Finnish Schools? What’s so special about them?

“Instead of control, competition, stress, standardized testing, screen-base schools and loosened teacher qualifications try warmth, collaboration, and highly professionalized, teacher-led encouragement and assessment.” -William Doyle

When comparing Finland education and schools to the USA. The two environments strike me as complete opposites. William Doyle in his opinion article “How Finland Broke every rule –and created a top school system” writes how polar opposites the education systems of the USA and Finland are. Reading about Finnish education I started to dream about one day teaching there or being part of the teacher culture there.

Teachers in Finland have shorter days and more thus more time to plan. They teach on average 3-4 classes and have smaller classes. In elementary schools students often have the same teacher for 3 or 6 years. This helps teachers organize curriculum and teach at the pace of their students. Any behavior problems or needs a student has are addressed and cant merely be passed to the next teacher.

School for students consists of very little homework and school starts at the age of 7, a time when students are more developmentally ready to start school. Recess and breaks are heavily incorporated into the education system. Student’s education is free all the way through and they also get lunch for free. Students are supported 100 percent when it comes to the financial aspects of education. There aren’t standardized testing like there is in the US education system and yet Finnish students for all this lax and relaxed education outperform the US in PISA. In 2009 Finland ranked 6th in math, 2nd in science, and third in reading. The US on the other hand ranked 30th in math, 23rd in science, and 17th in science of the 65 countries.

There is the saying and mantra in Finland of “less is more” . This is seen in the culture by the more humble living and the less money spent on consumer goods etc. While the US is all about more, more tests, longer days, more days of school etc.

Finnish schools weren’t always such high performing places it has been during the last 40 years where the schools performance shot up. Ironically many techniques implemented and reforms in the Finnish school system were based on research done in the USA.

Finnish schools are also funded differently than US schools. US schools are locally funded from property taxes and are rewarded based on high performance through programs like the US Department of Education’s Race to the Top Grants. Finnish schools on the other hand are nationally funded based on the number of students and schools are provided additional funding if they have a higher proportion of immigrants or students whose parents are uneducated or unemployed.

The more blogs and articles I read about Finnish education the more I see myself wanting to implement some of their methods in my future classroom. My research has led to to dream about teaching or observing classrooms in Finland. It seems like a teacher haven compared to what I hear about becoming a teacher in the US. I’ve heard that I will be under paid, under appreciated and under a lot of stress. In comparison teaching in Finland seems like a dream. You must have a masters and go through rigorous and competitive training and education, but it is well worth it to feel competent and earn the respect equivalent to being a top earner of doctor or lawyer.

Maybe my Finnish dream can be realized in the US in my own classroom. I guess I will have to see, and continue my studies. I definitely have my interest spiked and plan on continuing my research on Finnish schools.

If you find yourself itching to get more information about Finnish schools, a great blog I ran into while researching was:  a blog by Timothy D Walker who has also come out with the book:


The articles on his blog offer a unique perspective of his teaching experience as an American teacher in the Finnish school system.

Websites Used for my Research:

11 Ways Finland’s Education System Shows Us that “Less is More”.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s