Since Finland’s top ranking in the first international PISA league tables in 2001, policymakers from around the world have tried to learn from the unexpected and extraordinary success of its education system.
Why did Finland’s pupils do so well? Popular explanations include the country’s focus on equity, the high standard of teacher training, a comparatively low workload, and the lack of market reforms and school accountability. But research does not support any of these conclusions. In fact, Finland’s rise began well before most of these policies were able to take eff ect – and its recent decline started soon after they took hold.
Instead, Finland’s success appears to be the result of deep-rooted historical, socioeconomic and cultural factors, combined with a resistance to the rising global tide of progressive teaching methods. Its current fall can in turn be linked to cultural changes and recent reforms which may have undermined the causes of its achievements. The findings of this monograph shed new light on Finland’s educational performance and provide important lessons for policymakers.
Heller Sahlgren, Gabriel (2015), Real Finnish Lessons – The true story of an education superpower. London, UK: Centre for Policy Studies.