The Finnish paradox
More, more, more. Should we apply the principles of supersizing to education reform?
By Carol Lloyd
Questioning conventional (American) wisdom
We live in tumultuous times when it comes to our kids’ educations. Amid slashed budgets and teacher tenure wars, we parents are learning about everything that is wrong with our schools. Or pick up any national magazine — from Time to the New York Times Magazine to O to (hello, dudes!) Men’s Journal — and you’ll be treated to another entry from the deplorable-state-of-our-schools saga. NBC's Education Nation devoted an entire week to our fall from educational excellence with hours upon hours of talking heads browbeating, mudslinging, and handwringing.
The proposed solution to our education crisis? Depends on whom you ask, of course, but most recommendations boil down to a single assumption: More means more. More hours in the classroom, more homework, more academics, more early schooling, more testing, more ranking, more formality, more school choice, and more parental involvement.
Pasi Sahlberg questions such assumptions. As an expert on the wildly successful Finnish school system, he’s carved out a niche informing the rest of the world’s ed reformers about what he calls the Finnish paradoxes. A self-proclaimed “school-improvement activist,” Sahlberg has worked as a Finnish teacher, a teacher of teachers, and an educational policy advisor for the World Bank and now directs the Finnish cultural agency Centre for International Mobility and Cooperation. I recently buttonholed him after an NBC summit panel on international schools to explain how Finnish educational success flies in the face of American ed reform’s central tenet.
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