Finland Is Number One in Education, But Is It an Example for Us?
Newsweek's cover story this week is "The World's Best Countries." Topping that list is Finland, which is also the top ranked country in education. Second is South Korea; the magazine credits its "focus on education" for lifting it from a nation as rich as Afghanistan in the 1960s to third on its list of "economic dynamism."
According to two consultants with McKinsey, Finland offers some examples of how to eliminate achievement gaps that we see here in the U.S. between well-off children and poor ones. In Finland, a third of students get extra instruction from tutors, and students who fall behind get individualized attention from their teachers. (The piece also calls out KIPP charter school as a worthwhile model.)
Overall, the article suggests three steps we can take to improve our outcomes: high-quality, early education, longer school hours, and better-trained teachers.
One thing the piece doesn't mention is the relative uniformity of the Finnish population with regards to the American experience. The best thing about this country is its diversity. With that diversity comes a mix of very different values—something I'd guess Finland doesn't have to struggle as much with.
Sure, it may have some programs we may want to emulate. But, on the whole, while I applaud that country's achievements, I don't think it is a reasonable example for what a country with 60 times its population—made up of blacks, whites, browns, yellows, etc.—should do.