“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.”
- One comprehensive school system, where children start school when they are 7 years old. (There is an extensive pre-primary educational program for children as young as 3 or 4, but it is strongly play-based.) There is a priority on a child’s well-being, health, and happiness, and all subjects are treated evenly, so that “children can cultivate multiple aspects of their personalities.” Schools had space equally devoted to academic classrooms, music studios, and to “crafts”- extensive wood-working machines, looms, and ovens for cooking – a bit MAKER and a bit good old shop and home ec. There is an enormous emphasis on equity. Since there are no private schools or school-to-school competition, ALL schools are expected to be good schools. The quality and consistency of the system provides each child the chance to succeed, and to find their individualized path.
- Great schools need highly-trained, passionate, and respected teachers. All teachers complete a research-based masters degree, at a teacher training university. The emphasis on training and professionalism has increased the trust and respect for teachers in Finland, and so the status of the teaching profession has been heightened. University is also free of charge (due to an extensive tax structure).
- The “children’s health and well-being” is not only a priority, but systems of support and accountability have been put in place to ensure success for each child. Both health care and learning issues seek to be identified as early as possible, and schools have extensive resources to address them (and health care is also heavily subsidized by the tax system). Schools have “Student Welfare Teams” and universities graduate almost as many special education teachers as they do classroom teachers. There is no stigma. They want all children to succeed.
- Leadership must be “in the hands of experienced and qualified educators.” That being said, there was a strong emphasis on shared or democratic leadership. Sahlberg says, “In Finnish Schools, leaders are teachers and teachers are pedagogical leaders.”
- Out-of-school experiences play a significant role in the success of children’s learning. The country has powerful child and youth policies, as well as an extended “network of associations, clubs, and organizations.” Children actually attend school from about 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., with fifteen minutes of every hour devoted to outdoor recess and play – so less “in-school” time, but not less attention to learning and connecting to one’s interests and passions.