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Finland

Since it began a massive reform of its education system in the 1970s, Finland has developed a global reputation for excellence in public education, equitable student outcomes, and child health and wellbeing.  Similar in population size to an American state such as Wisconsin, Finland provided many lessons on both state and national education policy reform:

  • Equity - Forty years ago, Finland made a commitment to providing a good education to all its citizens. They abolished private schools, established a national curriculum in order to codify a nationally-set standard of education, and committed a large portion of tax dollars to ensure access to free, high-quality education from early childhood daycare all the way through post-secondary.

  • Early Childhood Development – Children have access to health care and subsidized preschool learning from age eight months through the time they begin formal schooling at age seven. The emphasis of the curriculum is to develop social, emotional, and motor skills in order strengthen students’ self-reliance and other character skills before diving into academic testing.

  • Early Intervention with Special Education – Finnish teachers are trained to identify students with special learning needs, meet with parents to discuss the child’s particular needs, and outline a specialized learning plan. In the classrooms, students are not grouped by ability. Instead, extra teachers or nurses are added to classrooms with higher needs.

  • Respected Teaching Profession – Throughout their history, Finns have always placed a great value in learning, and teaching is comparable in both prestige and compensation to the practice of medicine or law. All potential teachers must graduate from one of Finland’s highly selective teacher training graduate programs. After graduating, teachers are trusted by parents and school leaders to do their jobs with minimal intervention, and they are never assessed based on their students’ test results.

  • School Completion Flexibility – Beginning in elementary school, Finnish students are encouraged to learn at their own pace. Upon entering high school, students can choose between academic and vocational/technical tracks based on their career interests. The government’s policy to provide free high school and university education to all children also leads to low dropout rates and a very high percentage of college enrollment.

  • Continuity and Stability – Teachers typically stay in their positions at particular schools for many years. Finnish parents trust that the school in their neighborhood is of equal caliber to any other school in the country, so the vast majority of children in Finland attend the public school closest to their home. This trust is made possible in part by the government's multiparty consensus in the collective value of education.