Finnish Education: Not a Miracle, but a Well-Planned System Rooted in Trust, Highly Educated Teachers, and Pedagogical Autonomy
The Finnish schooling system has gained a worldwide reputation ever since the PISA tests started to provide comparative data on student achievements in the OECD countries. Finland achieved top positions in the rankings, and suddenly the country witnessed remarkable global interest in its education system. Although Finland’s position in recent PISAs has declined, the Finnish schooling system still stands out in studies analyzing well-performing schooling systems. The crucial steps to schooling as a free service for children and youth were taken in the 1970s when the comprehensive school was established. Different forms of basic education were combined to provide a common path for children from the first to the ninth grade. Faculties of education were established in Finnish universities, and teacher training became master's level. Yet today there is a growing concern that the previously well-performing system is slow in reacting to new challenges and making reforms and creating innovations for future schooling. On the one hand this is understandable, since major mistakes in schooling systems are too costly in terms of each generation's educational knowledge base. On the other hand, reform and innovation are needed for future learning because societies are in flux with ever-increasing demands for new skills. This presentation will provide insights into past and present development of the Finnish schooling system and discuss future challenges.
Toni Saarivirta holds a PhD in Education and is a senior advisor for education at the Regional State Administrative Agency in Finland. He is also an adjunct professor in the University of Turku (Finland) and an adjunct associate professor in the University of Alberta (Canada). His work has focused on innovation studies, educational leadership, economic impacts of education and research, regional innovation policies and strategies as well as innovation systems and policies, economic growth, and the spatial mobility of university graduates. Dr. Saarivirta has published in the Australian Journal of Teacher Education, Regional Studies, and Higher Education Quarterly. His latest book chapter was published by Springer in 2016.