10 Reasons why Finland has the Best Education System in the World

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Finland, a country rich in intellectual and educational reform, has over the years initiated a number of novel and simple changes that have completely revolutionized their educational system. They have consistently ranked as the number one education system in the world according to rankings from different organizations and institutions, including the Global Competitiveness Report by the World Economic Forum.

Finland is leading the way because of common-sense practices and a holistic teaching environment that strives for equity over excellence. Here are 10 reasons why Finland’s education system is dominating the world stage. By the way, while you are here, consider subscribing to After School Africa for more educational videos like this.

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1.  No Standardized Testing

What often happens with standardized testing is that students learn to cram just to pass a test and teachers will be teaching with the sole purpose of students passing a test. Learning then has little to no priority.

Finland has no standardized tests. Their only exception is something called the National Matriculation Exam, which is a voluntary test for students at the end of an upper-secondary school. All children throughout Finland are graded on an individualized basis using a grading system set by their teacher. Tracking overall progress is done by the Ministry of Education, which samples groups across different ranges of schools.

2. Responsibility above Accountability for teachers

In most education systems, a lot of the blame goes to the teachers, and rightfully so sometimes. But in Finland, the bar is set so high for teachers that there is often no reason to have a rigorous “grading” system for teachers. According to the director of the Finnish Ministry of Education, Pasi Sahlberg:

“There’s no word for accountability in Finnish… Accountability is something that is left when responsibility has been subtracted.”

All Finnish teachers need to have a master’s degree before entering the profession. Teaching programs are the most rigorous and selective professional schools in the entire country. If a teacher isn’t performing well, it’s the individual principal’s responsibility to do something about it.

3. Cooperation Above Competition

While most countries see the educational system as one big competition, the Finnish believe that “real winners do not compete.

Ironically, this ideal has competitively put them ahead in the international education space. Finland’s educational system doesn’t worry about artificial or arbitrary merit-based systems. There are no lists of top-performing schools or teachers. It’s not an environment of competition; instead, cooperation is the norm.

4. Make the Basics a Priority

Many school systems are so concerned with increasing test scores and comprehension in math and science that they tend to forget what constitutes a happy, harmonious, and healthy student learning environment. Many years ago, the Finnish school system was in need of some serious reforms.

The program that Finland put together focused on returning to the basics. It wasn’t about dominating with excellent marks or upping the ante. Instead, they looked to make the school environment a more equitable place. Since the 1980s, Finnish educators have focused on making the following basics a priority:

  • Education should be an instrument to balance out social inequality.
  • All students receive free school meals.
  • Ease of access to health care.
  • Psychological counseling
  • Individualized guidance

Beginning with the individual in a collective environment of equality is Finland’s way.

5. Students Start School at an Older Age

Again, Finns focus on changing very minute details. Students start school when they are seven years old. They get free rein in the developing childhood years so that compulsory education does not hold them up. It’s simply a way to let a kid be a kid. There are only nine years of compulsory school that Finnish children need to attend. Everything past the ninth grade or at the age of 16 is optional.

6. Professional Options Outside of a Traditional College Degree

Many students don’t need to go to college and get a worthless degree or flounder about trying to find purpose and incur massive debt. Finland solves this dilemma by offering options that are equally advantageous for students continuing their education. There is a lesser-focused dichotomy of college-educated versus trade-school or working class. Both can be equally professional and fulfilling for a career.

In Finland, there is the Upper Secondary School, which is a three-year program that prepares students for the Matriculation Test that determines their acceptance into a university. This is usually based on specialties they’ve acquired during their time in “high school”.

Next, there is vocational education, which is a three-year program that trains students for various careers. They have the option to take the matriculation test if they want to apply to university.

7. Wake Up Later for School

Students in Finland usually start school anywhere from 9:00 to 9:45 a.m., contrary to most countries, where school starts anywhere from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. Research from the US National Library of Medicine has shown that early start times are detrimental to students’ well-being, health, and maturation. Finnish schools start the day later and usually end by 2:00 – 2:45 AM. They have longer class periods and much longer breaks in between. The overall system isn’t there to ram and cram information for their students, but to create an environment of holistic learning.

8. Consistent Instruction from the Same Teachers

Students in Finland often have the same teacher for up to six years of their education. During this time, the teacher can take on the role of a mentor or even a family member. During those years, mutual trust and bonding are built so that both parties know and respect each other.

Different needs and learning styles vary on an individual basis. Finnish teachers can account for this because they’ve figured out the student’s own idiosyncratic needs. They can accurately chart and care for their progress, which helps them reach their goals. There is no passing along to the next teacher because there isn’t one.

9. A More Relaxed Environment

There is a general trend in what Finland is doing with its schools: less stress, less unneeded regimentation, and more caring. Students usually only have a couple of classes a day. They have several times to eat their food, enjoy recreational activities, and generally just relax. Spread throughout the day are 15- to 20-minute intervals where the kids can get up and stretch, grab some fresh air and decompress.

This type of environment is also needed by the teachers. Teacher rooms are set up all over Finnish schools, where they can lounge about and relax, prepare for the day, or just simply socialize. Teachers are people too and need to be functional so they can operate at the best of their abilities.

10. Less Homework is required.

According to the OECD, students in Finland have the least amount of outside work and homework of any other student in the world. They spend only half an hour a night working on stuff from school. Finnish students also don’t have tutors. Yet they are outperforming cultures that have toxic school-to-life balances without unnecessary stress.

Finnish students are getting everything they need to get done in school without the added pressure that comes with excelling at a subject. Without having to worry about grades and busy work, they can focus on the true task at hand: learning and growing as human beings.

How does the education system in your country compare to the Finnish? Do you think adopting some of these practices will be more effective?

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  • Ifeoma Chuks is a naturally-skilled writer. She has written and contributed to more than 6000 articles all over the internet that have formed solid experiences for particularly aspiring, young people around the globe.

    Content Manager

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