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

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  754 ratings  ·  118 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
Jan 24, 2012 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 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
Nov 27, 2017 rated it liked it
I'll save you some very dry and repetitive reading by suggesting you go directly to chapter 5 of the book (the last one) and you'll get all the relevant info in a nicely condensed form with some helpful ideas for the future development of education.

The rating isn't lower because the author argues for a different approach to education than a strictly competetive one where teachers and students are constantly graded and ranked, which does not help to actually improve student learning, but only pu
Marten Wennik
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
Paul Signorelli
Jan 31, 2013 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
John Martindale
Mar 07, 2016 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.

Sylvia Moore
Sep 10, 2012 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
Jun 25, 2012 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 02, 2013 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
Jun 22, 2013 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.

May 26, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was dry and repetitive. I guess it wasn't me alone who had trouble reading when I looked at the reviews.
If you want to get useful information about the Finnish education model, read the direct chapter 5 or read Pasi Salberg’s other book, "FinnishED Leadership". I got the effective ideas that I can apply in my own classes from this book, "FinnishED Leadership".
Unfortunately, "Finnish Lessons" is mostly repetition
Peter Atkinson
Jan 21, 2016 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
Aug 21, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: education
I started this book last summer but didn't finish the last chapter until now. It was recommended reading for one of my ED classes and found it to provide a consistent message that provides insight into another country's education system and how high-stakes testing isn't the magic answer. Finland is in fact all the rage because they did so well on international tests without having a standardized-test focus in their education, which is admirable in itself. But as Sahlberg states in the beginning, ...more
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 02, 2013 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
Oct 21, 2014 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
Apr 01, 2012 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
Karen Chung
Mar 21, 2014 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 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. ...more
Oct 27, 2014 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. ...more
Fraser Kinnear
In the early '90's, the Finnish education system was roughly average in quality and results across all OECD countries. Over the past 20 years, it improved markedly. This book discusses the structure of the school system, and what Sahlberg thinks created that success.

This reform began in the 1970's, so obviously took a while for reform to take hold. It wasn't clear to me why the first 2 decades didn't see the same improvements as the second two decades, and I would have been interested to see wha
Kevin Pugh
Nov 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: education
The Finnish education system is a remarkable success story. And if anyone knows anything about Finnish education, it's Pasi Sahlberg. In his book, Sahlberg provides an informative and inspiring account of Finland’s transformation from educational mediocrity to excellence. A prominent theme throughout his book is that Finland’s educational system represents a stark contrast to the Global Educational Reform Movements (GERMs) that are based on such principles as standardized curriculums, test-based ...more
Sep 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Having worked in education for more than a decade, it is impossible not to have heard of the 'Finnish phenomenon'. In more recent times, I have had the fortune to visit some of the schools there to learn. When I went for the second time, I decided that I ought to read this book.
What stands out, for me, is how the entire story can be a classic case study in 'Systems Thinking'. Sure, the Finns began working on reforming their education system somewhere in the 1970s. However, all the change that th
Jan 13, 2020 rated it liked it
I think Pasi is excellent and I love his philosophy of education, Finland's philosophy of education, I should say. But I really struggled through this.

So much of it was just depressing because Australia is GERM infected. And that's GERM, Global Educational Reform Movement, and it's killing our system and driving good teachers out.

And don't even get me started on what it does to kids!

Even though it was a bit of a slog to get through at times, this book did give me extra encouragement that I'm on
Dec 10, 2017 rated it it was ok
I gave this book a low rating because it wasn't what I was looking for. This is a 10,000 ft overview of Finnish educational policies and social values that have resulted in excellent schools. Because I teach in an independent school, many of the polices and conditions described are either not applicable (goverment funding) or already in place (no high-stakes testing). What I am looking for is a much more detailed description of what schools look like. What is the daily schedule? How do teachers ...more
Jan 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
100% recommend for any of you who are curious as to why I came to Finland to study education reform! I had originally bought this book to answer those questions myself before I left on my study abroad, but ran out of time and left it at home for space-saving reasons. Luckily for me, this book was required reading for my Social, Cultural, and Philosophical Foundations of Education course, so I finally got the chance to read it! Enjoyable and easy read, that discusses the intersections of Finnish ...more
Ahmed Hamad
Jun 01, 2018 rated it liked it
I'm not sure what I think about this book. I mean the forces that moved Finnish education to its current state were brilliantly described in great details -I guess-, but it sort of had less of an impact on me simply because Pasi Sahlberg decided to repeat each idea in just the right number of times to render this fascinating topic quite boring. Thankfully, it was not boring enough that I decided to let go of the book because after all it does contain great ideas that are worth reading.

If I were
Begench Yazov
Apr 07, 2021 marked it as to-read
I highly recommend learning Finnish lessons through their achievements in the last three decades. In contrary to S. Korea, they made by creating effective distributed leadership in schools and by increasing the role of teachers. Obviously, those changes affect the long term sustainable development in Finnish education and most importantly it helps to maintain the teacher's reputation in the community. ...more
Nov 20, 2017 rated it it was ok
Well, first of all the book is nothing of a discovery. All the notions, problem-solving, group responsibility are but a normal part of a teacher's job. Moreover, the book contains three or maybe four ideas and the author talks about them all the time. We could abbreviate the book to 10 or 15 pages of a precise language article. ...more
Aarthi Ramesh
Mar 25, 2021 rated it liked it
Principles/ideas are sound. Writing, not so much. Could have gone into more detail for this lengthy a book and given specific examples that are more likely to stay in the head. Could have made the education system seem more alive.
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