"McKinsey's work with school systems in more than 50 countries suggests this is an important gap in the U.S. debate, because the world's top performing school systems--Singapore, Finland, South Korea--make a different choice. They recruit, develop and retain what this report will call 'top third+' students as one of their central education strategies, and they've acheived extraordinary results. These systems recruit 100% of their teacher corops from the top third of the academic cohort, and then screen for other important qualities as well. In the U.S., by contrast, 23% of new teachers come from the top third, and just 14% in high poverty schools, which find it especially difficult to attract and retain talented teachers. It is remarkably large difference in approach, and in results." 
Taking this into account, it's silly to argue that since they have tenure, too, tenure isn't the problem here. They already have the right people teaching. We need to fire many of the people who are currently teaching.
Also, the U.S. spends a higher percent of GDP on education, so blaming spending seems odd. 
Finally, I'm really sick of the way Diane Ravitch constantly slams Teach For America. The U.S. needs better people teaching. TFA makes some of those people think about teaching. It's getting teaching in the same ballpark of prestige as consulting, banking, law school, medical school, etc for students coming out of top colleges. Nothing else comes close to doing that on the same scale. Even if it is true that TFA teachers aren't noticeably better in years 1-2 than a typical experienced teacher (and I don't believe that is the case), it's still a great program.
If you want to fire a big chunk of your teachers, that's fine. You just need to ensure the people you are replacing them with are better, and you do that by having higher requirements, paying them more, and giving them a better environment to work in. That means smaller classes, more autonomy, not relying on standardized tests for compensation, and a whole host of other things the US fails at.
Let's say you had a big tech company with thousands of mediocre programmers. You want to fire them and hire better ones, but before you do that you have to ask why you had so many lousy programmers in the first place. Why did good programmers decide not to work for your company, and how will you both attract them and convince them to stay? The US seems to think it can get highly qualified teachers by providing working environments akin to code monkey cubicle farms, and they're simply wrong.
Actually, the problem is that we can't predict what makes good teachers. Studies have consistently shown—see my post below for more—that Master's degrees, for instance, don't predict success. Malcolm Gladwell writes about this issue here: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/12/15/081215fa_fact_... .
That means smaller classes, more autonomy, not relying on standardized tests for compensation, and a whole host of other things the US fails at.
The first doesn't measurably improve outcome either. The second sounds good. The third is a bit of red herring: I don't know any serious reformer who says that performance should be measured entirely based on testing or that testing is perfect. It isn't. But if you don't have some standardized measure, you can't even make comparisons.
As a Singaporean, I would amend the original statement to say 'we treat our schooling very seriously'. But, yes, we do treat our academics very seriously - in fact, I personally believe we take it too seriously to the point of obsession.
Without the water the horse dies for sure, with the water at least it stands a chance.
If those students are that unmotivated then that's one more feather in the cap of the teachers that they hold on to what they are doing in spite of such resistance.
Hong Kong and Singapore's schools are great because they are full of Chinese, in the same way that schools with many Chinese in the US do very well, even in poor neighborhoods:
To begin with, the eight students agreed on a few
generalities: Latino and Asian students came mostly from
poor and working-class families.
According to a study of census data, 84% of the Asian and
Latino families in the neighborhoods around Lincoln High
have median annual household incomes below $50,000. And
yet the Science Bowl team is 90% Asian, as is the Academic
They insist that Finland cannot serve as a model because it
lacks racial diversity; but they fall silent when one
points out that Finland has the same demographics as
Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, and Norway, yet gets superior
results. I am troubled by this “lacks diversity” argument,
because it implies that African-American and Hispanic
children cannot benefit by having highly experienced
teachers, small classes, and a curriculum rich in the arts
I looked it up. You're right, Finland does much better internationally than most of the other Scandinavian nations. I would not have expected that result.
One of the reasons I like HN is because sometimes, reading through comments, I see things that just blow my perceptions out of the water. I enjoy going back and reformulating my arguments.
Another problem is that until 2007 the "seminars", the schools for educating teachers, were mainly relics from the late sixties, this having all the obvious implications given the hippie
state of DK in those years.
Also in DK through all levels of the educational system from elementary school through university, the main focus is on the students who are at the bottom of the skill spectrum.
I think the biggest difference overall was a lower amount of underachievers in Finland.
I don't know if the Finnish school system is that super great. Maybe you get some knowledge of this and that, and gain a work ethic, but one could teach the kids so much more about life than that would help them a lot later on.
Also I've heard that talented / energetic people have more opportunities to go extra far elsewhere (I've heard positive stuff from California), while here it's more egalitarian, at least at normal schools.
Our kids start school the year they turn seven and the school days are shorter than elsewhere.
Finland's technological and industrial output clusters with Sweden, Denmark, and Norway to a far greater extent than it does with countries outside Northern Europe.
In the same way, when you look at the TIMSS, intra-European variance exists and is nontrivial, but European and East Asian nations do tend to cluster together quite a bit:
See Table 3 on page 19. Top 5 countries in grade 8 in math: Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan. The very top European countries are towards the lower end of the East Asian distribution in math, and are only close in 4th grade (before puberty onset).
Of course, nothing ever happens.
But finns are less smart than say, Asia, most of Europe and North Korea :( (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IQ_and_the_Wealth_of_Nations)
There is likely a multitude of reasons. And yes, stuff like ethnic diversity do cause problems. But that shit is not unsolveable.
In Finland, there are schools & classrooms with very diverse ethnical backgrounds and yes, they rank worse than your average, homogenous classrooms. But the system still manages to achieve significant improvement with the individuals, even though the end-results are sub-average. And we are talking about students that often do not even know any local languages (or English, Swedish, German or French, which are in some rare cases available as teaching languages) and start their primary education years later than their Finnish peers.
The shit is, you don't need perfection. You need improvement. Sure, it's theoretically possible that genetics or culture gives you edge on some stuff, but it is about as likely that they don't. In any way, that stance is incredibly counterproductive against any kind of thinkable improvement. It is also pretty bloody likely, that Finns and Chinese have figured out something right and there are lessons to be learned.
The US has a long, and controversial, history with genetics and eugenics research. Most researchers have been wise to avoid it because, realistically, it is a career ender. Unless you enjoy your research being lumped in with propaganda spouted by racist and facist you'd be wise to not go there.
If you're referring to the oppositional culture hypothesis, there's a whole body of research that show it isn't nearly as common as widely perceived - most recently there is this: http://www.amazon.com/Kids-Dont-Want-Fail-Oppositional/dp/06... but I also linked to some other research in this post: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2046616
Certainly using school money to buy more football bleachers rather than invested in academics is not just something you'll find in poor minority schools - see pretty much any US university with a Div I or II basketball, football or hockey program.
You can't really change a culture though. Is there any way you think it can be fixed?
Changing cultures happens all the time. I am a fifth-generation descendant of my family living in this state, but I think and act considerably differently from my great-great-great grandfather and his son who first settled in this state before the Civil War. I differ pretty substantially culturally from my late dad, really, as does America as a whole from his generation to mine.
One thing that promotes cultural change is interchange and communication among different cultures. Individual human beings are acculturated by their upbringing in one culture or another, but also pick and choose what cultural practices they desire to follow among the cultural practices they know about. Leadership of a school system (or of a country) involves urging people to follow cultural practices that will be to their long-term advantage, and setting up incentives so that individual human beings are nudged into following those practices.
(Basis of knowledge: many-generations European-American who has lived overseas in east Asia twice in his life, married to a spouse who grew up in east Asia of east Asian ancestry since earliest historical times. We have a pick-and-choose blended culture in our family, and note that we have genuinely multicultural relatives, friends, neighbors, clients and work colleagues who pick and choose what cultural influences they follow.)
Perhaps not genetics, but (also controversially) perhaps 'diversity' is over-rated. Many of the least diverse countries enjoy such positive results. The U.S. slips further and further as it gets more diverse.
Edit: added the following link
Besides, Canada is more like 80% 'white' vs 72% in the US.
An interesting tidbit you may not know is that less then 60% of Canadians speak English as their mother tongue, vs 82% in the US.
The discussion was about diversity (and the imagined lack thereof in Canada), not about IQ ...
I've also heard that Lithuanians (who also speak a Finno-Urgric language) do relatively well in school, while Swedish Finns (who are richer than Finnish Finns) who go to Swedish-language schools do worse.
Of course, in Education, there's never just one factor.
Personally I think using the metric system is more important for learning science than the instruction language. When you get down to it, the "simple Finnish words" are just as alien to everyday life as the Latino-Greek words. A word like "jännite" does not confer any more insight than "voltage". In advanced topics Finnish also uses loan words for things like electrons, momentum, grammatical cases and so on.
Also, in practice, most technical terms are borrowed from English, instead of inventing native, Finnish words for them.
For a more technical term, consider "democracy", which is "demokratia". The Greek roots are obvious.
It actually comes all the way from a Greek word that means "the Lord's," short for a term for churches that means "the assembly of the Lord" or "the house of the Lord."
(Basis of knowledge: student of Biblical Greek, native speaker of English, sporadic student of various Germanic and Ugro-Altaic languages.)
The only etymology I could find is: kirkko [from Germanic. Compare Estonian kirik, Karelian kirikkö, Lapland girku, Swedish kyrka] : church
A quick scan of http://www.freeweb.hu/etymological/finnish.htm shows many words of Germanic origin. I like how "kihlat" (dowry) compares to the Swedish "gisslan" (hostage).
There's one example of the derivation:
'kirja' - 'book'
'kirjailija' - 'writer'
'kirjailla' - 'to embroider'
'kirjailu' - 'embroidery'
'kirjaimellinen' - 'literal'
'kirjaimellisesti' - 'literally'
'kirjaimisto' - 'alphabet'
'kirjain' - 'letter' (of the alphabet)
'kirjallinen' - 'written; literary'
'kirjallisuus' - 'literature'
'kirjaltaja' - 'typographer'
'kirjanen' - 'booklet'
'kirjasin' - 'font' (in typography)
'kirjasto' - 'library'
'kirjata' - 'to write down, to make a note of'
'kirje' - 'letter' (document)
'kirjeellinen' - 'by letter' (adj.)
'kirjelmä' - 'letter, note, message'
'kirjelmöidä' - 'to complain (by means of writing)'
'kirjoitella' - 'to write' (now and then)
'kirjoittaa' - 'to write'
'kirjoittaja' - 'writer' (person who performs a writing work)
'kirjoittaminen' - 'writing' (action)
'kirjoittautua' - 'to get enrolled, to log in'
'kirjoittelu' - 'writing' (now and then)
'kirjoitus' - 'writing' (result)
'kirjoituttaa' - 'to have ... written' (factitive of 'kirjoittaa')
'kirjuri' - 'scribe'
What about differences between languages in their ability to convey ideas.
Except it doesn't, really. The purpose of a school, any school, in any country, is to prepare the students for the road ahead. "We do not learn for the school, but for life."
So while it is fascinating to study the performance of teenagers in a small selection of topics, the test does not tell whether they will grow up as happy and/or fulfilled adults. If the PISA tests measured presentation skills or perhaps essay writing, I'd bet USA would just leave Finland in the dust.
However, some parts of the article just fill me with dread. Child-poverty rate of 22%? That's disgraceful. Merit pay? I just can't wrap my head around that.
Also, sounds like you've gone bonkers with the standardized testing. The common complaint here is that the last year (or year and a half) of high school is too focused on the matriculation examination. I can only imagine what happens if you're tested once a year or every two years or so. You'd get nothing of substance into the young minds, only tricks and tips for the next test.
According to some studies  the 20 happiest nations in the World are:
5. The Bahamas
13. Costa Rica
15. The Netherlands
16. Antigua and Barbuda
18. New Zealand
20. The Seychelles
If we can eliminate the redundancy of our school district issue and provide the framework for a nationalized curriculum, we could pay teachers more (thereby attracting a higher talent pool), lower class sizes, increase spending on classroom necessities (pens, pencils, paper, books, COMPUTERS!), and allow teachers the opportunity to share resources on predetermined, upcoming lessons. Tackling these issues will put us on the right track towards getting our school system out of this steady decline we've been on for the last couple of decades.
It's going to be hard to have a national curriculum without either watering down subjects like biology or US history to the point that they're totally useless, just rote memorization of falsehoods.
For example, I myself have certain "creationist" beliefs but also accept the scientific evidence that evolution/natural selection happens, and I don't see any conflict there.
"A new Gallup poll, released Dec. 17, reveals that 40 percent of Americans still believe that humans were created by God within the last 10,000 years."
There is another 40% thinking like you claim, but there still is that 40% who are about as anti-scientific as you can get.
To the contrary, taking the Sunday school story (it's not really the Bible story) of creation seriously as an explanation for the world's origin or the origin of species requires willfully massive amounts of scientific evidence.
If someone who takes the Sunday school story of creation seriously has sole influence on a school curriculum, that will be a lousy school curriculum about most areas of science. That said, I support the liberty of parents to direct the education of their own children while their children are minors, believing with John Stuart Mill that "A general State education is a mere contrivance for moulding people to be exactly like one another: and as the mould in which it casts them is that which pleases the predominant power in the government, whether this be a monarch, a priesthood, an aristocracy, or the majority of the existing generation in proportion as it is efficient and successful, it establishes a despotism over the mind, leading by a natural tendency to one over the body. An education established and controlled by the State should only exist, if it exist at all, as one among many competing experiments, carried on for the purpose of example and stimulus, to keep others up to a certain standard of excellence." On Liberty (1859), pp. 190-91. But within the framework of pluralism in provision of primary education, I strongly support government-funded schools using the best available evidence in designing curricula in science, mathematics, history, and really any subject, and that takes creationism out of the science curriculum.
(Basis of knowledge: I grew up in a religious denomination that promoted belief in creationism, and had a childhood friend, an all-but-Ph.D. electrical engineer, who grew up in a denomination that demanded belief in creationism. He took me to "creation science" conferences beginning at high school age, and I have read much from all sides on theories of the origin of humankind, the earth, and the universe. Creationism simply has no leg to stand on scientifically. I don't require my homeschooled children to believe in creationism, but rather read aloud to them books like Why Evolution is True by Jerry Coyne and The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins, so that they are more familiar with scientific evidence than most of their neighbors who attend the local public schools.)
I would hope the future brings a system that is driven by the need of individual pupil and by her potential and interests rather than giving equivalent, non-inspiring curriculum for all. Also, learning should have more meaningfulness in it; something along the lines of what Papert talks in his Mindstorms book http://www.papert.org/
What I have observed is that people are not much interested in learning in schools; those with passion get bored and creativity is not encouraged, at all.
In my opinion, it's a horrible state what we are in but I don't think many will do anything about it. And in universities, it's even worse. Studying e.g. Computer Science is much of theory without not enough practical learning, as departments lack proper funding (e.g. assistants for helping with assignments). People learn basic concepts barely, and are not excited by them. It's just something to get through so that they get the diploma which is too highly appreciated by companies' HR.
Also, the content what is taught, is not what should be. The whole culture is short-sighted, and people who get out of universities are not well-equipped but are suited for trivial web-development of current age, i.e. what the industry is in need of.
This makes me sad as learning and teaching should be fun, and could be much more effective. I see some hope with interactive, visual tools that let people learn by themselves but I am not so sure the people responsible for these kind of things really are multitalented and experienced enough to do the proper thing.
"People are not much interested in learning in schools" is a gross overstatement and generalization. There are those who are very motivated, those who are not motivated at all and the majority who fall somewhere in between. I saw firsthand how even the least motivated students were engaged by one really good biology teacher. Everyone was interested when the teacher did his job well. On the other hand, with terrible teachers even the best students tended to zone out. I imagine this is the same everywhere in the world.
As for the needs of individual pupils, I couldn't agree more. When I first entered school I already knew how to read and add numbers together. I was not allowed to progress at my own pace, and subsequently got really, really bored twiddling my thumbs during those first few years.
I think this catering to the lowest common denominator and lack of individual care is something that the Finnish school system really suffers from. Sadly with all these articles out many observers seem to think the Finnish school system is infallible, and they're only aiming at replicating the success of Finnish schools instead of thinking how to do even better.
Actually the opposite. The university system follows pretty much the same paradigm of equality and fair quality. There really is no shitty universities (at least within the institutions which claim the label...) nor spectacular ones. You get average quality. The university rankings tend to have an apex-fallacy (we are only interested on the ones at top), whereas the primary-education studies focus on national averages.
E.g. US has some spectacular private primary education facilities and some amazing higher education. But the quality varies highly across institutions. Finland has a very few private schools and even the best ones do not really perform significantly better the worst ones. The same is apparent in higher education. You get about the same degree from any university willing to give the education.
And whereas I used to think like you guys on catering for the individuals and the talented: I'm no longer quite sure on how it should be done. I've seen a fair share of different systems and products of those systems - some of which claim to address the problem of the gifted better than others. Yeah, you could do better to give greater challenges for the gifted. But there are so much other good and useful stuff people-who-get-bored-in-math-class could be doing. If you got the capacity, usually you end up using it, despite on how you are instructed to behave. You could be doing vector-calculus on the first grade: or you could be assisting your friends with the standard calculus. You could qualify for deeper math in high-school, but you could also spend your extra-time with arts, philosophy, student activities or just living your life if you don't have to worry about your school performance.
I was comparing the level of primary and upper secondary school teaching with university teaching, not different universities. Seems like university rankings have little to do with that.
For what it's worth, I maintain that the quality of teaching drops by a whole lot in universities, if only because there are way fever universities around in Finland. My personal experience (some of which you share) is that in some common subjects (like maths) the group size in lectures more than quadrupled in the first year—way too many students for the lecturer to spare any individual attention, apart from answering some questions that came up in the class. Even the word changes from teacher to lecturer, reflecting quite well on the changed focus.
This duty of individual attention falls on TAs in smaller student groups, who usually have no pedagogical studies behind them and often resist taking any share of responsibility in how their students perform. The lack of attention to students is known and acknowledged, even marketed as 'academic freedom' and 'having to take responsibility for one's own studies'. While it's imporant to learn how to do that, the quality of teaching should not suffer as markedly as it does. Some struggling students banded together to overcome the steeply increased difficulty curve and others dropped out from the courses, often after the very first few weeks.
Speaking of catering to individuals, it would not take much to improve the life of an advanced upper secondary school student by a whole lot. Let the advanced students advance to freshman level concepts. Instead we faced the "it's not in the teaching plan" paralysis. It feels stupid to do three years of upper secondary level physics without touching vectors or calculus. Or bring out the matrices and linear algebra in maths (instead of showing a small glimpse in one elective course during the third year). Allow and even recommend some more advanced books on the topic. It must be better than playing Tetris on your Ti-83 calculator all day. Many currently bored students would regain some of the lost morale and momentum this way.
That is to say, that the average standards around the world are not that great either. Higher education could be better, but it is far from worst of what I've seen.
Universities was just afterthought; I wanted to say that it does not get better even when the students have selected the subject (I gave CS as example as that is what I know of).
So, my way to get things cool its to visualize them. from my entire hight school i've been doing that, for example:
yet, still doing that on computer college
on hight school days, i even got an friend on C++ who used to compete with me. not really compete, because we would won nothing for it. instead, we colaborate. because when you compete, you can just bring your 'enemy down', to get better than him.
ok, khan's struct is well-known.
I really always wanted to make an website where you could just do apps, basead on your classes, doodling or whatever. if i do that, i would aim on education, website internally. really running for it.
and, wolfram's about programming + education
One sure way to know you have failed at managing a process is when you measure employee performance by their adherence to rules rather than their record on delivering results.
NCLB is all about rules...
... as are most US institutions, public and private....
It isn't that rules and standardized processes don't have their place, but (1) if rules have to be enforced regularly, you have totally f'ed your incentive structure and (2) if you build "standardized processes" the right way, employees "naturally" follow (and contribute to) them because they are the best way to deliver results (see above), not because some hardass is enforcing them.
So, we should reward teachers who have good results, collectively and continuously make their best processes into standards, and punish the teachers with bad results (by which I mean fire them, and eliminate tenure, at least in the extreme).
Not so easy to do, but I think we need to get away from more and more rules, while never rewarding individual results.
Money can improve some things, some things can be improved without money.
What kind of quality do you think we'll get when we still pay regardless of quality or need?
Increasing tuition won't help without solving that problem.
Today, teaching is such a desirable profession that only one in ten applicants to the country’s eight master’s programs in education is accepted. In the United States, on the other hand, college graduates may become teachers without earning a master’s. What’s more, Finnish teachers earn very competitive salaries: High school teachers with 15 years of experience make 102 percent of what their fellow university graduates do. In the United States, by contrast, they earn just 65 percent.
Here's some of the facts:
* No, the system in Finland doesn't cost much more. Depending on how you measure, it can actually be said to be cheaper: the US spends more of its GDP in education.
* No, the teachers in Finland are not paid a big salary to motivate them. They earn more or less the average salary of workers with a university degree.
* No, it's not just about Finland being more culturally and ethnically homogeneous, or just about child poverty being more rare. There are many other countries like this and they don't automatically get good results in education.
* No, the Finnish children are not highly motivated to go to school, to learn and to achieve. Actually, Finland gets its results despite worse than average motivation, attitude towards school etc.
* No, it's not about the Finnish language being "easier" to learn: Being "easy" is subjective and it takes the Finnish children the normal time to learn to speak.
* No, it's not about the written Finnish being highly phonemic and thus easy to learn to read and write. Many other languages (such as Spanish, Swedish) are highly phonemic as well. The time saved in not having to learn the spelling of each word in the Finnish dictionary separately is spent on the efforts to learn the completely different vocabulary and highly different phonetics and grammar of English as a second language.
* No, it's not just about Finnish being a highly agglutinative language where you can guess e.g. from the word for voltage that it has something to do with some kind of tension. Or maybe it is, I don't have good evidence about this... But there are other agglutinative languages, learning e.g. maths problem solving is little about guessing what words mean, the linguistics mainline theory doesn't support languages having a big effect on how people think.
* No, it's not about the Finnish women having nothing else to do than concentrate on teaching. Finland ranks highly in gender equality and e.g. technology industry.
* No, you don't have to come up with metrics and subject teachers to evaluations to get a good system or to improve on one. Finland doesn't have such evaluations. You can do scientific research on the issue without letting office politics in on the individual numbers.
What plausible explanations remain? Clearly you need to consider many issues when designing or improving an educational system and there's no silver bullet, but perhaps you want to read the original article again to get some good ideas from an expert in the field :-)
I don't agree with this. The "lacks diversity" argument doesn't imply that minorities can't benefit from experienced teachers - it means that teachers have more trouble with a heterogeneous population compared to a homogeneous one, which is reasonable if you consider the diversity of backgrounds in a classroom and how they impact the mental models that children have.
At least I think that's a factor we fail to control for. Designing a good school for well brought-up children is far easier than designing it for children who grew up in a hostile environment watching TV all day long.
Chapter 1: "International Student Achievement in Mathematics" from the TIMSS 2007 study of mathematics achievement in many different countries includes, in Exhibit 1.1 (pages 34 and 35)
a chart of mathematics achievement levels in various countries. Although the United States is above the international average score among the countries surveyed, as we would expect from the level of economic development in the United States, the United States is well below the top country listed, which is Singapore. An average United States student is at the bottom quartile level for Singapore, or from another point of view, a top quartile student in the United States is only at the level of an average student in Singapore. I have lived for years in one of the other countries that regularly outperforms the United States in those studies, Taiwan, and will also comment on the Taiwan educational experience as a reality check on the comments on Finland in this thread.
I am amazed that persons from Singapore in my generation (born in the late 1950s) grew up in a country that was extremely poor (it's hard to remember that about Singapore, but until the 1970s Singapore was definitely part of the Third World) and were educated in a foreign language (the language of schooling in Singapore has long been English, but the home languages of most Singaporeans are south Chinese languages like my wife's native Hokkien or Austronesian languages like Malay or Indian languages like Tamil) and yet received very thorough instruction in mathematics. Singapore is very diverse linguistically--the MAJORITY of the population in my generation spoke NONE of the four official languages (Mandarin Chinese, Malay, Tamil, or English) in standard form at home, and certainly not the main language of school instruction, English, but Singapore has become part of the "outer circle" of use of English internationally and now maintains a high degree of multilingualism. I hope that all of us here in the United States can do at least that well both in language learning and in mathematics learning in the current generation.
The article "The Singaporean Mathematics Curriculum: Connections to TIMSS"
by a Singaporean author explains some of the background to the Singapore math materials and how they approach topics that are foundational for later mathematics study. The key aspect of Singapore's success is a MUCH better curriculum in primary school mathematics than is used in the United States. Homeschoolers in the United States, including quite a few parents of top-scoring students on the American Mathematics Competitions tests, have become aware of the Singapore curriculum materials,
and those are generally helpful for American families who are looking for something better than the poorly organized, often mathematically incorrect materials used in United States schools.
Professor Hung-hsi Wu of the University of California--Berkeley has written about what needs to be reformed in United States mathematics education.
Other mathematicians who have written interesting articles about mathematics education reform in the United States include Richard Askey,
Roger E. Howe,
All those mathematicians think that the United States could do much better than it does in teaching elementary mathematics in the public school system. I think so too after living in Taiwan twice in my adult life (January 1982 through February 1985, and December 1998 through July 2001). I have seen (and used) the textbooks from Singapore and from Taiwan. They are much more clear in their presentation and much more conceptually accurate than the typical United States textbooks. Moreover, elementary mathematics teachers tend to specialize in teaching mathematics while other elementary teachers teach other subjects, at much younger ages than when United States pupils typically encounter specialist teachers. The United States model of elementary education is to have teachers who are jacks of all trades and masters of none, and who do equally poorly (by reasonable international standards) in teaching reading, mathematics, science, and all other elementary subjects.
The United States could do a lot better and reach the level of Finland by staffing reforms
and by using best practices
in provision of elementary education.
Standardized tests are multiple-choice questions and don't leave room for critical thinking, or help demonstration how a child reached a certain conclusion.
The Finnish method of empowering teachers through education and training to allow them to teach and help their particular students seems to be a much better way to help individual students succeed as opposed to trying to stick everyone in a box defined by an academic or bureaucrat.
How do you think they can teach the hard stuff if they can't even move the needle on the easy things (in this scenario of yours)?
Countries like Finland do not try to graduate all of their children in the same way. 43% of Finland's HS graduates graduate from vocational schools (http://www.smithsonianmag.com/people-places/Why-Are-Finlands...). The US has slowly moved further and further away from this type of "tracking" since the 70's. Things like NCLB and the over-valued notion of a college degree has only accelerated this problem. I am not optimistic.
Curious not disapproving...
Especially since the level of (tuition-free and gvment-sponsored on all levels) education, language-skills and the weather-back-home makes emigration fairly easy and tempting for most Finns. But so far the system does a pretty good job on keeping competitive. You might end up driving a smaller BMW than your neighbor, but the quality of education, health, stability etc. make it very attractive target for long-term settling down, making kids etc.
I said Finland could be fairly prone for brain-drain if stuff would get significantly worse in the future. (Like what is happening at Greece these days.) But right now I'm pretty sure that the progress will be, though not outright good, less bad than most of the world. A safer bet, to say.
And healthy amount of emigration is good for a nation. People go abroad for a few years or decades to make money, gain experience and positive influences and then can bring 'em back home.
Another cool data point would be the GDP growth and citizen sentiment over the years.
Also: the stuff measured by PISA (Math, sciences & reading) is only around 50% of the national curricula. The rest are about foreign languages, arts & excercise, religion, philosphy, history etc... There are more art, craft & music classes than say, mathematics. While wasting less time teaching and learning in classroom than most (http://blog.coreknowledge.org/2010/04/09/less-school-higher-...). If I were to engineer a PISA-breaking education system, I would probably not approach it like that.
(The curricula (.pdf): http://www.minedu.fi/export/sites/default/OPM/Koulutus/yleis...)
The curricula you linked to looks similar to the curricula that my children's schools use. The difference is in how the subjects are taught. I'm old enough to have gone to school before standardized testing was widespread in the US, and since my children go to school near where I grew up, I can compare the quality of education between then and now. The reading and writing requirements today (including vocabulary and grammar), are much weaker than I was exposed to. They rarely even read full books and do in depth reports. Instead, they simply read excerpts from anthologies and write in-class paragraphs. It's pretty sad, because writing teaches you a lot about how to think.
In all, I would say the science curriculum is broader and better. I was dismayed to learn that proofs are no longer taught in math, and I think that may be a result of the test-driven mentality of education.
"Some testing is thus ultimately necessary, Louhivuori conceded, if only to prove that regular testing is not."
Ignorance and stupidity are nothing to be proud of. Disagreeing with us is one thing - they could be right. Willful disingenuous bug-eyed goggling is something else altogether.
I think the author is using the term "didn't understand" as in "I don't understand why you use LOC as a measure of a developer's productivity".
Being a little deliberately obtuse can be nicer, less judgmental, and less confrontational way of disagreeing with someone than saying outright "that's a bad way of doing it". And Finns do tend to avoid social confrontations, in my experience.
Given that Finnish educators appear to be doing a better job, I'd argue the latter is the more "ignorant and stupid".
Another thought that comes to mind is if we already know finish teachers are the best, then why don't we use the internet to scale their teaching. It might not be as good as in class teaching but I reckon it would be better than what we have now.
"What is so special about education in Finland?
An outsider’s view" By Peter Fredriksson in 2006.
(Sorry, it's a doc file). Results over time (USA has worsened), immigration (it's not about it), underachievers (less of them in Finland).
Let me explain...about 24 years ago mid beginning 1980s the testing and tests for pre-engineering was the same level as most HS students face now for non-engineering....
I can remember taking additional tests on top of my HS standards tests to see if I could get qualified to enter engineering college classes..yes this was the USA..
my scores was 98 percentile range..
It would seem the author is comparing apples and oranges to display their political trappings rather than a factual article on what can be compared and contrasted.
The education sector in Finland employs a disproportionately large number of professionals compared to many other countries. In comparison a male graduate in the uk chosen at random is more likely to be a software developer than a teacher.
This will not last. The anglo corporatist cancer with its insanely frequent "performance reviews" and bogus metrics will eat them alive. Long live exacerbated competitiveness and backstabbing your peers. Long live natural selection and the annual culling of the herd.
Importantly, the case of Finland shows that metrics are not required for reaching great results. As the article points out, the proven Finnish alternative is motivated, professional teachers and trust in them.
Why will it?
> Long live natural selection and the annual culling of the herd.
How does that occur in the Finish model?
Natural selection and annual culling of the herd does not happen in Finnish schools - I think the OP was saying this of other systems. Selection does happen when you take the entrance exam for teacher training though.
1. Money, an economic concept, and the freedom to accumulate as much money as one can possibly do, an economic freedom, wield real political power. The political power then acts as a positive feedback over the economic field resulting in an unstable polarized system.
2. The system assumes infinite resources. This is blatantly false both in the short term, economy grows only at X% annually, and in the long term, there is just one Earth and one Sun. This places people on the lower rungs of the economic system on an intrinsic inferior bargaining position, as their very existence is under question. This time the effect is that people on the top ownership rungs have more economic power, which acts as a positive feedback resulting in an unstable polarized system.
Historically, anglo capitalism has been controlled via a number of negative feedback loops:
A. Democracy, as a counterweight to point 1. The 99% used to have a significant share of the political power. Not anymore. There is no more democracy in America, it's a political market where the deepest pockets but the most representatives.
B. Trade unions, as a counterweight to point 1 and 2. Trade unions used to have enough money to match the 1% contributions to politics. Trade unions used to give the 99% some bargaining power. Thanks to Reagan and the modern Republicans, there are no more trade unions to speak of.
C. Taxes, as a counterpoint to 1 and 2. There used to be taxes, that both detracted from the ability of 1% to wield unfettered political power and served at building a safety net that improved the bargaining power of the 99%. Not anymore, we now raise about 25% less in taxes as a share of GDP as we used to (19& -> 15%), and the trend towards "smaller government" is only accelerating.
We observe how the finest anglo capitalism economic entities have more and more power, both economic and politic. These economic entities are called "corporations".