Who has the best education system in the world? You will be surprised to know that it is none of the big superpowers – the USA, China or even Russia. The country of Finland was declared as “miracle of education” by World Bank recently this year.
The countries were ranked by Universitas 21’s assessment of the world’s top universities and Finland scored way above the other countries when GDP per capita was taken into account. The USA tops the rankings if absolute scores are considered but when the scores were measured relative to the national income levels or GDP per capita, Finland tops the list. Moreover, most of the high-income countries fell out of the top 10 when relative income levels were considered. Considering the income levels is important as it is a measure of cash inflow into the education system and in turn the quality of education. The different measures of ranking taken into consideration are expenditure on higher education, government policy, industry links, the diversity of the country’s institutions, enrolment rates, and research performance. The question is how is a small country like Finland able to provide such good quality education? A few things done by Finland are –
- Better standardized tests – Students in Finland only take one standardized test during primary and secondary schooling as compared to annual tests taken by students in countries like the USA. Students in Finland are still assessed on the different tests set up by individual teachers. But, these exams are for personal development rather than competition and the concept of pass/fail. Students in Finland are still assessed on the ability to cope with issues related to evolution, losing a job, dieting, political issues, violence, war, ethics in sports, junk food, sex, drugs, and popular music. I like the idea of one standardized test as Finnish teachers believe in understanding and teaching the students more closely rather than judging on the basis of exam results. There are options for district-wide exams but are optional and results are not publicized.
- Playtime – Finnish schools believe that playtime is as important as the teaching. They provide regular play intervals during classroom teaching (15 minutes during 1-hour class). The Finnish students spend less time on homework as compared to an average U.S. student. I like the idea of not becoming test-takers and to be fresh while studying.
- Free higher education – Finland remains one of the few countries to provide bachelors, masters and doctoral programmes at zero cost to all the citizens and students from the European Union.
- Teaching is a respected profession – Teaching is one of the most selective and highest paid profession in Finland as opposed to developed countries like the U.S.A. The teachers are expected to work fewer hours and are respected too. One needs to have at least a master’s degree and complete the equivalent of a residency program in the U.S.A. Teachers in Finland are allowed to create their own mini laboratories if it helps in teaching.
- Political influence – Schools in Finland are all government schools but the education policy is solely based on effectiveness. They try a change, implement it if it works without any political influence.
In my view, the above points are really some good and different initiatives taken up by a small country trying to make a difference. This is why Finland is one of the leading destinations for teacher training in the world. The simplicity, honesty, mindfulness and no political influence makes it one of the emerging education systems in the world. It provides a learning lesson for other countries on how to impart good quality education to everybody at low prices.