April 1, 2012

Finland's Revolutionary Education System


  1. Humans tend to get fixated on a small number of causal models that are sometimes but not always true.

    Competition does improve performance in many situations--but not always. Feedback (e.g. tests) is helpful--but not always.

    It is difficult to let go of good but limited causal models because without the supposed certainty they provide you are left adrift.

    In fact, the lack of simple reliable universal guidelines on what works means the man on the street can not trust his own judgement on complex situations.

  2. Hi David,

    Thanks for your comment. What I like about this video is that it directly challenges some popular assumptions in the American education system such as applying frequent standardized testing and using competition as driver of improvement.

    The Finnish example challegences these notions. And it seems to confirm scientific research which indicates that such notions do, in fact, work counterproductively (see http://goo.gl/akBkd).

    I agree that we should be careful to take contextual factors into account. What works in one context may not work in another.

  3. I don't think the Finish example is about a contest vs the US model. It simply raises some interesting questions about what outcomes a country wants from their education system.

    For example, the Korean model sounds awful to N Americans, but does it mean that it's not right for Korea's stage of economic development, societal values, etc.

    The Finns obviously have some ideas that appear to work for their society (vs before). The Finns appear to have achieved a lot, but will it create better outcomes for their society? It sounds like it will. It also seems they choose what sounds like a non-hierarchical educational model which fits the values of their country.

    Comparing different models based on assumptions that one educational outcome fits all countries blocks us from the learning from what the Finns achieved.

    Other countries might want to learn only one thing – to make such a radical departure the Finns thought about outcomes before they decided on the process. They were of one mind.

  4. Hi Alan, thanks. I do believe that different context to some degree require different approaches. But in this case (but I am repeating myself) I do think the Finnish model is relevant for the US. Many survey have shown the relative decline of US education. Research done in the US have shown that an emphasis on standardized testing and competition do not work there too.

  5. I agree with you about the US issues and the focus on standardized testing. My assertion is that the two sides of the US education argument (pro and anti status quo) need to first decide what kind of outcomes they want. Right now neither is listening to each other. The chance of that changing seem slim.


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