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Here's an interesting article about the education system in Finland

(29 Posts)
oliviaaah Tue 02-Jul-13 09:17:35

HabbaDabbaDoo Tue 02-Jul-13 09:53:35

Countries renowned for its Tiger Mom type education system, like Hong Kong and Singapore, regularly rank quite highly as well.

Kind of silly for some people to cherry pick a country with a homogeneous and affluent population to illustrate their point that children should be children, and at the same time roll their eyes at countries with pushy systems, like Hong Kong, which also rank higher than the UK.

Yama Tue 02-Jul-13 10:01:12

I have a Finnish friend. He speaks better English than most of the people I know. I met him at uni where he was doing his degree (in English). His children are trilingual at least. In fact, I think they speak 4 languages.

I remember seeing a photo of his eldest on his first day at school (aged 7) and he was wearing jeans and a denim jacket. It just seemed so different to our four year olds in their mini adult uniforms on their first day at school.

oliviaaah Tue 02-Jul-13 10:08:30

Hi HabbaDabba. The third para from the bottom backs up your point:

Exporting what appear to be educational success stories is a dubious enterprise, because it is so easy to misread how another country's system works and to discount its cultural background.

I was rather bemused by the point made in the article that they were initially copying our comprehensive system...

tiredbutnotweary Tue 02-Jul-13 10:35:54

Yes it is an interesting article ... I find it especially interesting that the expert being interviewed thinks that Finland's success in Pisa (the international educational achievement league tables) is not down to the Finnish schools, but down to Finland's economic success and the relatively low difference between richest and poorest.

Of course Finnish children don't need to start education until they are 7, their langue is phonetically transparent. It is written as it is said, and it is easy to spell. This must make it potentially much easier for parents to teach their children to read before they start school too.

In fact this article is a thought-provoking critique of an often lauded education system, explaining how their success has less to do with the schooling and more to do with the country's economic success, equitable society and reading culture; along with setting out clear reasons why this system wouldn't work in the uk (i.e. it takes longer to learn to read and write English and our society is relatively far less equal).

Thank for posting flowers

vikinglights Tue 02-Jul-13 10:39:31

The point that learning to read and write english takes longer is nonsensical when in finland they also learn to read and write english.......

I also suspect it might not take so long if the child was 7 and not 4

BumbleBee2011 Tue 02-Jul-13 10:40:57

I'm always dubious about these ranking systems - I was in the local education system for 7 years in Singapore (10-17 years old). Yes the curriculum is very results driven and for the most part delivers, but lots of kids find their future prospects decided for them by the time they are 12, and also IMO the system (and to some extent society) is so rigid that it kills any joy/curiosity around learning.

I started school in Holland and then Germany, moved to Ireland when I was seven not able to read as it hadn't been started in either of those countries and learned in 2 months, at which point I was equal if not more proficient than my Irish classmates who had been 'learning' to read from age 4. It is easier at that age, and I was trilingual so lack of reading didn't slow my language ability one bit.

There's something to be said for countries that don't push reading at a young age.

musicalfamily Tue 02-Jul-13 10:47:27

I agree with the posts above.

I don't come from Finland but I come from a country which has a similar setup and I feel that it is down to the actual makeup of society and social divides as opposed to the system itself.

HabbaDabbaDoo Tue 02-Jul-13 10:53:04

I have a few Singaporean friends and I see no signs of them being damaged by the Singaporean education system.

If you look at it from a Brit perspective then of course you will see failings. If you had a pragmatic oriental mind (stereotype alert! smile ) then you would probably see our 'let kids be kids' approach as limiting the child's potential as well.

badguider Tue 02-Jul-13 11:25:45

The way a society chooses to organise it's education system is an indicator of wider societal values.

Across the UK, but moreso in England than Scotland, we have a value system based on acheiving through competition compared to your neighbour, we appear to believe (or at least our politicians and media believe) that you are only improving yourself if you can see yourself rising relative to somebody else sinking or staying stagnant.

If our society was more based on valuing the rise of standards of living and quality of life for EVERYBODY in a more equal and egalitarian way then we would be more open to the ideas embedded in the Finnish system. But until then we are just not in a position that would allow us to adopt any of their educational ideas.

badguider Tue 02-Jul-13 11:26:12

argghhh... its not it's blush

tiredbutnotweary Tue 02-Jul-13 12:00:23

Badguider - couldn't agree more.

The fact that children in Finland learn to read and write English does not make it nonsensical to say that it takes longer to learn to read and write English.

It would be nonsensical to say that it takes the same amount of time for children to learn how to read and write English as it does Finnish, when one is manifestily more complicated than the other.

Of course some individuals will find learning to read and write English comparitively easy, but generally most children would find learning to read and write in Finnish easier than learning to read and write in English, because there is simply much less to learn.

Copthallresident Tue 02-Jul-13 15:28:38

Habba I also have lots of friends in Singapore and Hong Kong, including Chinese, Hong Kong Chinese and Singaporean Chinese who are very unhappy with the education system, which is very much a product of their culture and the traditional examination system that relies heavily on the rote learning of model answers. There is considerable pressure on both governments to develop education strategy with the aim of putting a greater emphasis on developing pupils' skills in critical thinking, creativity and team working, all skills they feel need to be developed to compete in the global marketplace. It is part of the reason, along with the standard of language teaching, and the status, that so many travel to British schools and universities, or send their children to International Schools.

When my DDs friend returned to Finland from a British International School she was way ahead of her peers, she is of high ability but it was true of attainment too. Her teacher had both the time and the freedom to tailor her curriculum to her needs, and to accelerate her learning. She basically persued an academic programme from age 11 building on what she had learnt in a British System school (where she had performed in the 90th percentile for ability and attainment in all the NFER tests) She is now amongst the top performers at one of Scandinavia's top universities. My impression is that where Finlands system trumps British and Asian systems is that Finnish teachers are part of a respected profession recruited only from the best graduates, empowered by being given the time and freedom to actually educate children to achieve their individual potential.

HabbaDabbaDoo Wed 03-Jul-13 07:03:42

I'm surprised that the MN teachers aren't challenging your assertion that Finland does better than the UK because they have better teachers.

Not that I am saying that you are wrong. After all, we went private because we weren't too impressed with the state school teachers that we came across, both as students and as parents.

Copthallresident Wed 03-Jul-13 11:00:27

I said they had teachers who were respected and empowered. I know full well from all my peers who have given their all to educating their pupils but are getting out of teaching at the moment that teachers in he UK feel anything but.

You think that paying is going to guarantee good teaching? After 17 years experience of paying for private schools for my DCs and having attended a direct grant I can assure you you have a shock coming...... You pay for facilities, teaching geared to your DCs ability, in our case a place at a school not in special measures but you have the same mix of brilliant and inspirational, and demotivated and barely competent that you get everywhere, indeed what with bright motivated pupils and no scary OFSTED they probably get away with a great deal more of the latter.

midnightsun Wed 03-Jul-13 21:10:11

I live in Norway which has a broadly similar school system to Finland. My 7 yr old had just finished his first year at school. It was very laid back and focuses as much on children's social skills as on academic learning (if not more so).

Scandinavian society is massively about equality and from an early age they are already more concerned with teaching little citizens how to get along, speak up, listen, resolve conflicts and reach a consensus. My son is academically very able and I have been worrying that the British system would be stretching and challenging him more. Half an hour of reading the education board here has left me exhausted and drained.

We are blissfully free from the school race competition and children have a lot of time free to play, learn slowly, develop mature social skills and grow personal confidence that is not tied to academic achievement. And Norwegians end up becoming doctors, lawyers and professors in the end, in fact they have a higher ratio of Masters degrees than most countries - so they must be doing something right.

I am so seduced by the sound of the variety and quality offered by independent schools in Britain and regularly contemplate moving back home to get into it - but I'm really quite alarmed at the evidently very pressured environment for pupils and parents alike. It's so tricky comparing the two worlds. Neither is perfect.

midnightsun Wed 03-Jul-13 21:38:15

Class size was 18 this year. Next year it goes up to 25. The legal max is 26.

cory Thu 04-Jul-13 09:07:35

I agree with the thing about empowered teachers. I grew up in Sweden where teaching was a highly respected profession and was very surprised when I came to the UK in the 80s and found that government sources were regularly to be found sneering at teachers and treating them like suspicious elements- and are still at it 30 years later.

noblegiraffe Thu 04-Jul-13 09:20:43

I could be a better teacher if I only taught four lessons a day, as they apparently do in Finland.

Copthallresident Thu 04-Jul-13 13:28:46

Yes noble they only teach for half the day, the rest is for lesson planning and preparation, marking etc. recognising the importance of that.

Tasmania Fri 05-Jul-13 02:11:25

Not the school system. More this:

Finland is an unusually homogeneous society: child poverty is low, and the ratio of income share between the richest 20% of the population and the poorest 20% is only a little over four-to-one, against nine-to-one in the UK. Its proportion of foreign-born citizens, moreover, is under 5%, and was much lower a decade ago.

Easier language and very literate parents also play a huge part in their success.

Basically, a Finnish school has the demographics of an outstanding state school in a very middle class (or above) area of your town, where the parents are highly literate, and possibly doing skilled / managerial / professional type jobs. I guess they have better teachers, too - the kind who would be going for more competitive jobs over here.

And nobody seems to have picked up the detail about the final years of the Finnish schooling system - which resembles a grammar / secondary modern set-up, rather than a comprehensive one.

The Finnish people I know have very competitive streaks...

FormaLurka Fri 05-Jul-13 09:04:12

It's a chicken and egg situation.

Is UK education the way it is because teachers aren't repected and valued? Or are teachers not respected because of the state of UK education?

Also excellent points Tasmania. When my kids were toddlers we did the usual 'enriching' stuff. We also did reading and basic counting. In fact, they probably would have made more progress if I had kept them at home until they were 7. Unfortunately, the whole of the UK isn't the MC enclave that is my burb or Finland.

I highly doubt that kids in deprived parts of the UK will thrive in a system where they don't go to school until 7. As it is, many schools struggle to cope with all the pupils that start age 5 with no literacy or basic counting skills.

Copthallresident Fri 05-Jul-13 09:27:35

forma school systems in Europe don't teach children to read and write until 7, it's not that they don't have schooling until then, they do, it's just the emphasis is on acquiring learning skills through play. There is plenty of sound educational research that shows that it is more effective to teach the less able to average child literacy skills at 7 because then all the necessary learning skills are in place. For instance the bones in a child's hand don't fully knit together until 6. Teaching literacy skills from 4 suits some children, mainly the most able, but disadvantages some as well. Teaching literacy skills from 7 results in better literacy skills on average, the British system results in a greater variation, some achieve much better but some much worse. Having been an expat the rest of the world finds the Brit emphasis on reading at 4 bizarre.

Finland is not made up entirely of a society of professionals and managers, it is just that students decide at 16 whether they want to persue the academic route or gain vocational skills, and both paths are equally valued. It is an equal society, that doesn't mean that there is no one doing the plumbing.

Yes it is chicken and egg, a well resourced education system with respected and empowered teachers reflects a society that values education for all regardless of whether it is vocational or academic.

Tasmania Fri 05-Jul-13 11:28:15


I wouldn't say "Europe". I grew up in Germany - where you "officially" learned to read/write in school aged 6 (which is when you enter Year 1), but most likely, you would have learned a bit at home and in Kindergarten.

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