SXSWedu – Replicating the Finnish Miracle

If you saw my first post from SXSWedu 2016 yesterday,  you might think that I planned to summarize each day in a series of posts this week.  However, today was so full of learning that I am going to have to spread out my posts a bit.  I want to dedicate today’s to a session I attended called, “Can the Finnish Education Miracle Be Replicated?”

As you probably know, Finland’s educational system has been in the news quite a bit in recent years because they have achieved extremely high ratings from PISA.  Many people want desperately to know what Finland is doing so right and what the United States is doing so wrong.

Well, first of all, we’re not so wrong.  We may not be at the top of the chart, but we aren’t at the bottom either.  As Pasi Sahlberg, a Finnish educator who is currently a Harvard visiting professor, pointed out, we need to focus on what we are doing right and make it even better.  That being said, there is obviously some room for growth in our country.

The qualities that the top successful countries seem to have in common are these: collaboration, creativity, trust, professionalization, and equity.

According to Sahlburg, one of the areas where the States could use some growth is in equity.  “You need to take equity more seriously.” Nearly all of Finland’s students go to public school – not private or charter – and their country’s top priority is keeping their schools equitable.

Sahlburg’s co-presenter, Saku Tuominen works in Finland, and runs an innovation company called “SCOOL” whose mission is to help schools change.  SCOOL is helping Finland to implement a radical program called, “HundrED,” to celebrate the country’s 100th year of independence this year.  This ambitious project has the following goal, “Over the next two years we will interview 100 global thought leaders, create 100 case studies of exciting education happenings worldwide, and trial 100 new innovations in a selection of schools in Finland for one year. Our findings will be shared with the world for free.”

Shared with the world. For free!  How amazing is that?  They will be collecting all of these innovative ideas, compiling them into tremendous resources for their educators, and then giving them to the world. For free.  What a beautiful idea!

The criteria the company will be looking for as they select their final products will be:

  • Is it fresh?
  • Does it make pedagogical sense?
  • Can it scale?

An example of one of the 100 new innovations they will doing in Finland is to assign every high school student to be involved in creating a documentary against racism.  To show their commitment to this project, Finland has already rented every movie theater in Finland for one day to showcase the final videos created by the students.

You may need to re-read that last sentence again to digest it fully.

If you would like more information about HundrED, please click here.  I anticipate that there will be incredible global advancement in education due to this amazing idea.

In closing, Sahlburg said he would like us to leave with these three ideas:

  • Let them play!
  • Prepare kids to be wrong.
  • Build on what has worked.

To learn more about Finland’s educational system from Sahlburg’s perspective, you may want to read his book, Finnish Lessons 2.0. The 2015 edition is an updated version.

Finnish Lessons 2.0
Finnish Lessons 2.0
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