Explaining the Finnish Miracle – In Teachers We Trust

An interesting coincidence – having said at the end of yesterday’s blog that we’d next be posting on the subject of the education system in Finland, this morning we came across a tweet from Mike Baker advertising the Finnish Institute of London and a series of events which explore the way the Finns do education.

“Finnish education has recently gained substantial interest among British politics and education experts, as well as the general public, mainly due to its top rankings in the OECD’s PISA (Programme for International Students Assessment) studies.

Interestingly, Finland’s success seems to be based on principles that differ from the ideals of the British education. Major differences can be found, for example, in the emphasis on evaluation and competition between both students and schools and in education and the role of teachers.

But what are the sources of the Finnish success in education? Can these elements be adopted to the UK or are the states and their cultures just too different? Is there a real political will to adopt these elements and if yes, how to make this change happen?

The Finnish Institute in London and the Embassy of Finland in London are organising together with various partners a series of independent events in spring 2012. This event series goes beyond the obvious discussion about the success of Finnish education and lessons for the UK education sector.

The series includes events targeted at different audiences, examining the education challenges and the lessons learned from the Finnish model from various perspectives.

The next seminar also includes the launch of a novel book “Miracle of Education: The Principles and Practises of Teaching and Learning in Finnish Schools”.”

So here we go, with a brief look at the Finnish system, and with quotations from a paper by Irmeli Halinen of the Finnish National Board of Education

The steering of all levels of education is based on clearly defined, common national objectives.

Instead of controlling and monitoring, the focus is on supporting and developing the work of schools and teachers.

There is neither an inspection system of schools in Finland nor national tests in learning outcomes during basic education on the basis of which schools could be placed in an order of superiority.

There are no ranking lists of comprehensive schools.

Learning outcomes are assessed on the basis of national evaluations based on samples and the information gathered from these evaluations is used in the development of education and in the training of teachers.

Mutual trust is an important prerequisite for the development of the Finnish education.

The national core curriculum and the local curricula are considered as constantly developing, living documents.

In-service training of teachers is based on working in networks which offers the opportunity to receive guidance from national experts and, above all, to share experiences and learn from the practices of other teachers and schoools.

[Very similar to the Schools Council model which existed in the UK not so very long ago?]

The level of education among teachers is high and the profession is respected.

Teachers are involved in the drawing up of their own school’s and municipality’s curriculum.

Teachers are heard and they influence strongly also the outlining of the national core curriculum with their expertise.

A school is not left alone as the challenges to secure the learning and well-being of pupils are growing continuously.

A very central characteristic of the Finnish educational policy is giving versatile and strong support to students.

The assessment of pupils is encouraging and its important task is to help pupils to understand and appreciate themselves as learners and to take responsibility for their own learning process.

The central objective of the Finnish education policy is currently to combine high standard teaching and good learning outcomes and well-being of students.

The Finnish steering system of education is characterised by its clear and non-bureaucratic structure, flexibility and interactiveness.

The administrative system does not include controlling elements such as inspecting schools. The central objective is giving support.

[Just as HMI set out to do in pre-Ofsted days?]

Learning outside the school is more and more connected to school learning. Practices for recognising and acknowledging learning elsewhere are developed quickly.


That’s probably enough to think about for now. Come back for Part Two tomorrow.

Or click here for Part Two:


Click here for Part Three:




About 3D Eye

Gary Foskett and Clare Blackhall are educationalists, writers and consultants. We work with schools and other organisations who share our vision of how schools, businesses, etc should work in the 21st Century. We also run courses and contribute to conferences - speaking about our three dimensional model of intelligences and how schools, colleges and universities can develop the full potential of all their staff and students. We also offer consultancy for businesses and public sector organisations to support staff training and organisational change and development. For more detailed information read our blog at https://3diassociates.wordpress.com/ or see our website at www.3diassociates.com.
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