What makes Finland so hot?
Finland's stellar performance has drawn the attention of education and government officials around the world. These experts have uncovered many attributes of the Finnish educational system that are distinctive and contribute to the success of Finnish students. Some of these features are:
• The Finnish school system uses the same curriculum for all students (which may be one reason why Finnish scores varied so little from school to school).
• Students have light homework loads.
• Finnish schools do not have classes for gifted students.
• Finland uses very little standardized testing.
• Children do not start school until age 7.
• Finland has a comprehensive preschool program that emphasizes "self-reflection" and socializing, not academics.
• Grades are not given until high school, and even then, class rankings are not compiled.
• Teachers must have master's degrees.
• Becoming a teacher in Finland is highly competitive. Just 10% of Finnish college graduates are accepted into the teacher training program; as a result, teaching is a high-status profession. (Teacher salaries are similar to teacher salaries in the U.S., however.)
• Students are separated into academic and vocational tracks during the last three years of high school. About 50% go into each track.
• Diagnostic testing of students is used early and frequently. If a student is in need of extra help, intensive intervention is provided.
• Groups of teachers visit each others' classes to observe their colleagues at work. Teachers also get one afternoon per week for professional development.
• School funding is higher for the middle school years, the years when children are most in danger of dropping out.
• College is free in Finland.