Every couple of years, the OECD publish a report from their Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). Their findings are (very helpfully) compiled into league tables, charting the performance of each of the participating countries in maths, literacy and application of scientific knowledge.
These tables are then used to fuel media stories like this one, which make claims like:
“Australian schools should copy their top-performing Asian neighbours and push to keep only the best teachers in the classroom if local students are to stop slipping further down the ladder.”
The PISA report also provides ammunition for politicians like Education Minister Christopher Pyne to come up with gems like this:
“We’ve spent a great deal of money, 40 per cent more on school education in the last 10 years, but we haven’t focused on the basics – teacher quality, autonomy in schools, parental engagement and the curriculum. We’ve allowed ourselves to be distracted with other issues. And our competitive – competitor nations, particularly in Asia, they have focused on the basics.
We need to have a back-to-basics approach.”
So what’s this got to do with Finland? After all it seems the media and the politicians are only focused on beating our Asian competitors.
Well, many of the opponents to the “Beat Asia” campaign, cite the Finnish education system as the one we should look to in order to raise standards.
I’m all for looking at other systems to see what we can learn. Indeed it was when I looked at the Finnish system I learned the following…
1. More than 30% of Finnish students say they aren’t happy, or they do not belong at school.
According to the last set of PISA results (PDF) – published in 2013 – on average, 20% of Australian students report they are not happy or that they do not belong at school. Yet in Finland, 32% of students report that they aren’t happy.
Since PISA started, we have seen a steady decline in the amount of kids who feel they belong in schools in Australia, but interestingly, this decline has been even more pronounced in Finland.
This is of particular interest to me given the link between school connectedness and wellbeing.
2. The Youth Unemployment rate in Finland currently stands at 23%
I’m not sure the significance of this to be honest, but I do find it interesting.
What is the education system doing if it serving kids well on standardised tests but not enabling them to get into the workforce? I’d love to get a better perspective if anyone is well placed to offer me some advice?
Just read OECD data that puts youth unemployment in Finland at 20%. (12% in Oz by comparison). Why? given their edu? Ping: @pasi_sahlberg
— Dan Haesler (@danhaesler) June 29, 2015
I’ve previously attempted to tweet Pasi Sahlberg to get his thoughts on this, but he’s a busy guy. If anyone knows him, could you ask him for me please?
3. Finland value different things & different people in education
OK, you probably thought this might the case, but it is nevertheless still interesting to note the different reactions of Christopher Pyne and his Finnish counterpart in the face of declining standards.
Whilst Pyne spoke about competing, getting back-to-basics and teachers who weren’t up to scratch…
When questioned what her thoughts were about the fact the likes of Liechtenstein and Estonia had overtaken Finland in Maths, Finnish Education Minister, Krista Kiuru said:
“We will bring in not only experts in research and education and political decision-makers but also student representatives and parents. Besides strengthening equality, we must find means to improve and sustain motivation in learning and studying and make schools a good environment to be in.”
Krista Kiuru engages education experts, students and parents in order to make schools a better environment to be in.
Christopher Pyne brings in Kevin Donnelly.
For me, this is one of the main reasons why we should look to Finland to see what we can learn from them. Their focus on the bigger picture.