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

3.91  ·  Rating Details  ·  468 Ratings  ·  84 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 December 5th 2011 by Teachers College Press (first published October 1st 2011)
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Mem Morman
Sep 17, 2012 Mem Morman rated it really liked it
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
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
Jan 31, 2013 Paul Signorelli rated it it was amazing
Shelves: learning, education
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
Sylvia Moore
Feb 24, 2014 Sylvia Moore rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 08, 2012 Marten rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 05, 2012 Phyllis rated it really liked it
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
Feb 12, 2013 Mark Ballinger rated it liked it
Shelves: teaching
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
John Martindale
Mar 18, 2016 John Martindale rated it did not like it
Shelves: audiobook, education
My word, this book was dreadfully dry. The writer is a product of the Finnish school system, so I suppose that is one Finnish lesson I got. He did mention that interesting tid bit about how Fins don't like small talk, illustrating the point with a story of how two Finnish friends after a long absence met up at a bar and after the 4th beer, one of them said "cheers" at which the other retorted "Did we come here to talk or drink?" Yeah, Fins don't strike me as the most friendly and cheery lot.

Jonna Higgins-Freese
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
Jan 17, 2013 Jackie rated it liked it
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
Karen Chung
Apr 14, 2014 Karen Chung rated it really liked it
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
Apr 06, 2015 Rebecca rated it it was amazing
Finland is number one in the world in education, by doing everything we don't do. Respecting teachers, allowing time for play and little standardized testing. I'm going there this summer to check it out.
Oct 30, 2014 Jamie rated it really liked it
Shelves: education, thought
This book gives a great overview of the changes in the Finnish education system and how they have contribute to the Finland's top ranking of the world's education systems.
Apr 27, 2012 Nan rated it really liked it
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
Jun 22, 2013 Boris rated it it was ok
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.

Jun 03, 2014 Marc rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Maureen Milton
Dec 29, 2014 Maureen Milton rated it really liked it
Shelves: adults, education
Finnish Lessons provides inspiration and encouragement to teachers and administrators who are thinking about education in the digital age, when information traditionally relayed in the classroom is instantly accessible. Some of the genius of Finnish education (a "revolution" that began after WWII and is now seeing the fruits of policies instated in 1970) is in treating teachers as researchers into their own practices. On p. 140, Sahlberg writes, " The Big Dream for the future of Finnish educatio ...more
Oct 21, 2014 Michael rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, education
Hmmmm....let's see. A tale of two countries: one country, Finland, pays its teachers incredibly well, recruits them from the top echelons of their university system, and allows them great flexibility in their curriculum design and lesson planning. There is a lot of local control with national goals, but no corporate driven national testing. The children in this country start school later, attend fewer hours, and have lots and lots of recess. These children--who are almost never poor, hungry, hom ...more
Peter Atkinson
Jan 27, 2016 Peter Atkinson rated it really liked it
In the Introduction to Finnish Lessons, Pasi Sahlberg succinctly outlines the reasons why other countries should examine the highly successful Finnish educational system:

- It’s dramatic rise from a mediocre to exemplary system that has both raised the bar and
narrowed the gap in learning for all students;

- The Finnish Way of change – which lacks school inspections, standardized curriculum, high-
stakes student assessments, test-based accountability, and a race-to-the-top mentality -
offers a
Mar 09, 2015 Steph rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm between four and five starts for this one. It has really changed the way I look at the school system in America, and the number of times I've brought up information from this book while reading it is crazy! The most interesting concept of Finnish education (in my opinion) is the idea of one curriculum for all. No honors classes, no AP or IB, no special education classes. Everyone is in the same classroom, which requires very versatile teachers of course, but what I take from it is the idea o ...more
Sep 07, 2014 Aaron rated it it was ok
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
Jan 19, 2014 Mike rated it really liked it
Shelves: education
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.
Mar 02, 2015 Andy rated it really liked it
Not a page-turner but an important book because school effectiveness is important. "What actually works?" should be the first question in any public policy debate. What actually works in education is Finland, so what can we learn from that? This book makes it clear that Finland pulled ahead of the rest of the world without any of the market-based reforms being touted here. That's pretty strong evidence that those interventions are not necessary for success.
Numerous observations about an interes
Dec 27, 2013 Nancy rated it really liked it
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
Oct 07, 2015 Lillian rated it really liked it
I listened to this book on Audio.

It describes the basics of the Finnish educational system. Finland is currently rated as having one of the best educational systems (pre-college at least) in the world, based on international testing results. Some years ago, Finland reformed the educational system to pay teachers very well and to require Masters' level education, including knowledge about how to objectively measure the results of educational programs. Teachers are allowed significant freedom to
Feb 15, 2015 Laura rated it it was amazing
It is a discouraging time to be a teacher in the US.

"Finnish Lessons" is the most encouraging book about education that I have ever read, and it is also one of the most important. Unlike most of the policy-babble about education in the US, this book is actually based on research and "scientific evidence" and written by someone who is and education expert. And, let's just clarify since every knucklehead who writes in the education pages of the NY Times claims to be an expert, by expert, Sahlberg
Jan 13, 2015 Aligroof rated it did not like it
The Finnish educational system success is miraculous. When various studies were investigating the diffrent educational systems all over the world, the Finns were as suprised as the rest of us to know they are the best educational system by far on this planet.. They never intended to be!

What makes there success miraculous is these facts: they don't do "studying for the test" practices -students have almost no exams - minimum homeworks - spend less time in school - teachers spend less time in the
Shawn Bird
Oct 09, 2014 Shawn Bird rated it really liked it
This is a dry academic work, fully of data to support its analysis of the Finnish education reforms of the last 30 years. Its poor readability is unfortunate, because the fundamental message of this work is fascinating.

Having been an exchange student in Finnish high school at the beginning of these reforms, and seeing the children of my Finnish host-families now, I understand the sociological setting, and appreciate the differences in cultural attitude that invests in children and education. Fin
Jul 21, 2014 Natasha rated it liked it
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
Apr 15, 2013 Angela rated it really liked it
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
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