As a follow-up to my entry from last night where I discussed the problems with the U.S. education system, I thought it worth sharing a related article I just discovered from the Wall Street Journal which discusses why Finnish kids are so smart.
Interestingly, high school students in Finland get about half an hour of homework nightly and don’t have sports teams or proms to distract them.
Finnish students placed at the top of 15-year olds taking tests in 57 countries whil U.S. students finished in the middle of the pack or around C level.
Here is an excerpt from the article:
Finnish teachers pick books and customize lessons as they shape students to national standards. "In most countries, education feels like a car factory. In Finland, the teachers are the entrepreneurs," says Mr. Schleicher, of the Paris-based OECD, which began the international student test in 2000.
One explanation for the Finns’ success is their love of reading. Parents of newborns receive a government-paid gift pack that includes a picture book. Some libraries are attached to shopping malls, and a book bus travels to more remote neighborhoods like a Good Humor truck.
Finland shares its language with no other country, and even the most popular English-language books are translated here long after they are first published. Many children struggled to read the last Harry Potter book in English because they feared they would hear about the ending before it arrived in Finnish. Movies and TV shows have Finnish subtitles instead of dubbing. One college student says she became a fast reader as a child because she was hooked on the 1990s show "Beverly Hills, 90210."
In November, a U.S. delegation visited, hoping to learn how Scandinavian educators used technology. Officials from the Education Department, the National Education Association and the American Association of School Librarians saw Finnish teachers with chalkboards instead of whiteboards, and lessons shown on overhead projectors instead of PowerPoint. Keith Krueger was less impressed by the technology than by the good teaching he saw. "You kind of wonder how could our country get to that?" says Mr. Krueger, CEO of the Consortium for School Networking, an association of school technology officers that organized the trip.
The article is definitely worth a read if you worry about U.S. competitiveness in the future.