Why Finnish Schools Are So Successful


Finland provides the best education in the western world. Cassidy Gerwe delves into the reasons why.

When comparing education in Finland (1st in the world) and education in America (15th in the world), there seems to be no difference—same classroom setup, similar content, etc. However, in closer detail the differences are obvious. So how does Finland rank so high in education? They simply go against the evaluation-driven, centralized model that most of the world uses.

 Unlike America, Finland does not have private schools

Parents of Finnish children have complete control as to what school their children attend; however, unlike America, their options are all the same. Because there are no private schools, parents cannot send their children to a “more selective” school. As a result, education is valued and seen as equal. The main idea in Finnish education it to try to keep children in similar schools until they’re 16 years old and leave compulsory schooling.


Education accountability in order to spend fund well

Finland places the importance of education on the well-being, happiness, and health of children—they are, after all, the future. Education and students are driven to learn, not the teachers. With this type of system, the responsibility of learning and development lies primarily on the learners themselves.



Standardized test as a tool for measurement

Students in Finland do not take any mandatory exams or state testing until they are 16 years of age—the only exam they take is an entrance exam to University. In the first six years of schools, beginning at age 7, children are not given any grades. Dr. Pasi Sahlberg, director of the Finnish Ministry of Education’s Center believes that the first 7 years of a student’s life is about being ready to learn and finding your passion. Sahlberg stated in a visit to Stanford University that standardized testing has so many negative consequences in the form of narrowing curriculum and reshaping the way teachers and schools work.


Teaching is revered similar to doctors and lawyers

According to The New Republic, Finnish high school teachers within 15 years of teaching make 102 percent of what their university graduates do; whereas, in the United States they earn just 65 percent. Every teacher, in Finland, is required to have at least a 5-year master’s degree.

Competition is seen as a necessary propeller for students, institutions, and businesses to succeed. However, Dr. Sahlberg points out that almost nothing makes Finnish people more uncomfortable than competition. There are no special lists or methods to discern the best teachers or best schools. Their policy focus is simply cooperation, not competition between teachers and schools.


Because of America’s capitalistic society and cultural mix, teachers are certainly challenged. Mark O’Connor, the senior English teacher here at Beechwood, believes that we should place more importance on the student and give teachers more respect and freedom–something Finland specilizes in. If we picture education as a factory that produces good human beings, it seems America is slacking. Rather than producing good people who are rich in morals, ethics, and intelligence, America produces students who have mastered standerized testing and great test scores.


In conclusion, it is important to recognize the foundation of education is cooperation and sharing. The focus should be on the student and finding his/her passion and calling. However, America has shifted greatly from this idea as we place the importance of state testing,national testing, advanced placement, and standardized testing. The absence of corrosive competition and an egalitarian ethos inherent in the Finnish culture has certainly played a role in shaping this very impressive system–something America could take notes on.






Cassidy Gerwe


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