From Nokia’s “Connecting people” to Samsung’s “Inspire the world”

What if Sir Ken Robinson was to give the same talk today, would he still mention Finland as a country on the top of the education system, would he still mention “No Child Left Behind” act as a topic for irony? Two and half years have passed since sir Ken gave his talk and the world did not stand still in these years. With the complete assent to sir Ken’s talk, I want to highlight some changes that have occurred with the focus on some related points.

In the past few years, Samsung has outperformed Nokia especially after adopting Google’s Android operating system. Nokia was famous by its slogan “connecting people” however, Samsung came out by a more rigid slogan “Inspire the world”.  Looking at the fact that Nokia is Finnish and Samsung is South Korean, did South Korea outperformed Nokia in any other field than cell phones ? The answer is yes. According to, the Finland’s education system was on the top rank until 2012. However, today we can see that South Korea has snatched the lead from Finland and became on the top of the rank. With many similarities between the two systems especially in the aspects related to respecting teachers and providing exceptional environment to them, and the most important no school’s dropout.

In South Korea about 93% of all students graduate from high school on time compared to 75% in the united states according to abc news.  The country is now 100 percent literate, and at the forefront of international comparative tests of achievement, including tests of critical thinking and analysis. However, having a system without school dropout and that’s ranked on the top of world’s education systems does not mean that the system is perfect. On the contrary to the Finnish system, I can feel that the South Korean system is not applicable every where. The system is mainly successful because of the nation’s culture which traditionally values conformity, order and hard work.

This success comes at a price according to a TED talk. Students are under enormous pressure to perform. Talent is not a consideration because the culture believes in hard work and diligence above all. Andreas Schleicher said that Koreans believe that they have to get through the really tough school period to have a great future. Classes also are larger with about forty students per class with the teacher’s goal is to lead the class as a community and help develop peer relationships.

So, having two successful but different education systems,  the Finnish and the South Korean, which one is better to adopt? Actually, it depends. Some other countries with similar cultures to South Korea have already applied similar techniques and were able to achieve great success in their education systems, speaking about Japan, Singapore  and Hong Kong. These countries also has outperformed Finland in the rank. However, we can see that this type of education, under pressure, is not suitable to other countries like the United States.

The united states education system has gone up in the rank in the past few years but still not in the lead. It was ranked 17th in 2012 and  moved to the 14th in 2015. With many criticism to the No Child Left Behind act, in December 2015 President Barack Obama signed a legislation replacing it, named Every Student Succeeds Act (EESA). The new law modified parts of the previous law but did not eliminate provisions relating to the periodic standardized tests given to students. However, the law makes significant changes to the role of tests in state education systems. For example, it requires states to include a broader set of factors in school accountability systems rather than just test scores. It is aimed that this new law overcomes the drawbacks of the previous one.

6 thoughts on “From Nokia’s “Connecting people” to Samsung’s “Inspire the world”

  1. Thanks for the post! I like your comparison of Finland’s and South Korea’s education. I agree that different culture needs different systems, including education system. While we are trying to understand that the knowledge/fact we learn in classroom is not context-free, we should also understand that neither is the way of education. Nothing in the world is the best, but it is always better to keep an open mind and learn from different culture. Rigid education in Asia has its own benefits, but still I think this type of education needs to inspire more mindful learning. The drop out rate can only represents one aspect of education, while the creativity of students is also important, which might be more improved with anti-teaching/mindful learning. BTW, I would not call Hong Kong a country because it is a city in China. 🙂

    1. Thanks for your comment. Yes, I can that the dropout rate is not the only measure for the success of an education system. The system in South Korea and similar countries was considered successful based on other factors. However, as you mentioned, this system lacks many aspects like the creativity.
      Thanks for correcting my mistake about Hong Kong. I only wanted to mention the education system there but wrote it in a wrong context. I’ll try to edit the post to correct this mistake.

  2. I think one of the questions we need to ask is if we want to be first in ranks, and what does that ranking even mean. Do we want to have students that can test very well so we can be in all the best rankings? Do we want students attending after school classes and spending 12 or 14 hours a day in school?

    I have been able to be very familiar with different educational systems around the world and I think some countries understand the complexity of the 21st century better than others. In Finland I was impressed not only by the things that we see on the media like Teachers making great money and being recognized in the society, but also by the way people in general (from children to adults) approach learning. They are willing to try whatever the instructor has to offer because they know it will makes them learn. Also, what they learn is what they want to learn and feel passionate about. There are no grades, no linear curriculum, a lot of flipped classrooms, and a great learning environment. As a consequence when they become professionals they are able to adapt their skills and knowledge to the different situation they might face on their career. For me, that is something to model.

    I think there is a lot going on around the world and we need to keep thinking how all the things that we see can inform our future pedagogical practices.

    Thanks for sharing

    1. In terms of the education quality, everyone can see that the Finnish model is almost perfect. However, I meant to highlight another type of education system that succeeded in a different culture. For example, I can see that this model is more suitable for a country like my country Egypt. In Egypt, everyone seeks to get a college degree otherwise the society will see him as a half-learned. Because of this look, many people are now going to graduate schools to get Masters or PhD degrees. In such a society, especially having very limited resources to apply the Finnish-like models, I can feel that the South Korean model could be the solution. As of the United states, I mentioned that this model will not be suitable.

  3. You post raises a genuine concern – who decides what method is right?
    Like you say, it highly depends I guess. A society that values diligence and greater level of conformity would probably be inclined to adapt to a model like the South Koreans whereas a society that prefers creativity and autonomy would probably prefer another system (Finnish or even Silicon Valley-based AltSchool).
    But then, can it be generalized over a society? Do all South Koreans believe that hard work is more important than autonomy and creativity? Who is to decide what is best way to progress for the individual child?

Leave a Reply