We could learn a lot from Finnish schools

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Anyway . . . the Finns do not believe their education system can be readily adopted by other nations because their schools are woven into the fabric of Finnish culture. Finns are decidedly egalitarian, particularly in providing for children, according to Sandy’s paper. That’s why the Finnish government provides every child with day care and pre-school when they’re young, meals at school and a college education for those who qualify. Finnish children eat well and wear nice clothes (to me, they all look like they belong in an L.L. Bean ad), and their parents needn’t worry about paying for college.

“There is a near absence of poverty” in Finland, Julie Walker, a board member of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, said in a recent Scholastic Administrator magazine article on Finnish schools. “Finland is #1!”

According to the United Nations, Finland is among the most “equal” countries on the planet. The U.S. and Great Britain, by contrast, are the least. In the U.S., wealthy children attend elite private schools, which are entry points to elite private colleges and universities. Finland, on the other hand, has no private schools, according to “What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland’s School Success,” published in The Atlantic in December 2011.

Scholastic Administrator cited two other key reasons that Finns succeed on international standardized tests. One, third-language acquisition is a cornerstone of Finnish education. Yes, third language. In Finland, all children must learn Finnish and Swedish –– plus English, French or German.

Contrast that policy with the U.S.’s approach to second-language acquisition. Besides art and music, what’s the first program to go in a budget crunch? Foreign language.

Acquisition of a second or third language, however, helps wire young brains in profound and marvelous ways. It gets children thinking differently and requires rigorous discipline and attention to detail –– all of which helps them become academicians.
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