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The Finnish paradox

More, more, more. Should we apply the principles of supersizing to education reform?

By Carol Lloyd

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More parent involvement

Even the renewed focus on getting parents more involved in their children’s education doesn’t jibe with the Finnish education system. When asked if Finnish parents are more involved than American parents in their children’s schooling, Sahlberg seemed confused. “No, I think there is a far lower rate of parental involvement. We believe most learning should happen in school,” he said. “I think that parents feel the schools are so well prepared that it’s not a real priority. In general, parents do other things with their children — after-school activities, trips, community events."

Does this mean we’re headed down the wrong track? Not necessarily. Some things like parental involvement and longer school days may be necessary to help U.S. schools catch up. But other principles, like more testing, ranking, and math drilling, may end up creating their own set of problems. In his mild way, Sahlberg espoused a concept underlying Finnish education — but one that almost sounds revolutionary in the midst of our scorched-earth ed reform.

“We believe it is important that learning should be enjoyable. And all kids should be happy to go to school.”

is the executive editor of GreatSchools and mother to two raucous daughters, ages 9 and 13.

Comments from readers

"Given the same teachers, hours and curriculum there is no guarantee that U.S. kids would improve. Right now the 'money to progress ratio' is a negative inverse. A longer day? Obama is nuts. It will not happen with the same teaching regimen. We are wasting too much time during our regular school day. Many schools have three recesses + PE.?? Get rid of the i-pods, mp3s and cell phones too."
"Teachers don't want to work, and any research that shows hard work doesn't improve education is given front headlines. The American population does not and cannot compare to that of Finland."
"Did we forget 'more status, more decision-making and 'in loco parentis' authority, more job security, and more pay for teachers?' I think we did."

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