International Education

Finland’s Big Secrets

This week, I was able to hear Finnish education researcher Pasi Sahlberg speak as part of Boston College’s “Secrets and Lies of International Performance in K-12 Education” series.

FYI: This video is of a different talk than the one he gave at my school, but a good overview in Sahlberg’s own words. 

As you’ve probably heard, Finland has one of the top-ranked education systems in the world. Sahlberg, author of “Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland?” let us in on some a few “secrets” behind this success, some of which I’ve highlighted below (and the last one’s a doozie).

Secret #1: Equity Enhances Excellence

Perhaps unsurprisingly, countries with more income, gender, and racial equality tend to perform better on international education measures than comparably wealthy countries with wider social disparities (ahem, the US). This fact isn’t a shocker in itself, but remember that educational policy conversations usually talk around this subject – acknowledging that rampant inequality exists, then passing the buck on to schools to remedy the (obvious) outcomes of an unequal system.

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