A delegation led by the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) recently toured Scandinavia in search of answers for how students in that region of the world were able to score so high on a recent international test of math and science skills. They found that educators in Finland, Sweden, and Denmark all cited autonomy, project-based learning, and nationwide broadband internet access as keys to their success.
What the CoSN delegation didn’t find in those nations were competitive grading, standardized testing, and top-down accountability—all staples of the American education system.
Kati Tuurala,[snip] credits Finland’s success to its major reforms of the 1970s, which included an emphasis on primary education for everyone in the country. “That’s the reason for our present-day success,” Tuurala said.
In all three countries, students start formal schooling at age seven after participating in extensive early-childhood and preschool programs focused on self-reflection and social behavior, rather than academic content. By focusing on self-reflection, students learn to become responsible for their own education, delegates said.
Barbara Stein, manager of external partnerships and advocacy for the National Education Association, said Scandinavian countries “encourage philosophical thought at a very young age. … Grading doesn’t happen until the high-school level, because they believe grading takes the fun out of learning. They want to inspire continuous learning.”
“My teacher” and “the teacher” are terms of respect, not only when used by the students, but also by the school leader or headmaster. The teacher is most often viewed as a mentor, someone who has both knowledge and wisdom to impart and plays a key role in preparing students for adulthood.
In Finland, for instance, teaching is one of the most highly venerated professions in the country—and only one in eight applicants to teacher-education programs are accepted. All teachers there have a master’s degree.
Go read the whole thing and come back and discuss.
I'm thinking that the teacher preparation, and the social learning (social cognition) curriculum for ages 4-7 has a lot to do with students' achievement.