Ahh, I knew you would. That’s why I wrote such an enticing title.
All I need from you is a few minutes of your time.
The secret is actually quite simple. It’s actually so simple that I’m surprised it’s still a secret at all.
Finnish education can be broken down into five or six easily digestible understandings.
The entire educational system of a country with 5.5 million people can be explained away by a handful of principles.
Yes, I said it: “Explained away.”
I’ll quote a few experts in the field, tickle your eyes with several glossy photos of cheerful Finns, and you’ll be your merry way, enlightened by me.
Yeah, it’s that simple.. Finnish education is nothing more than a simple formula. Really.
News articles about Finnish education always whisper to me. Sometimes their words sound like the italicized ones above. Almost all of them pull me in with flashy titles, like the one I read earlier this week:
"Human Capital: The Formula That Makes Finland's Schools So Good"
I won’t even go into the content of the article. Let’s just pause to consider the second part of the title:
The Formula That Makes Finland's Schools So Good.
The Finnish Embassy shared this article on Twitter and I gave them some feedback.
A few days later, I came across another article:
"Foreign Intervention: 6 practices you can steal from top-scoring countries Finland and South Korea"
In the article, the writer quotes the CEO of a major American educational organization (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development):
"In Finland, you see parents all day, in and out of the schools," says Gene Carter.
Huh? This is not what I see at my school. Students (as young as first graders) walk themselves to their classrooms in the morning. When they're dismissed for the day, they stream into the hallways and leave the school grounds on their own. Their parents are nowhere to be seen.
To say it another way, I’ve only seen one parent from my class since the first day of school.
Hanna, a Finnish teacher, also read the article and agreed:
Yes, we all agree that Finnish education has been successful, but I’m still scratching my head about the reasons. Now that I’m here in Finland, teaching and observing at a Helsinki public school, I’m beholding its complexities first hand.
Understanding Finnish education is less like the process of nailing down a simple formula and more like the art of crafting a beautiful mosaic, rich in colors and intricacies.
Consider how a mosaic is made. Each piece needs to be delicately fastened. It’s not a process that an artist can rush. Some of the largest mosaics in the world take years to complete.
Once the individual pieces are in place, one can stand back and admire the whole. Before then, an observer only possesses a partial view.
Over the coming year(s), let’s build this mosaic of understanding together, comprehending Finnish education one piece at a time.