and read up):


And Kevin Carey wrote this:


My general sense is that the Finnish system doesn't really provide a proof point for either camp in the reform debate. There is a very strong egalitarian/anti-competitive strand in Finnish culture and education that makes a lot of the things reformers push for here anathema to them (for instance, they are adamantly opposed to any kind of ranking, to the extent that they do not publicly publish school test results). So it's definitely not the case that Finland succeeds because it's doing things reformers push for here. But Finland also does some things that look familiar to reformers: Highly selective admission to the teaching profession, strong national curriculum. And they've built a system and culture in which adults are motivated to do the right thing by kids, and getting good results. To my mind, it really illustrates the path dependence here: Finland's education system has developed in a way that puts it at a different equilibrium than ours--they have highly competent, professional adults committed to achieving excellence, so they can give the schools more flexibility and take a very light hand in accountability. But our system has developed differently in the context of a different national culture, and we can't just flip a switch to make it like Finland's, or import elements of the Finnish approach in isolation. So we need to talk about things like choice, accountability, and changing some elements of the teaching profession as mechanisms for changing adult incentives/behavior to get to a more Finland-like experience and results for kids.

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