Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Education Cage Match: Finland vs. United States

Perhaps you have heard that school districts in Finland are awesome. Perhaps you have heard that the way they do things at school in Finland are so much better than the way we do things in the United States. Perhaps you have heard about how broken our educational system is and how much it needs to change and how terrible everything is. Perhaps there's truth to some of that. I recently read an article about school in Finland. Here's a few highlights: In Finland, students do not start formal schooling until the age of 7. Prior, they spend their time playing, exploring, and having fun---what kids should be doing. The school day itself has short hours. Homework is light, which is in direct contrast to many schools in the US that pack their students with homework every night. One of the most striking things I read was that in Finland, students get 15 minutes of recess EVERY HOUR of the school day. Not just once a day, not once a week. EVERY HOUR. Here in the US, many, many students get zero physical activity and spend zero minutes each day exercising.  Finland does not focus on standardized testing. They believe that students "learn through play." Teachers are respected at the same level as doctors. In order to teach in Finland, teachers need a Master's Degree. Finally, what I liked most of all, is that Finland operates under the philosophy that "educators are the ultimate authority on education," meaning decisions about school are not made by politicians, business people, know-it-all parents, bureaucrats, etc. It is the educators that make the decisions on education. Novel idea, huh?  While reading, I just got the sense that the atmosphere in Finland is one of freedom and creativity. It is an atmosphere that encourages expression and risks. It seems that students would run towards their school, not away from it. Maybe this type of schooling wouldn't work in the US. Maybe it's exactly what we need. 
Before everyone starts marching on our public school system and chanting a call for change, think about what OUR school system (or maybe in spite of it) has created: Google. Facebook. Twitter. YouTube, to name a few. Think about how creative and innovative those things are. Think about how much they have changed our world. Think about what Finland students use: Google, YouTube, the Internet in general! Think about how creative our musicians are, our entertainers. One of the most creative venues in all the world is movies and film. Think about how creative the US is in making movies. They are blockbusters world wide! When was the last time a Finnish movie was a world wide blockbuster? Never. The US is stacked with creativity and innovation. So yeah, our school systems could use some help. But we also have some tremendously awesome things happening as well. 

Click HERE for the full article from the LA Times

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