Finnish Lessons by Pasi Sahlberg is a must read for anyone interested in education and education reform. I am not trained as a teacher, I'm trained as a librarian and I started teaching at my current school. I have had to teach myself the language and theory that some of my friends already know and I am happy for the challenge, but, I do think it would be better for me if I learned the theory in addition to practicing what I do.
This book is an eye-opener. Finland's approach is so different from the United States and I am not sure how that can happen in the United States. I think, a lot of aspects of teaching, that was once there - like trusting schools and teachers - is lost or horribly damaged. For example, think abut the recent LAUSD scandal with the teacher, who performed lewd acts with his students and the fallout and increased amount of news stories about teachers molesting their students. Education and teaching is not held in as high regard in the US as it is in Finland. Schools are constantly under scrutiny, teachers receive pink slips every year, students are taught to pass tests, and so many other things just make teaching a difficult field to want to go into.
Though, Finland is a lot smaller country that the US, there are so many things we can learn from their process of reforming education. This book is filled with statistics and case studies, as well as, educator testimonials. One of the things that struck me was the level of rigorous study educators are expected to undergo to get a master's or doctorate degree to become a teacher. That is lost here, with our quick certificate programs. I am not saying that it is a bad thing, my family is filled with teachers, but sometimes, certain things are lost when you get things quickly. For example, when I first started teaching, I had not idea what classroom management was or the techniques I needed to employ to simply keep my class in order. I learned as I went and took a great workshop. But, if I studied education, I would have had that foundation before stepping into a classroom.
Sahlberg has a great table on page 103 that compares Global Education Reform Movement (GERM) and the Finnish Way. I am just going to list the Finnish Way here:
- Customizing teaching and learning
- Focus on creative learning
- Encouraging Risk-Taking
- Learning from the past and owning innovations
- Shared responsibility and trust
There are many ideas to take away from this book and I hope that everyone takes some time to read it.
To read more, also take a look at here for a description of Pasi Sahlberg's talk to at Indiana University.