You may have seen a blurb about how wonderful schools are in Finland, you almost certainly will have done it’s being shared widely on social media…again. The blurb talks of no uniforms, of no inspections, no tests, no fees. The Finnish question has been discussed endlessly since about 1996 when the first signs of the country’s success with it’s (then) 17 year-old reforms but it was in 2000 and then about three years ago when the OECD took a look at Finnish education that this particular blurb started to circulate. In 2011 The Independent was asking what we might learn from the Finns. The BBC reported that the UK was second in Europe and sixth overall in the world (reception to higher counted). South Korea, three other Asian countries and Finland made up the top 5 globally in 2014. But, just a year or so later it was suggesting that things aren’t quite the way they seem.
First off, the blurb’s inherent criticism of our education system of tests and inspections it is rarely mentioned that the school population in Finland is just 600,000 compared with 7 million in England and Wales. More worryingly though is that Finland’s position in the upper echelons of the educational league tables is apparently in a bit of a decline (not a sharp one but it has dropped, The Economist reported on PISA results in 2013 showing this) and there is really no way of knowing whether what it achieved at its peak was down to the reforms or a legacy of the earlier system. It might also be (unlikely though) that they simply have good genes. I remember similar discussions about the Romanian education system in the news back in the early 1980s, whatever happened to their success story with pupils not learning to read until they’re 8 years old.
But, if education with discipline, uniforms, tests and answerability doesn’t work, then how come the private schools outperform so many of the state schools across England and Wales? There is no utopian system that will serve all pupils perfectly, but complaints and comparisons don’t necessarily help…just look at the NHS and BBC, it’s almost as if they’re beint fitted up to be shut down by people who hate those institutions, it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to imagine that somebody somewhere doesn’t like the idea of a free education for all and would prefer to receive a dividend on their shares in a school to be remitted for every A-C GCSE received and a bonus on every A*…isn’t that what all this free school and academy malarkey is heading towards, analogously to the formation of hospital trusts and the like? Again, it’s as if somebody, somewhere doesn’t have any respect for teachers or doctors…
At least that’s one thing you can say about Finland, they do hold their teachers in high esteem as trusted professionals.