In an effort to understand how to improve schooling in America, sometimes we look at other countries. Whether or not Finland is pertinent, we need to find a way to get more students interested in math and science if we want to compete with China and India in 20 years.
Finland, according a major international survey, has the best educational system in the world. This study, in turn, comes on the heels of several others showing that Finland has the highest rate of teen literacy in the world, the highest percent of "regular readers," and the most "creatively competitive" economy.
The BBC has devoted a whole series of features to looking at why this might be true. The Finnish education minister says that heavy investments in education are a matter of economic survival for a small, affluent high-tech-based nation. Finland spends more per elementary, middle- and high- school student than any other nation on Earth, and comes in second on spending for higher education. School lunches, health care, most class materials and university tuition are all free.
Maybe it’s the schools themselves. Students stay in the same school from about age 7 to 16. Schools are local, community-based affairs, with extremely low turnover in their teaching staffs and strong expectations on parents. Students are all expected to study languages, math and science (and in Finland, girls now outperform boys on science tests). Two thirds of them go to university. On the other hand, maybe the secret is what they don’t do: Finnish students spend less time in class than students in any other industrialized nation.