Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland?
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Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland?

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  268 ratings  ·  57 reviews
Finnish Lessons is a first-hand, comprehensive account of how Finland built a world-class education system during the past three decades. The author traces the evolution of education policies in Finland and highlights how they differ from the United States and other industrialized countries. He shows how rather than relying on competition, choice, and external testing of s...more
Paperback, 167 pages
Published October 1st 2011 by Teachers College Press
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Nov 06, 2011 Martianngray marked it as to-read
Just watched a CNN special on education. Finland and South Korea are at the top. Not sure how I feel about the South Korea program as the children study from 8am to sometimes midnight which I don't think fosters creativity and pragmatic skills that are needed to succeed. However; Finland ranks number one in science and two in math. They spend less time in the classroom, don't start school until they are 7 and yet excel much more than the rest of the world. They say their key is the best teachers...more
Paul Signorelli
Pasi Salhberg--in "Finish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland?"--doesn't pretend to have a universally applicable solution to the problems we face in providing effective learning opportunities. But the wonderfully produced snapshot he provides of the Finnish school system and its support of vocational training is something none of us can afford to ignore. If we're at all interested in seeing how the top-ranked education system worldwide produced its successes, we...more
Mem Morman
I bought this book after reading an article based on it in Smithsonian magazine. I've read it slowly and found the first couple of chapters the most interesting. I have, in my lifetime, been a professional educator, and I have the background to read and interpret this book - which is NOT written for a popular audience - but it also clearly tells me that I am not up-to-date on the latest educational theory.

Finland has the best educated young people in the world. Finland? Really???!!?? How did th...more
Wow, I finished this book the other day and was quite impressed. It does, however, really chafe me as a teacher to know that we have a messed up system in the US and are really not interested in making the long term commitment to fixing our problems. It must come from being the biggest (although I realize I cannot quantify that statement) spend and throw away society in the world. Like so many resources, we Americans just keep throwing away and buying something newer or seemingly better with no...more
As we all have learned the Bush "No Child Left Behind" program has not been successful in meeting our education goals and needs in the US. However, "Finnish Lessons..." provides strategies from which we all can learn. Sahlberg discusses three Finnish paradoxes of education. 1. Teach less. Learn more. (Finnish teachers teach just under 50% of the number of hours US teachers teach.) 2. Test less. Learn more. "The trend of students' performance in mathematics in all text-based accountability-policy...more
Mark Ballinger
I picked it up: after Pasi Sahlberg came to town to speak. I couldn't make it out that evening, but put the book on hold right away.
Why I finished it: Painfully dry as dust introduction almost did me in.

Soon enough, though, I made it into the actual book and quite enjoyed it. The ideas behind success in Finnish schools raised plenty of great questions in my mind, not only about the shape of US schools but also in my own teaching.

The last two chapters were back to the slog, though. So, 5 stars fo...more
I won't repeat the general info that other reviewers have given, but the points that most interested me and that I want to remember as I open conversations at my own children's school.

First, Finland has achieved good results across the board -- with very little variation between schools/students based on socioeconomic factors, etc. That impressed me. Second, they have based their schooling on the belief that ALL children can learn, and something on the order of 50% of all Finnish students take a...more
Finland's educational policies have been in our news for a while now, so it was nice to hear details about Finland's success directly from someone who has been a part of it for the past two decades. Although many of Finland's solutions to their mediocre education system are worth examining and considering, this book still left much to be desired. One of the key pieces to Finland's success, according Sahlberg, is the public funding of all education for its citizens, including at the university le...more
Sylvia Moore
If you want to learn about THE alternative to the high stakes testing, competition and privatization regime that has invaded American education, please read this book. Every educator should read this book. Dr. Sahlberg gives a great explanation as to how Finland's more collaborative and equitable approach to education provides better outcomes than the business management schemes favored by the so-called "education reformers." As Dr. Sahlberg cautions, not all of the features of Finland's educati...more
Karen Chung
The writing is dull, repetitive and tedious - the text could be cut down to about 1/3 of its current length without much loss in information, and it really could use a little journalistic snappening up. If it was written directly in English by the Finnish author, it's quite impressive, but in places it shows that his native language is not English - e.g. occasional problems with articles and prepositions. But I found in it enough useful ideas on how to improve education that it was worth stickin...more
Let's move to Finland. That's what many teachers will think after reading this account of Finland's move from an average educational system in the 1990s to the premier position it enjoys today. An emphasis on cooperation rather than competition, professional collaboration (and the time to actually do it), trust in teachers' abilities and creativity, and a minimum of standardized testing are just a few of the hallmarks of Finnish schools. And guess what? They work. We have much to learn from Finl...more
Ok... so I really liked parts of this book. There were a lot of facts that hit me hard. Graduation rates in the us being around 75% compared to Finland's 93%, for example. There were a lot of interesting insights and the window into a significantly different culture was really fantastic (can you imagine: "The most able and talented individuals go into teaching").

Now why does it get 2 stars? It was dry. Dry, dry, dry. I love reading, but I got through much of this book in 5-10 page chunks.

A good read with some proven ideas about how to improve our educational system (with the minor caveat of a serious paradigm shift!)

The book goes through the political and historical changes of Finland that helped move it toward a leader in education from much less auspicious beginnings.

The main points boil down to:

1. Teachers are respected as important members of society, beyond their role in the classrooms. (And they have near total autonomy to teach as they see fit).
2. Less is more: teachers s...more
This book is completely geared towards people that write statewide and/or nationwide school policy first, then school administrators and school boards second, then principals, and is only a little relevant to school teachers. Unfortunately, since I fall into that last category, this book didn't give me much information on how I can be a better teacher, but it was still interesting to learn about how other countries run their schools, and how that constraints to the U.S.

Thoughts as I was listenin...more
Pasi Sahlberg taught in a Finnish school, then ran professional development strategy for ministry of education, followed by stint at the World Bank helping to provide support for countries around the globe. His main message to US education reformers: "You're doing it ALL WRONG."

The US and global education generally have moved to 5 common features:
Standardization, or outcomes-based education reliant on high stakes testing.
Focus on core subjects at the expense of social studies, music, arts, etc....more
This one's been on my list for a long, long time. And perhaps I should have chosen a different week to read it--one where I had lots of time and willingness to wade through the entire history of education (and other social issues) in Finland, highlighting and writing notes in the margins.

Of course, I knew the book was about how Finnish education got to be what it is--and that the process included a national conversation and re-thinking of the purpose of education. Reading about this, however--th...more
While the education system in Finland is fascinating, this book provides less applicable information than I would have liked. The author, a former Finnish teacher and (current?) executive of World Bank, provides lots of tables comparing test scores from around the globe and repeatedly emphasizes Finland's academic dominance. He repeats over and over again that this success is due to 1. revering the teaching career, 2. excellent teacher training, and 3. a minimum of testing. However, he doesn't p...more
I just got back from visiting Finland and had a chance to visit some of the schools there. This book provided helpful background in understanding the educational context.

There are some great reviews of this book in Goodreads that provide information about the Finnish educational system. I will say that I was so impressed, both with the book and with my observations in the schools, with the professionalism and the regard for teachers. This makes such a difference. In Finland, teaching is highly r...more
This book is very policy-based and probably does not suit the average non-education academic reader.

On one hand, inspiring. Finland is clearly doing some things right and it's worth taking note on what has been successful in its educational models. On the other hand, it was quite repetitive, dry, and left a want for more information on implementation and practical execution.

The whole book sounded like a cultural sales pitch for the country of Finland. I'm happy for Finland that it has done some...more
Finland has been astounding the world with its education results for a few years now and everyone wants to know how they're doing it. The author, a Finn himself, shows us in this book the many ways Finland's education system differs from America's and other countries undergoing similar reform measures (i.e., high-stakes testing, accountability measures, etc.).

I wish I could say the book was encouraging, but it was not. America could not be further away from what Finland is doing. Take every fac...more
Pasi Sahlberg, in his book Finnish Lessons describes the Finnish education model, which has helped to produce one of the best and most highly rated school systems in the world and concentrates its efforts on:

1. maintaining “high confidence in teachers and principals as high professionals” 2. “encouraging teachers and students to try new ideas and approaches, in other words, to put curiosity, imagination and creativity at the heart of learning 3. understanding that the “purpose of teaching and le...more
Sean Kottke
Those who see their glass as half-full will rejoice at the possibilities of what could be, based on the success of the Finnish way. Those who see their glass as half-empty will despair at the degree of change across all sectors of society that are necessary pre-conditions for the success of the Finnish way - and the long-term commitment to ideals required to pull it off - for the high quality of the Finnish educational system is not a beacon of light in a dark country, but rather an organic deve...more
Finnish education is gaining its reputation as the best education in the world. Being a teacher myself, I see this book as a trade secret to improve the education in my country, which is among the worst in the world. And I waited expectantly till my order arrived!

The book is as advertised. It is a insider account of Finnish education system. The author, Pasi Sahlberg, is the Director General of Centre for International Mobility and Cooperation at Finish Ministry of Education and Culture, or in o...more
Really interesting summary of Finland's education system. I particularly enjoyed reading about the structure of upper secondary school and how it is flexible while also requiring students pass before going on to the next stage. The ideas for making teaching an attractive profession were also invaluable. I would have liked to see more details about the universal childcare program as I think that is also an important component of Finland's success. For a country like Australia I think there are ma...more
Looks at the confluence of factors in Finland that may have resulted in its students' top standing In international academic assessments and educational outcomes. Dry and table-heavy, as well as somewhat repetitive, although I enjoyed the occasional quirky references to Finnish national temperaments (really, you're all the strong silent type and just want to best the Swedes?). Despite the dryness, it provided me with lots to think about. I was interested, for example, to learn that: each school...more
Feb 15, 2013 Stephen added it
Shelves: different
The combination of anti-micromanagement, trust, and teacher development, Social Justice, a bunch of research, and cooperation among schools and ngos help solidify the Finns lead in education with significantly less time and effort on the part of students. The anti-thesis of everyone else's education reform, you don't have parents wrestling to get the best schools since everyone trusts the system.

You have well trained (more teacher training in classrooms, specialized sped help, and research based...more
Heather Anne
An interesting look at the Finnish education system and its part in Finnish society. Meant for professional educators, rather than a popular audience, this book nevertheless clearly makes the case that an excellent education system can be created by focussing on creating highly trained and educated teachers (all teachers in Finland, even for the elementary grades, have Master's degrees) within a context of a society that promotes egalitarianism, rather than focussing on standardized testing or l...more
I enjoyed the author's broad perspective on the Finnish education system, as well as his ability to recognize possible factors external to policy-making that have allowed for its success. His cautious approach to the value of being #1 is a refreshing break from competitive nationalistic thought. The main arguments were interesting but sometimes wordy and too often restated. Sometimes, instead of elaborating or presenting causal analysis, he just quoted redundant statistics. I think if he had wri...more
Sam Musher
A lot of American school reformers have gotten very excited about Finland as the low-key, high-achieving answer to our problems, and I wanted to go to the source. The source turned out to be more academic than I wanted, so I didn't read it cover-to-cover. I'm so glad all the research and data has been documented, but it doesn't help me make any improvements to my school. Of course, Sahlberg's answer to Americans who want to reform our educational system the Finnish way seemed to be, "you have to...more
We've got a ways to go in the US.... Finland values teachers so much---gives them autonomy in their teacher and respects them! Teaching in Finland is a much sought after, highly regarded profession!
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