This weeks reading from OECD about making education reforms happen highlighted different approaches from around the world. One country that showed up in multiple examples of policy reform is Finland. Being of Finnish decent, I have long had a personal interest in learning of the areas in which Finland excels, including art & design, environmentalism and education. I wanted to further look into some of the policies cited by OECD.
OECD provides an in depth profile of the country in their publication Education Policy Outlook: Finland. The educational system is notable for high student achievement in math and science, with minimal outcome difference based on student background. Day care and Pre-K are available to all. The teaching profession is highly respected, with higher than average salaries. Higher education is tuition free. Finnish educational initiatives highlighting by OECD include equal educational opportunities; with programs targets to boys and immigrants who tend to perform lower, development of general and vocational education programs, proficiency of school leaders and teachers, assessment, governance and autonomy, and public funding. On a political and social level Finns believe in the value of education, which has provided the stability needed to maintain a successful government funded system.
A publication by the Finnish Ministry of Education, Strategy for the Internationalisation of Higher Education Institutions in Finland 2009-2015, gives five primary goals for internationalization:
‘A Genuinely International Higher Education Community’, ‘Increasing the Quality and Attractiveness of Higher Education Institutions’, ‘Promoting the Export of Expertise’, ‘Supporting a Multicultural Society’, and ‘Promoting Global Responsibility’. They seek to increase the number of international faculty, researchers and students, and offer programs taught in other languages. The internationalization of higher education is seen as a path to provide national competence in a global workplace.
What stood out to me in the publications, was that among the impressive facts and statistics was the presence of self critique about shortfalls and room for improvement. Concerns include lack of awareness of the system outside of Finland, non-fluent Finnish speakers feeling out of place in the higher ed community, and their (comparatively low) unemployment rate.
Finland, a country with a population of only 5.4 million and a wide reaching welfare system, has an educational system that may not be realistically replicated elsewhere. However, the presence of its policies in the OECD readings on education reform show that it can be looked to as an example of what a successful system can be.