Samuel Abrams, a visiting scholar from Teachers College, Columbia University, recently visited Alaska and was a panelist during the Mayor’s education summit held in Anchorage. He was also the featured speaker in the latest of a series of Conversations About Causes That Matter sponsored by the Alaska Community Foundation. His article in The New Republic, “The Children Must Play“, explores the internationally-recognized success of the Finnish education system. Below are some key points he made during discussion of the Finnish education system.
1. The Finnish education system makes teaching appealing; talented young people are attracted to careers in teaching. All Finnish teachers have a master’s degree, three years focusing on content and two years on pedagogy. Only 15% of applicants to teacher training are accepted; training is free and students receive a stipend during their studies. Teachers are acknowledged as experts in their field and are given freedom to teach creatively. “Find the best people you can, and get out of their way.”
2. Students play. Recess is an integral part of the curriculum. Students go to school 6 hours a day for 188 days a year. Students learn by doing! Students in first and second grade go to school for 4 hours a day. Finnish schools have great hot lunch programs for all, including teachers. Finland abolished “standardized testing” but Finnish students regularly score at the top in international student assessments.
3. The Finnish system nurtures respect for people who work with their hands. There are lots of hands-on lab courses. There are lots of arts and crafts which provide opportunities for natural venues for learning math and science. 45% of Finnish students go to Vocational/Technical Training schools.
Here’s a brief overview from the BCC.