"Finland, Finland, Finland: The country where I quite want to be." - Monty Python
To be quite honest, as a teacher, I'm not sure it's exactly where I would want to end up, since the starting salary for primary teachers is only eighteen thousand dollars a year, but I guess that could buy one a lot of fried Pike Perch in Beetroot sauce. It would also make my son very happy and extremely well educated. This is a country that has a one hundred percent literacy rate. Their math and scientific literacy rates are in the top percentile as well. Maybe it's all that fish they eat.
My wife sent me a report about Finnish education reform. Here's the part that made me look twice: "Primary school, particularly, is, to a large extent, a 'testing-free zone' reserved for learning to know, to do, and to sustain natural curiosity." The only high-stakes standardized test comes at the end of high school. That would be quite a change from the early-and-often assessment program that we follow here. We run on data, and if that means testing Kindergartners in the first week of school to find out if they know their letters, so be it. Here in the United States, it's all about performance.
Or is it? Our literacy rate is ninety-nine percent, so should we bother with why Johnny can't read? Well, if you consider that that one percent difference represents some three million people, maybe we should be concerned. Maybe we should be looking into the "trust-based school culture" that Finland adopted back in the 1990s. But that would also mean addressing our problems with children living in poverty. That doesn't happen in Finland. We have six times as any kids per capita living below the poverty line. That might be why we approach school reform in the United States like a corporation. In Finland, they treat their schools like places where kids go to learn things. Go figure.