Tag Archives: Pearson Foundation

What exactly are the education practices of top-performing nations?

28 May

In Is it true that the dumbest become teachers? Moi said:

There is a quote attributed to H.L. Mencken:

Those who can — do. Those who can’t — teach.

People often assume that if a person could do anything else, they probably wouldn’t teach. Matthew Di Carlo, senior fellow at the non-profit Albert Shanker Institute, located in Washington, D.C. has an interesting article in the Washington Post.

In Do teachers really come from the ‘bottom third’ of college graduates? Di Carlo writes:

The conventional wisdom among many education commentators is that U.S. public school teachers “come from the bottom third” of their classes. Most recently, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg took this talking point a step further, and asserted at a press conference last week that teachers are drawn from the bottom 20 percent of graduates.

All of this is supposed to imply that the U.S. has a serious problem with the “quality” of applicants to the profession.

Despite the ubiquity of the “bottom third” and similar arguments (which are sometimes phrased as massive generalizations, with no reference to actual proportions), it’s unclear how many of those who offer them know what specifically they refer to (e.g., GPA, SAT/ACT, college rank, etc.). This is especially important since so many of these measurable characteristics are not associated with futuretest-based effectiveness in the classroom, while those that are are only modestly so.  http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/do-teachers-really-come-from-the-bottom-third-of-college-graduates/2011/12/07/gIQAg8HPdO_blog.html

There isn’t really a definitive answer. https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2011/12/09/is-it-true-that-the-dumbest-become-teachers/

Mercedes White of Deseret News has written a fabulous article, Can U.S. schools adopt education practices of top-performing nations?

While different countries have different approaches to and attitudes about education, there are things that all high performing countries do. Two of these are paying teachers well and keeping students in school longer.

Some object to these proposals on the basis of cost: adding more school days and paying teachers more will cost states money they don’t have. Other objections to the idea of borrowing the practices of other countries are more philosophical. Americans have different cultural values from many top performing countries which may limit the transferability of their techniques, according to James Stigler, professor of psychology at UCLA….

Unlike American teachers who come from the bottom 30 percent of their university classes, in Finland admission to education programs is competitive. Successful completion of a teacher training course is no guarantee of a job, however. There is under a 10 percent acceptance rate into the profession. The situation is similar in Korea. Elementary education majors are recruited from the top 5 percent of their high school classes, according to the Center for International Benchmarking in Education. Moreover, only 30 percent of secondary school teaching candidates in Korea are able to find jobs.

Difficulty getting a foot in the door adds to the prestige of the profession, but high pay is what attracts the best candidates. In all these countries teachers are also well compensated. American teachers make 97 percent of per capita GDP, whereas Finnish teachers make 110 percent. In a country with an extensive social services, this means that the average Finnish teachers purchasing power is well above average for discretionary purchases. Canadian teachers make 180 percent of per capital GDP, Japanese teachers 140 percent and Korean teachers a whopping 225 percent, according to data from OCED.

Not only are teachers in other countries better compensated, they work less. American teachers work an average of 1100 hours according to OCED data. By contrast teachers in Finland work about 600 hours, in Korea they average 550 hours. These factors combine to make teaching an attractive profession for high achievers.

Time to learn

Another shared characteristic of top performing nations is the amount of time their students spend in school. American students spend 180 days in school compared to the 243 days Japanese students spend in classes. Korean students aren’t far behind spending 220 days in school while the Finns have 190 instructional days…..

One of the arguments used by opponents of extended time in school, and increased teacher pay for that matter, is that it costs too much. While that may be true it is interesting to note that all of these countries are able to make it work on much less than the United States spends on education. In Canada they spend $7,770 per student. In Finland it is $9,500 per student. Korea spends $7,500 per student and Japan spends $9,800. http://www.deseretnews.com/article/765578482/Can-US-schools-adopt-education-practices-of-top-performing-nations.html

Many have a love affair with by Finnish education system.

Moi wrote about the Finnish education system in The love affair with the Finnish education system:

Many educators around the world have a love affair with the Finnish education system. The question is what if anything which is successful about the Finnish system can be transported to other cultures?

The Pearson Foundation lists some key facts about Finland in their video series,Strong Performers and Successful Reformers in Education Pasi Sahlberg urges a measured analysis in his Washington Post article, What the U.S. can’t learn from Finland about ed reform. See, Are Finnish schools the best in the world? http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/schools/are-finnish-schools-the-best-in-the-world-2289083.html

There are probably some lessons which can be learned from the Finnish experience, and the experiences of other nations, but we shouldn’t be looking through rose colored glasses. https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/04/17/the-love-affair-with-the-finnish-education-system/

Still, it is interesting to note that other nations have better results and spend less than the U.S. per student.


Should summer break be shorter for some children? https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/05/27/should-summer-break-be-shorter-for-some-children/

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

The love affair with the Finnish education system

17 Apr

In U.S. education failure: Running out of excuses, moi said:

Education tends to be populated by idealists and dreamers who are true believers and who think of what is possible. Otherwise, why would one look at children in second grade and think one of those children could win the Nobel Prize or be president? Maybe, that is why education as a discipline is so prone to fads and the constant quest for the “Holy Grail” or the next, next magic bullet. There is no one answer, there is what works for a particular population of kids.


Many educators around the world have a love affair with the Finnish education system. The question is what if anything which is successful about the Finnish system can be transported to other cultures?

The Pearson Foundation lists some key facts about Finland in their video series, Strong Performers and Successful Reformers in Education

Key facts

Finland’s society is relatively homogeneous. Out of a population of 5.3 million, only 3.8% are foreign-born, against an OECD average of 12.9%. Finland spends 5.9% of its gross domestic product on education, slightly above the OECD average of 5.2%.

  • Finland recruits its teachers from the top 10% of graduates. From primary through upper secondary level, all teachers are required to have a Master’s degree.
  • Finnish teachers spend 592 hours per year teaching in class, less than the OECD average of 703 hours. This allows more time for supporting students with learning difficulties.
  • At least two out of five Finnish school students benefit from some type of special intervention during their secondary schooling.


Finland was the top performer in the PISA 2000 tests and it has consistently featured among the top performers since then. In 2009, the number of Finnish students reaching the top level of performance in science was three times the OECD average.

  • Upper secondary students are expected to design their own individual learning programs within a modular structure.
  • In 2008, Finland’s upper secondary graduation rate was 93%, against an OECD average of 80%.
  • In 2008, more than 40% of Finns between 20 and 29 were enrolled at university, well above the OECD average of 25%.


Pasi Sahlberg urges a measured analysis in his Washington Post article.

Pasi Sahlberg, author of “ Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn About Educational Change in Finland? ” writes in the Washington Post article, What the U.S. can’t learn from Finland about ed reform:

What I have to say, however, is not always what they want to hear. While it is true that we can certainly learn from foreign systems and use them as backdrops for better understanding of our own, we cannot simply replicate them. What, then, can’t the United States learn from Finland?

First of all, although Finland can show the United States what equal opportunity looks like, Americans cannot achieve equity without first implementing fundamental changes in their school system. The following three issues require particular attention.

Funding of schools: Finnish schools are funded based on a formula guaranteeing equal allocation of resources to each school regardless of location or wealth of its community.

Well-being of children: All children in Finland have, by law, access to childcare, comprehensive health care, and pre-school in their own communities. Every school must have a welfare team to advance child happiness in school.

Education as a human right: All education from preschool to university is free of charge for anybody living in Finland. This makes higher education affordable and accessible for all.

As long as these conditions don’t exist, the Finnish equality-based model bears little relevance in the United States.

Second, school autonomy and teacher professionalism are often mentioned as the dominant factors explaining strong educational performance in Finland. The school is the main author of curricula. And the teacher is the sole authority monitoring the progress of students.

In Finland, there is a strong sense of trust in schools and teachers to carry out these responsibilities. There is no external inspection of schools or standardized testing of all pupils in Finland. For our national analysis of educational performance, we rely on testing only a small sample of students. The United States really cannot leave curriculum design and student assessment in the hands of schools and teachers unless there is similar public confidence in schools and teachers. To get there, a more coherent national system of teacher education is one major step.

Finland is home to such a coherent national system of teacher education. And unlike in the United States, teaching is one of the top career choices among young Finns. Teachers in Finland are highly regarded professionals — akin to medical doctors and lawyers. There are eight universities educating teachers in Finland, and all their programs have the same high academic standards. Furthermore, a research-based master’s degree is the minimum requirement to teach in Finland.

Teaching in Finland is, in fact, such a desired profession that the University of Helsinki, where I teach part-time, received 2,300 applicants this spring for 120 spots in its primary school teacher education program. In this teacher education program and the seven others, teachers are prepared to design their own curricula, assess their own pupils’ progress, and continuously improve their own teaching and their school. Until the United States has improved its teacher education, its teachers cannot enjoy similar prestige, public confidence and autonomy.

Third, many education visitors to Finland expect to find schools filled with Finnish pedagogical innovation and state-of-the-art technology. Instead, they see teachers teaching and pupils learning as they would in any typical good school in the United States. Some observers call this “pedagogical conservatism” or “informal and relaxed” because there does not appear to be much going on in classrooms.


See, Are Finnish schools the best in the world? http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/schools/are-finnish-schools-the-best-in-the-world-2289083.html

There are probably some lessons which can be learned from the Finnish experience, but we shouldn’t be looking through rose colored glasses.


Is it true that the dumbest become teachers?        https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2011/12/09/is-it-true-that-the-dumbest-become-teachers/

The next great civil rights struggle: Disparity in education funding https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2011/12/02/the-next-great-civil-rights-struggle-disparity-in-education-funding/

3rd world America: The link between poverty and education https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2011/11/20/3rd-world-america-the-link-between-poverty-and-education/

There is no “magic bullet” or “Holy Grail” in education, there is only what works for a given population of children to produce education achievement.

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©