Less is more. This saying really makes sense when we look at Finland’s school system. The Finnish are the most successful students in Europe. They excel in science, in literature and in math. They have brilliant teachers who encourage and push the students to the top. Their way of thinking is different than any other European school system that pushes the students to do more: more work, more frustration, more stress. Finland’s school system embraces the needs of the students and that is one reason for their success. What are the positive aspects of Finland’s academic system and what are its disadvantages?
As I said, Finnish students are the most successful in Europe and maybe in the world. Indeed, in 2009, they came second in Science, in the PISA (Program for International Students Assessments), in literature they were third and in math, sixth; except that, Finnish students are not used to taking exams or tests, in fact Finland does not have a system of national testing. Their success is, first of all, due to the amazing educators Finland possesses. In fact it has 62,000 educators that were selected from the top 10 percent of the nation. Their attitude toward the success of their students is very similar; they all follow the saying “whatever it takes”. Finland does not have rankings, competitions or comparisons between the schools, they all have one goal: give all the students, no matter their environments, the same chances of being successful. In fact the difference between the strongest and weakest student is the smallest in Europe. “Equality is the most important word in Finnish education” said Olli Luukkainen, president of Finnish’s teachers union.
Plus, the teachers do not spend a lot of hours in classes, nor do the pupils, the educators organize extra curricular activities for the benefits of their students.
Another really important point is that Finnish’s academic system does not stress the students. Indeed, before the age of 7, outside playtimes and teamwork between classes are crucial; compulsory schooling does not begin until age 7.
Although Finnish’s school system appears to be perfect, there are a few disadvantages or at least a few negative points. First, since there is no national testing and the students are not used to passing exams, it will be more difficult for Finnish students to take an entrance exam for a college or the SAT for example than for other European students.
In addition, it is very hard for an exchange student to adapt and fit in the system. Finland’s academic system is made for the Finnish, or at least people who begin school at age 7 there. But if a 14 year-old child needs to attend a Finnish school, it is not demonstrated that she or he will be as successful as the others, because he/she was used to another system. In the same direction, the system is not made for everyone, if someone doesn’t know how to study less, if he or she is used to stress or working hard and late, if that is what pushes her or him to the top, it will be impossible for her/him to succeed in Finland.
The last point concerns the colleges. Indeed the colleges in Finland follow the same system as the schools. Hence, if a Finnish student wants to go study abroad it will be hard for him/her to understand the foreign system. The issue here is not about statistics or success- because Finland’s academic system is flawless in this part- but it is about what makes them different from other countries. By changing its system and by differentiating itself from others, the Finnish education system isolates Finland and Finns from other countries.
Finland’s educational system is perfect concerning the success and happiness of the students. Indeed, they are one of the best worldwide. The students are not being pushed or overwhelmed by school, and that begets their happiness. The major negative aspect is the fact that by not being like everyone else, Finland is making it very difficult for the exchange students to adapt.
Finally, to relate Finland’s educational system to La Tour, I think it would be interesting if our school would try it for a while and see how the students would react. It is as challenging for the students as it is for the teachers and it could be a rewarding experience. The students would be freer, study less, worry less and the teacher would spend less time preparing a long lesson, or grading a huge amount of tests.
-By Camille H.