Ever wondered how Finland managed to build its highly regarded school system? Look behind the headlines and find out.
Finnish Lessons is a firsthand, comprehensive account of how Finland built a world-class education system over the past three decades. The author traces the evolution of education policies in Finland and highlights how they differ from those in the United States and other industrialized countries. Rather than relying on competition, school choice, and external testing of students, education reforms in Finland focus on professionalizing teachers’ work, developing instructional leadership in schools, and enhancing trust in teachers and schools. This book details the complexity of educational change and encourages educators and policy makers to develop effective solutions for their own districts and schools.
Pasi Sahlberg recounts the history of Finnish educational reform as only a well-traveled insider can, offering the insight and facts necessary for others to constructively participate in improving their schools—even in a tightening economy.
Pasi Sahlberg is director general of the Centre for International Mobility at the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture in Helsinki. He is an expert in educational reform, training teachers, coaching schools, and advising policy makers. He has worked in Finland as a teacher, teacher educator, policy advisor, and director and served the World Bank and the European Commission as an education expert. He has a PhD from the University of Jyväskylä and is adjunct professor at the Universities of Helsinki and Oulu.
©2011 Teachers College, Columbia University (P)2011 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
"The story of Finland’s extraordinary educational reforms is one that should inform policymakers and educators around the world. No one tells this story more clearly and engagingly than Pasi Sahlberg. This book is a must-read." (Linda Darling-Hammond, Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education at the Stanford University School of Education)
"This book is a wake-up call for the United States. Finland went from mediocre academic results to one of the top performers in the world. And they did it with unions, minimal testing, national collaboration, and elevating teaching to a high-status calling. This is the antidote to the NCLB paralysis." (Henry M. Levin, William H. Kilpatrick Professor of Economics and Education, Teachers College, Columbia University)
"A terrific synthesis by a native Finn, a teacher, a researcher, and a policy analyst all rolled up into one excellent writer. Pasi Sahlberg teaches us a great deal about what we need to know before engaging in national educational reforms." (David Berliner, Regents Professor of Education, Arizona State University)
I'm not sure who this book is for. It doesn't seem to be for educators or instructional designers, and it is too vague for much use in policy considerations. Perhaps education boards could glean some insight from it on how to treat teachers.
The Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman
While I am not a huge fan of the narrator's performance , the performance is sufficient such that I would listen to another book narrated by him if the topic was of interest.
I was disappointed by the lack of meat in the book. I understand that large systems can be difficult to understand, but despite the book's title, there aren't really any lessons here with one important exception. Thus either:
a) the author doesn't have a clear understanding of the aspects that make Finnish education so remarkable (correlation is not the same thing as causation)
b) the author doesn't communicate those reasons well, or
c) the reasons behind Finnish success in education aren't well-understood in general.
I haven't done a lot of extra research on the topic, but I get the feeling that the last reason is the correct one. That's no fault of the author, but it does mean the book should have a different title. One thing that is fairly clear is that a cultural expectation that teachers should perform at their best as professionals and be masters of their discipline most likely makes a major impact on the quality of education.
Pasi Sahlberg does a great job telling the story of how Finland went from the so-so quality category to the world's most admired public school system. Although high teacher quality is the bedrock, there are many cultural characteristics that woven together, encourage learning. Nonetheless, there are lessons we all can learn here. The text is a bit burdened with policy speak...talking about reforms and outcomes, rather than using more action oriented words like change and results.
Great insight into the Finnish education system. This book seems to give a better idea of what not to do than what to do as admitted by the author.
Systemic aproach to education
Clear voice and tone for the book
No, very interesting but too much data. It's a book that you want to read slow to think about it...
"Finnish Lessons, tthe starting point"
This is a must audio book for any teacher in any country. It is impossible to get it all fully understood in one session. This audio book must be listened to again and again
Re-enforces my own beliefs and pedagogy
An Amercian (or is that I'm a Rican) accent as I do not have an american accent in my head.
Pasi Sahlberg has put together a not uncritical account of Education, the Finnish way a comprehensive education, but made to work.
As a teacher, it is great to hear how problems in schools are solved collectively by practitioners in a collegiate way. The amazing thing is that the strategies used successfully in the Finnish way are the those established by research elsewhere in the world to be the best. Not that Finland waited for Hattie to tell them what to do, they worked it out for themselves!
Amazingly, students in school in Finland take national exams only at the end of their formal studies, other exams are decided at the local level and assessed by the students' own teachers. Can you imagine how much time that would save?
My kids are 10 and will spend much of next year, their last year of primary education, on SATs preparation. SATs do indicate how well pupils have learnt some things, but, more than that, they provide a short-cut for OFSTED to judge their school, prior to inspection. If their schools are good, my kids would learn more by carrying on their normal studies, surely?
As a teacher of 14-18 year olds my students, just like all the others, now take their exams just in the Summer. GCSEs, only at the end of Y11 (5th form), before 2012 they could take exams in Y10, retake them in Nov or Jan in Y11. Exams are a distraction from learning, external exams more so. Preparation for exams is very different from learning new things.
As Finnish schools don't have these two assessments, their pupils don't lose the 12 weeks productive instruction in Y6, and the 12 weeks in Y11s are absorbed by study leave, untaught time (after the exams) and exam prep (including Y11 mock study leave in many schools). At first it doesn't seem much, but that's 24 out of 40 school weeks lost. What impact would those weeks have? Perhaps the sort of improvement to learning that Formative Assessment or effective homework at secondary level might have (according to the meta-analyses collated by John Hattie).
I was fascinated with the approach to underachievement, which is to treat the pupils underachievement as a "special educational need". You help people who struggle with maths for foreign languages by supporting them until they meet the required level. Pupils cannot easily choose to opt out of French. So many children have this support at some stage in their school life that their is no stigma in it. Can you imagine what an impact this would have on achievement?
Clearly there are resource requirements it we did some of these things here, but the interesting thing is that the Education system in Finland costs less per capita So cut the bureaucracy, OFSTED, CfBT etc. pseudo training, test less frequently (yes it costs less), and have one national testing body, with each child doing a subject do the same test.
The big message from Finnish Lessons, is that education policy makers need to be teachers. That teachers in schools must do research into what works with their community. That teachers must assess the impact of what they do, and have more time to plan their teaching and assessments.
"Many a lesson for the UK"
At a time of increasing focus on the education system in the United Kingdom, Pasi Sahlberg brings us 'Finnish Lessons' - a detailed analysis of the turn around of the education system of this small scandinavian country that over the last twenty years has gone from under performing state system to oneof the world's high performing juristications. Finland's tale is notable as many of the changes undertaken by this small European nation seem to fly in the face of current UK policy. The timing is perfect - as the UK education system is undergoing radical reform more professional voices should cite the work of Sahlberg and others in forming a truly innovative direction for English schools. Whilst Finland may seem remote to many, the changes undergone can be a lesson to us all.
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