Education

The ways of Finland educatoin

2016.07

Finland Education_An education for true happiness
Education
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Finland is a country that lacks the resources typically associated with economic growth.

  • Lack of natural resources: 70% of Finland is woods, and there isn’t a large deposit of oil/gas/coal/ore.
  • Small population: the country is composed of ~5,600,000 people.
  • Meager land size: land area is 1.5x that of the Korean peninsula.
  • Disadvantageous geographic location: easternmost of the Scandinavian countries, border Russia, Sweden, and Estonia (as opposed to the Netherlands, which is bordered by power countries Germany, France, and England, or as opposed to Singapore and Hong Kong, which are located in key trade routes).

However, through its unique education system, Finland maintains its competitive edge in the global market. Their system is making the country a mecca of modern business.

  • Finland’s education system: Finland boasts the best education system of all OECD countries. Even the United States has set Finland as its “benchmark” for educational success.
  • Finnish talent: those who grow up in the Finnish system typically end up being fluent in English, among 2-3 foreign languages, and have great creativity, critical thinking skills, and information acquisition skills. Capabilities that set them up for global success.
  • Finland’s primary industry: The country produces educated individuals that excel in the aforementioned skills and can exercise these skills in various fields of work (e.g., Rovio - creators of Angry Birds/Supercell).

This competitiveness arguably originates from several key elements that drastically contrast the Finnish educational system from those of other industrialized countries.

  • No tests: Finnish students take their first exam at the late age of 16.
  • No homework: more days than not, Finnish students don’t have homework, and even if they do, they take 10-20 minutes to complete.
  • Short classes: the students spend an average of 4-5 hours/day in school.
  • No private schools and no university rankings: 100% of the schools are public, and though universities differ in the fields they specialize in, they are not ranked above or below one another.
  • → No school-wide rankings, no competition, no discrimination, no “hagwons” (private institutions for supplementary learning)
    → Schools recognize individual talent, customize classes for each student, teach students to respect individuality, and foster students’ extracurricular lives.

This unusual social structure has helped produce outstanding results in Finland and other similar countries. The quality of the educators and the students’ academic experiences are unparalleled.

  • Finland’s social structure: gross income does not drastically differ between jobs (e.g., teachers, lawyers, and doctors all make about the same amount of money). There is no concept of “elite” universities and there is guaranteed social security for all citizens.
  • What this means for educators: because of the small wage gap between professions, there is a tendency for talented individuals to flock towards teaching jobs. This helps Finland recruit from a rich pool of very qualified teachers.
  • What this means for students: because students don’t feel the pressure to go to top-tier universities for the namesake and because of the small wage gap, students prioritize finding and pursuing a line of work that is best suited for them. This contrasts the US/Korean students whose goals are to get into top universities and secure high-paying jobs.

These factors feed into a virtuous cycle that allows Finland to consistently educate and produce individuals who are globally qualified and recognized.

  • Students are naturally curious and motivated by this curiosity to pursue their studies. They aren’t suffocated by assignments/tests and because they don’t feel the pressure to get good grades, they take the time to understand themselves and discover their passions.
  • Students concentrate in class. Because they don’t spend that much time in school, students can pay closer attention to their classes.
  • High-quality teachers. Most educators graduate in the top 10% of their classes and all have master's degrees. A majority of teachers also take 2-3 hours a week just to improve their teaching skills.
  • High-quality classes. The student to teacher ratio averages at about 10-15 to 1, and teachers customize the learning experience to each individual after careful observation of the student’s talent, intelligence, and learning-style.
  • Impact 1: students aren’t given “problems” to “solve.” They are first taught to identify an issue and assess it.
  • Impact 2: students do not memorize the “right answers.” They become familiar with problem-solving skills.
  • Impact 3: because students can properly analyze the problems they face and identify methods to address the problems, they are better able than most to find the solutions to the problems.
  • Impact 4: the class is conducted on the presumption that students are actually curious about the things they are learning. The student plans and carries out their own studying.
  • Impact 5: by talking and listening to teachers and peers, students build team-work and skills on how to solve problems as a group.
  • → Unlike OECD countries that spend a fortune on education expenses and spend a lot of time trying to raise students’ grades, Finland has shown that its students score better on global standardized tests.
    → In addition, this has led Finland to be a globally competitive country by producing people who are a) good at problem solving, b) fluent communicators, c) great in foreign languages, and d) team-builders in e) various fields.

All of these differences originate from one key element. That is, Finland fundamentally differs from the US and Korea when approaching this question:“What is the purpose of education?”

  • The Finnish purpose: “Individual fulfillment and happiness” and “a society where everyone cares about each others’ fulfillment and happiness.”
  • The Korean/US purpose: “To get accepted into the best private middle school/high school/university” and to produce individuals who are “excellent test-takers” or “highly competitive.”

What are the characteristics of the Finnish education system? Is it fair/unfair for us to say that their approach to education is better than ours? Do you think it is possible to implement their education system in countries who obviously have very different societal structures?

Lastly, what do you think is the purpose of education? Why do we get educated?

What kind of education did your Ringle Tutor grow up with? Discuss your opinions about the education offered in the US vs. Finland, and the future of education in the US and Korea.

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