The decline of British pupils in international educational rankings over the last ten years has created an openness to learn about good practice in other countries. Finland´s ambassador Pekka Huhtaniemi was guest speaker at an educational conference in London, where he gave reasons why the Finnish educational system is regarded as one of the world's best.
Finnish pupils´ excellent results in OECD´s PISA comparison this millennium have boosted Finland´s international reputation as a leader in education. In Britain, where the public educational system is now being reformed, there is great interest in Finland’s experience. Ambassador Huhtaniemi was asked to highlight Finland’s strengths for an audience of educational professionals, researchers and journalists at the 100 Group Conference in London in February.
Finland´s educational success is based on several factors, most importantly, equal opportunities and free education to every child irrespective of their background, and highly qualified teachers, who enjoy teaching, Ambassador Huhtaniemi told the conference. In Finland, teachers share pedagogical freedom, but are also responsible for the pupil´s development. “Because of the high recognition of the teaching profession in Finland, universities can select the most motivated and talented applicants,” the Ambassador said.
Other factors behind Finnish success include the encouragement of evaluation and assessment in schools, rather than testing, the comprehensiveness of the educational system, and the principle that no child should be left behind. According to a 2010 survey by Canadian Higher Education Strategy Associates, Finnish youngsters have the most equal opportunities in the world to get a higher education, because the wealth or education of parents has nothing to do with who continues to a university or who does not.
Part of the educational success is a result of the structure of Finnish society. In the country with a small homogenous population like Finland, elemental teaching is easier to arrange than in multicultural Britain. The two countries also differ from each other in that the Finnish system doesn´t support educating faster and slower learners separately.
The maintenance and development of the educational systems are a result of good decisions. The system offers equal opportunities and inspiring teachers, but in the end, its success is in pupil´s hands. “Students themselves make the most important decisions of all by deciding whether to learn or not,” the Ambassador concluded.
Text and pictures: Maria Uotila, Embassy of Finland