Two Words I’d Like to See Disappear From Education Articles This Year

Finland & Singapore.

Both countries are on my list of places I’d like to visit one day. What I’m tired of reading is articles that keep trying to compare their education system to the US’s. I agree that it’s important to look for what’s working in education. Unfortunately, comparisons to student achievement and teacher quality in those countries to the US cannot be done easily. There are many challenges that face US education, both independent and public, but simply comparing them to Finland or Singapore is unfair. Finland, Singapore and the US are very different.

In the past few years, Finland has been one of the countries that has consistently placed first on international academic tests. It doesn’t surprise me then that many education reform leaders are trying to look at their practices. In a nytimes article last month, it even mentioned that the president of the National Association of Independent Schools, Pat F. Bassett has made the pilgrimage. The one thing I like about Finland’s education system is that most kids don’t start testing and homework until their teens!

Still, Finland or Singapore are small countries that value teaching. It can be harder to get into a school of education than into law or medicine (and the schooling is fully subsidized). they recognize that the quality of teaching matters and they support that from the beginning.

Apart from that, looking at what Finland or Singapore is doing right is not going to fix the challenges that exist today in the US. I agree with Linda Darling Hammond, that it might be a good model for a state like Kentucky, but both those countries have a much more homogenous society.

The US education system has to stop being reactionary. It cannot repair itself simply by learning from Finland. It has to innovate and lead. Education in this country has always been able to do that, and I am optimistic that it will continue to do so. There are many amazing schools with incredible teachers doing many things right. We should start to look at those as models first. Good teachers eventually find the schools that fuel and support their passion and purpose. It should be the other way around. Schools should be finding those qualified teachers.

Just think of all the people who learned Russian or Japanese not too long ago. I think it’s great that they learned a foreign language, but I wonder if those choices were based on what was going on in the world at that time. Finland and Singapore are both on my list of countries I’d like to visit, but somehow I don’t think the general population is going to be learning Finnish anytime soon.

hyvää yötä


5 thoughts on “Two Words I’d Like to See Disappear From Education Articles This Year

  1. Singapore is a culture that enforces discipline and respect. You may remember some years back about the boy who was fined for chewing gum; more serious offenses are punished by caning (up to a dozen or so strokes) in addition to jail time. In schools, no more than 6, for various offenses, including being late repeatedly, or smoking. (Girls are not subject.) That’s probably impossible to bring about here – and I’m just talking about the discipline, not the flogging. (But I defer to anybody who’s actually in a classroom).

    I don’t know much about Finland. A quick search comes up with “(Finland publishes more children’s books than any other country)”.

  2. Hi, I teach in an international school in India and I’ve been following your blog because a lot of what you say, resonates with my personal educational philosophy. Your articles are also thought provoking.

    I’m actually fascinated with the school system in Finland but yes! I know that there’s no way we could adopt it to the India/Multicultural set up that I currently work in. But having said that, I love how the Early Years in Finland focuses on self-management and social skills rather than academics.

    Keep writing!

    • Thanks for the feedback and encouragement to keep writing. It’s just what I needed. I also agree about the importance of self-management and social skills in the early years. What age do you teach?

  3. I’ve been to Finland twice. (Both in summer) Loved it. Friends with a teacher who is not from teh top 10% of the country’s academic juggernaut.
    This is a great post and you took the words out of my mouth. In 10 years it will be 2 other countries that we cite.

    • Good to see you back on here and thanks for the comment. I’ll have to remember to ask you for tips when I get a chance to visit. And yes, it will be in the summer, too!

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