Book Review Page 52
What Can the World Learn from Educational
Change in Finland?
by Pasi Sahlberg, Teachers College Press, New York, N.Y., 2011, 208 pp., $34.95 softcover
Myriad reports published each year compare education in the United States to that of other countries. Public education critics are quick to point out how other countries, whether it’s China, Singapore or most recently Finland, provide a superior student learning experience.
While reports, research and critics abound, first-hand information regarding another country’s educational program is hard to find. Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland? is one such resource. Written by Pasi Sahlberg, whose parents were both Finnish educators, the book provides a refreshing look at what a vibrant educational program can be. Sahlberg now serves as director general of the Center for International Mobility and Cooperation at the Finnish Ministry of Education.
The book notes the impatience of many Western governments, stressing the creation of the most desirable educational programs take time. After all, it has taken Finland at least 30 years to reach its current status.
Sahlberg believes a burdensome load of standardized testing will not lead to higher student achievement. Students in Finland do not take a standardized test until they are seeking university admission, yet Finland is one of the top performers on the Program for International Student Assessment administered periodically in countries around the world.
Sahlberg asserts that having excellent teachers in every classroom is the most important factor for successful learning. Finland builds up the status of the profession by allowing teachers to fulfill a moral mission (as compared to meeting accountability mandates), the freedom to do their work and a salary that is relatively high compared to teachers in other countries.
Reviewed by Lyle C. Ailshie, superintendent, Kingsport City Schools, Kingsport, Tenn.