Pasi Sahlberg: Five U.S. Education Contributions to Finland’s Success


Reposted from the Washington Post:

“For me, just like for many of my Finnish colleagues, the United States is home to a great deal of educational research and innovation. Why doesn’t this show in international comparisons, like the recent review of innovation in education by the OECD? We visitors to the United States often wonder why innovations that have brought improvement to all successful education systems have not been embedded in the U.S. school system. One reason may be that the work of the school in the United States is so much steered by bureaucracies, test-based accountability and competition that schools are simply doing what they must do in this situation. Many visitors from the United States to Finland conclude their observations by saying that Finnish education looks like the U.S. education in the 1970s and 1980s.

My message to my colleagues in the United States is: This is the only education system in the world that is self-sufficient in terms of ideas, knowledge, research and innovation—and financial resources. All others, more or less, depend on knowledge and ideas generated in the United States. It is hard to accept the conclusion of the OECD’s measurement that the greatest American innovation in organizational policy and practice is student assessment, including standardized testing.

The question should not be: “How to have more innovation in education?” The real question is: “How to make the best use of all existing educational ideas that are somewhere in American schools and universities?” The answer is not to have more charter schools or private ownership of public schools to boost innovation. The lesson from the most successful education systems is this: Education policies should not be determined by mythology and ideology but guided by research and evidence from home and abroad.”

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