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A recent analysis of the Finnish system summarized its core principles as follows: The process of change has been almost the reverse of policies in the United States.
Over the past 40 years, Finland has shifted from a highly centralized system emphasizing external testing to a more localized system in which highly trained teachers design curriculum around the very lean national standards.
Yet this country created a productive teaching and learning system by expanding access while investing purposefully in ambitious educational goals using strategic approaches to build teaching capacity.
I use the term “teaching and learning system” advisedly to describe a set of elements that, when well designed and connected, reliably support all students in their learning.
Two-thirds of these graduates enroll in universities or professionally oriented polytechnic schools.
More than 50 percent of the Finnish adult population participates in adult education programs.
All students receive a free meal daily, as well as free health care, transportation, learning materials, and counseling in their schools, so that the foundations for learning are in place.
This occurred in two stages between 19, and a common curriculum, through the end of high school, was developed throughout the entire system.
Ninety-eight percent of the cost of education at all levels is covered by government rather than by private sources.
Although there was a sizable achievement gap among students in the 1970s, strongly correlated to socio-economic status, this gap has been progressively reduced as a result of curriculum reforms started in the 1980s.
As an example, I am going to briefly describe how Finland built a strong educational system, nearly from the ground up.
Finland was not succeeding educationally in the 1970s, when the United States was the unquestioned education leader in the world.