Finnish education: a system based on equity, trust & responsibility

Finland’s public school system is a hot topic among international education circles and the media for a number of reasons that stand it apart from other countries’ approaches to teaching and learning. Most notable perhaps are its inclusive nature and emphasis on social equity, its excellent results in the Programme for International Assessment (PISA) despite its rejection of standardised testing, and of course the high value that Finnish society places on equal access to quality and free education. Teaching is a respected profession In Finland, and teachers have a great deal of autonomy in the delivery of the curriculum and caring for their students’ welfare and learning.

Finnish ed system structure.png
The structure of the Finnish education system

This article by Finnish educationalist Pasi
Sahlberg
details Finland’s commitment to delivering high quality education and individualised learning to all students equally: “Because Finnish educators and policymakers believe schools can change the course of children’s lives, these schools must address the health, nutrition, well-being and happiness of all children in a systematic and equitable manner.” Aaah imagine if all education systems were built on this most basic and beautiful foundation.

This post will touch on some of the key features of the Finnish school system that I think are particularly positive and/or interesting. Sometimes I will make brief comparisons with New Zealand, but I will try to save the detail for future posts dedicated to those issues.

Finland sets the bar high, but its system is certainly not perfect and I don’t intend to portray it as such. The historical, political and social context in which this system works is unique. Up-lifting and transferring Finnish principles and practices to another country’s education system is of course much more complex that we might wish it to be, but we can all definitely learn a lot from these Finnish lessons…

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