The secret seems to be emphasizing art, foreign languages, and physical activity, paying teachers like lawyers and doctors, and doing away with standardized testing. A shame that the United States is trending in the opposite direction regarding all of the above. Yes, it helps that Finland is a small, wealthy country with extremely equal income distribution, but its neighbor Norway follows a more “American” education model and with inferior results. Via Smithsonian Magazine:
Besides Finnish, math and science, first graders take music, art, sports, religion and textile handcrafts. English begins in third grade, Swedish in fourth. By fifth grade the children have added biology, geography, history, physics and chemistry.
Not until sixth grade will kids have the option to sit for a district-wide exam, and then only if the classroom teacher agrees to participate. Most do, out of curiosity. Results are not publicized. Finnish educators have a hard time understanding the United States’ fascination with standardized tests.