The Finland Phenomenon: Inside the World’s Most Surprising School System

By Dan Clendenin

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The Finland Phenomenon: Inside the World’s Most Surprising School System (2011) — Finland

This 62-minute documentary by Tony Wagner is a paean to the educational system of Finland, which is routinely ranked the best in all the world by any number of metrics or organizations. Wagner is a Fellow at Harvard’s Innovation Lab and author of the 2008 book The Global Achievement Gap: Why Even Our Best Schools Don’t Teach the New Survival Skills Our Children Need — and What We Can Do About It. Kids in Finland start school at a later age (about 7), spend less time at school, take fewer classes, and rarely have homework or take tests. Teaching is a respected profession, teachers have a strong union, make average salaries, and are rarely evaluated. But then come the asterisks that are mostly ignored in the bigger picture of the country. The population of Finland is 5.4 million, and very homogeneous. About 45% of kids go to non-academic vocational school. The personal income tax is 52%. Unemployment is about 9% (it was 19% twenty years ago). One medical expert believes that 20% of the population suffers from problems with alcohol and drugs. Still, Wagner’s basic point must be correct, that surely there are things we can learn from Finland. For a good review of this film by an American teacher, see here:

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