Finland gives children what they really want: more recreation. When it comes to providing a quality education, money is not everything. In fact, some of the countries that spend the most on education, such as the United States, are not necessarily the countries that show the best results. But a country is proving that providing quality education is much more than money.
About 5% of Finland's gross domestic product (GDP) is spent on education, lower than neighboring Norway and Sweden, as well as in South Korea, Brazil and Colombia.
However, Finland has created one of the most respected educational systems in the world for two simple reasons: focus on teachers and focus on students.
They start late
In Finland, students do not start formal schooling until they are 7 years old.
However, nursery-kindergarten is considered essential to develop cooperation and communication skills that are important in preparing young children for lifelong education, as well as for formal learning of reading and mathematics. This preparatory period lasts until the age of 7 years. Even so Early childhood education is not mandatory in Finland.
Regardless of their capacity, all children are included
The Finns "designed an educational system to optimize the learning of each child, regardless of the educational needs of the student". All Finnish schools have a full-time special education teacher who works part-time with approximately 23% of the students, as well as a staff group that meets every two weeks to analyze the behavior of students in class, which includes the school principal, nurse, special education teacher, school psychologist, social worker, and classroom teachers.
The teachers are highly valued top-level professionals
Teaching is considered a very desirable career; the professors are on a par with other professionals, such as lawyers and doctors. A research-based master's degree (fully paid for by the Finnish government) is a prerequisite for a teaching position, and competition for acceptance in the best teaching programs can be fierce. One teacher reports that in 2012, the University of Helsinki received more than 2,300 applications for the 120 places in its elementary school teacher education program. The requirement of a master's degree means that Finnish teachers generally have between 5 and 7.5 years of educational preparation for their roles before they are responsible for leading their own class. Because teachers have carried out extensive training for their roles, they are more likely to consider teaching as a lifelong profession, and Finnish society gives teachers a position of respect and prestige that allows them to make your work even more effective.
Having a teaching force composed of the best and brightest, widely educated for their roles, makes it easy for the Finnish government (and society) to give teachers a great deal of autonomy in their classrooms. Teachers are given great flexibility to try innovative approaches to instruction, such as developing an "outdoor math" curriculum or partnering with other teachers to employ a team-based teaching structure. Compared to teachers in other countries, Finnish teachers generally spend less time in the classroom than their foreign counterparts.
Finnish schools mandate that all elementary school students have 15 minutes of recess for every 45 minutes of class. According to a study conducted by Stanford researchers, increasing the time spent outside of the classroom actually has the effect of creating a positive learning environment for all students. In addition to their abundant recess time, Finnish student children are also not overloaded with homework after school, so they spend about a third of the time on after-school activities on average.
It is the most equitable school system in the world
There are no private schools, and students of different abilities are not separated into educational levels in class, reports The Independent. This has given Finland the distinction of being the most equitable school system in the world, with the smallest gap between its students of lower and higher performance, according to the Global Competitiveness Report of the World Economic Forum. "The result is that a Finnish child has a good chance of getting the same quality education, regardless of whether he lives in a rural village or in a university town," wrote the Smithsonian's Lyonson Hancock.
They care about the gender gap
When many developing countries have large gender differences between male and female students in terms of science education, and male students generally achieve higher achievements in this field, Finland is resisting the trend. In fact, according to the OECD, Finland is the only developed country where girls outnumber boys in science scores in general and where the majority of high performance science students are also girls. Educators in Finland attribute this to the country's generous maternity leave policies, gender equality policies in all areas and guidelines to ensure female representation in science.