As one analyst notes: "Most visitors to Finland discover elegant school buildings filled with calm children and highly educated teachers.They also recognize the large autonomy that schools enjoy, little interference by the central education administration in schools’ everyday lives, systematic methods to address problems in the lives of students, and targeted professional help for those in need." Leaders in Finland attribute the gains to their intensive investments in teacher education—all teachers receive three years of high-quality graduate level preparation completely at state expense—plus a major overhaul of the curriculum and assessment system designed to ensure access to a “thinking curriculum” for all students.By 2006, Finland’s between-school variance on the PISA science scale was only 5 percent, whereas the average between-school variance in other OECD nations was about 33 percent.(Large between-school variation is generally related to social inequality.) The overall variation in achievement among Finnish students is also smaller than that of nearly all the other OECD countries.This is true despite the fact that immigration from nations with lower levels of education has increased sharply in recent years, and there is more linguistic and cultural diversity for schools to contend with.One recent analysis notes that in some urban schools the number of immigrant children or those whose mother tongue is not Finnish approaches 50 percent.
I use the term “teaching and learning system” advisedly to describe a set of elements that, when well designed and connected, reliably support all students in their learning.
Beginning in the 1970s, Finland launched reforms to equalize educational opportunity by first eliminating the practice of separating students into very different tracks based on their test scores, and then by eliminating the examinations themselves.
This occurred in two stages between 19, and a common curriculum, through the end of high school, was developed throughout the entire system.
Two-thirds of these graduates enroll in universities or professionally oriented polytechnic schools.
More than 50 percent of the Finnish adult population participates in adult education programs.