Finland and its Youngest Learners

Fascination with and discussions about Finland’s education system have been all over the news recently.

In large part, it’s because the country’s 15 year-olds scored near the top, once again, on the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), exam. In fact, since the PISA was first administered in 2000, Finland is the only western nation that has consistently score in the top five.  Add that to the international summit held last week in New York on building a high-quality teaching profession, where Finland was again a popular topic. And then just last night, I attended a screening of The Finland Phenomenon, a new documentary made by Bob Compton about Finland’s educational success.

Finland’s 15 year-olds are among the top performers in the world on the PISA, while U.S. high school students score below the OECD average.  Of course, as people sometimes point out, Finland and the U.S. are vastly different, from population size and diversity to the type of economic system in place. But perhaps there are lessons for individual states and school districts, particularly about the how Finland selects and trains its teachers, develops its curriculum, structures the school day and provides equitable education for all students.

As the discussions on Finland continue to draw attention, those of us here at Early Ed Watch will be thinking through how these lessons can be applied for younger learners. The good news is that we’ve already got a foothold on this issue with a blog post, written by our former director Sara Mead in 2008, about how Finland educates its youngest children. Don’t miss it. 

Author:

Laura Bornfreund is director of early & elementary education policy with the Education Policy program and co-director of the Family Centered Social Policy program at New America. She leads a team of writers and analysts working on new ideas for improving children’s birth-through-third grade learning experiences.