FINLAND entered into the mainstream discourse on education after their strong showing in the PISA survey. Conducted every three years by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the survey compares 15-year-olds internationally in reading, mathematics and science, and Finland has consistently ranked highly in all three areas since 2000. Finnish students’ performance only dipped in 2009, as students from Shanghai, China bagged the top spot.
Since then, scores of educators and policy-makers worldwide (including Malaysia) have flocked to the country to see what they were getting right.
In his book Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland?, the Finnish Education Ministry’s Center for International Mobility director Pasi Sahlberg writes that the Finnish educational level before the 1960s was “close to that of Malaysia and Peru”.
Following dramatic changes around the 1970s and onwards, the Finns’ approach to reform may surprise Malaysians —there are no standardised tests, at least until students get to the upper-secondary level, teacher training programmes are among the most selective in the country, and a masters’ degree is required to enter the profession.
Teachers are trained to assess students and provide individualised grading for each child. Incompetent teachers are dealt with by the principal, and there is a strong teachers’ union.
Additionally, there are virtually no private schools, and all pupils receive free school meals, healthcare access, psychological counseling, and individualised student guidance.
Critics rightly point out that the lessons of Finland are not readily applicable here, citing the country’s mostly homogenous population of about 5.4 million as an example.
But the country’s immigrants have doubled in the past decade, to no ill-effect to Finland’s PISA scores.
Source: The STAR Home Education Sunday April 1 , 2012