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Charter Schools, Effecting Change, Finland's Education System, Good Teaching, Government Policy, Performance Pay for Teachers, SOSNZ, Teacher Shortages

Education – Taking A New Path

This is the second part of my report on Pasi Sahlberg’s Bayfield School talk, 5/10/12.  Part 1 is here.


Sahlberg is emphatic that all students must have the same chance at receiving a good education at all levels and that in order to improve education you must improve equity.

What does he mean by equity in education?

‘Equity in education is the strength of relationship between a pupil’s family background and the education they receive.’  

Rich, poor, immigrant, first generation, native, whatever – all should receive the same quality teaching and the same opportunities.  It’s a lofty ambition, but not impossible by any means.

Performance Pay / Collaboration

Teachers work collaboratively within schools and school-to-school.  Schools share ideas and resources with each other.  There is no performance pay – Sahlberg says it does not work, and it would not be accepted by teachers or management there as they value working collaboratively and see that as key to providing a good and fair education for all.  It’s no different to what teachers here are saying – we value cooperation and collaboration above the chance of an extra dollar.


Here Sahlberg offered a warning:

‘Accountability is what’s left when responsibility is taken away.’ 

He stressed that accountability should be trust based, with schools self-monitoring, and monitoring each other, with minimal external monitoring from government or external agencies, and emphasised that, ideally, you should be reviewing your practices and performance with other schools, locally.  When asked what he thought had led to the level of trust teachers enjoy in Finland, he said

‘I think it’s to do with how teachers are viewed and treated by government and Fins.  There is trust.

Ministers do not tell teachers how to teach.’

Teacher Training

Finnish teachers must get an undergraduate  degree and Masters degree before they do their teacher training.  There is no other path.  No one-year course, no 6-week fast-tracking, not even a three-year course.   There is a better chance of getting into medical or law courses than teacher training.   After 30 years of this system, now just about all Finnish teachers have been trained this way.  As a result, teachers are seen as well-trained and well-educated, and they are held in esteem.  There are no teacher shortages.  I know I’d be more than happy to do a Masters and upgrade my skills and knowledge.  I see that as a win:win situation.

High Five

Parental Choice

The idea of different types of school and of private fee-paying schools is not one that Finland supports.  Sahlberg explains that offering choices in education weakens the whole system and weakens communities by causing unnecessary competition.  He argues that schools must be connected to their communities and to each other for success.  In Finland, parents can choose any school for their children, yet they almost always choose the local school because there is an understanding that the level of care and education will be the same at all schools even if the topics/areas covered differ.  Rather than pitting school against school, cooperation, equality and fairness are again the focus.

In other words, teachers want to do their best for their students, and people trust teachers and schools to be doing just that.

Fewer regulations.  Less monitoring.  More trust.

Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?

Read the rest:  Part 1 is here.

About Save Our Schools NZ

"One needs to be slow to form convictions, but once formed they must be defended against the heaviest odds." Gandhi


5 thoughts on “Education – Taking A New Path

  1. Finnisch miracle: fata morgana?
    Finnish students’ achievement (15 y) declined significantly: study of University Helsinki
    University of Helsinki – Faculty of Behavioral Sciences, Department of Teacher of Education Research Report No 347Authors: Jarkko Hautamäki, Sirkku Kupiainen, Jukka Marjanen, Mari-Pauliina Vainikainen and Risto Hotulainen
    Learning to learn at the end of basic education: Results in 2012 and changes from 2001
    S.: The change between the year 2001 and year 2012 is significant. The level of students’ attainment has declined considerably: under the mean of the scale used in the questions. The difference can be compared to a decline of Finnish students’ attainment in PISA reading literacy from the 539 points of PISA 2009 to 490 points, to below the OECD average. The mean level of students’ learning-supporting attitudes still falls above the mean of the scale used in the questions but also that mean has declined from 2001.
    Since 1996, educational effectiveness has been understood in Finland to include not only subject specific knowledge and skills but also the more general competences which are not the exclusive domain of any single subject but develop through good teaching along a student’s educational career. Many of these, including the object of the present assessment, learning to learn, have been named in the education policy documents of the European Union as key competences which each member state should provide their citizens as part of general education (EU 2006).
    In spring 2012, the Helsinki University Centre for Educational Assessment implemented a nationally representative assessment of ninth grade students’ learning to learn competence. The assessment was inspired by signs of declining results in the past few years’ assessments. This decline had been observed both in the subject specific assessments of the Finnish National Board of Education, in the OECD PISA 2009 study, and in the learning to learn assessment implemented by the Centre for Educational Assessment in all comprehensive schools in Vantaa in 2010.
    The results of the Vantaa study could be compared against the results of a similar assessment implemented in 2004. As the decline in students’ cognitive competence and in their learning related attitudes was especially strong in the two Vantaa studies, with only 6 years apart, a decision was made to direct the national assessment of spring 2012 to the same schools which had participated in a respective study in 2001.
    The goal of the assessment was to find out whether the decline in results, observed in the Helsinki region, were the same for the whole country. The assessment also offered a possibility to look at the readiness of schools to implement a computer-based assessment, and how this has changed during the 11 years between the two assessments. After all, the 2001 assessment was the first in Finland where large scale student assessment data was collected in schools using the Internet.
    The main focus of the assessment was on students’ competence and their learning-related attitudes at the end of the comprehensive school education, but the assessment also relates to educational equity: to regional, between-school, and between- class differences and to the relation of students’ gender and home background to their competence and attitudes.
    The assessment reached about 7 800 ninth grade students in 82 schools in 65 municipalities. Of the students, 49% were girls and 51% boys. The share of students in Swedish speaking schools was 3.4%. As in 2001, the assessment was implemented in about half of the schools using a printed test booklet and in the other half via the Internet. The results of the 2001 and 2012 assessments were uniformed through IRT modelling to secure the comparability of the results. Hence, the results can be interpreted to represent the full Finnish ninth grade population.
    Girls performed better than boys in all three fields of competence measured in the assessment: reasoning, mathematical thinking, and reading comprehension. The difference was especially noticeable in reading comprehension even if in this task girls’ attainment had declined more than boys’ attainment. Differences between the AVI-districts were small. The impact of students’ home-background was, instead, obvious: the higher the education of the parents, the better the student performed in the assessment tasks. There was no difference in the impact of mother’s education on boys’ and girls’ attainment. The between-school-differences were very small (explaining under 2% of the variance) while the between-class differences were relatively large (9 % – 20 %).
    The change between the year 2001 and year 2012 is significant. The level of students’ attainment has declined considerably. The difference can be compared to a decline of Finnish students’ attainment in PISA reading literacy from the 539 points of PISA 2009 to 490 points, to below the OECD average. The mean level of students’ learning-supporting attitudes still falls above the mean of the scale used in the questions but also that mean has declined from 2001.
    The mean level of attitudes detrimental to learning has risen but the rise is more modest. Girls’ attainment has declined more than boys’ in three of the five tasks. There was no gender difference in the change of students’ attitudes, however. Between-school differences were un-changed but differences between classes and between individual students had grown. The change in attitudes—unlike the change in attainment—was related to students’ home background: The decline in learning-supporting attitudes and the growth in attitudes detrimental to school work were weaker the better educated the mother. Home background was not related to the change in students’ attainment, however. A decline could be discerned both among the best and the weakest students.
    The results of the assessment point to a deeper, on-going cultural change which seems to affect the young generation especially hard. Formal education seems to be losing its former power and the accepting of the societal expectations which the school represents seems to be related more strongly than before to students’ home background. The school has to compete with students’ self-elected pastime activities, the social media, and the boundless world of information and entertainment open to all through the Internet. The school is to a growing number of youngpeople just one, often critically reviewed, developmental environment among many.
    The change is not a surprise, however. A similar decline in student attainment has been registered in the other Nordic countries already earlier. It is time to concede that the signals of change have been discernible already for a while and to open up a national discussion regarding the state and future of the Finnish comprehensive school that rose to international acclaim due to our students’success in the PISA studies.


    Posted by Raf Feys (@FeysRaf) | November 25, 2013, 8:47 am


  1. Pingback: Another Week, Another Blunder(s) « My Thinks - October 7, 2012

  2. Pingback: Pasi Sahlberg part 1 – A Dream Finnish Line « SaveOurSchoolsNZ - February 10, 2013

  3. Pingback: Education - Taking A New Path | SOSNZ News Scoop | - February 10, 2013

  4. Pingback: Education - Taking A New Path | SOSNZ News Scoop | - February 10, 2013

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