Excerpts from New York Times Article ‘From Finland, an Intriguing School-Reform Model‘
Ever since Finland, a nation of about 5.5 million that does not start formal education until age 7 and scorns homework and testing until well into the teenage years, scored at the top of a well-respected international test in 2001 in math, science and reading, it has been an object of fascination among American educators and policy makers.
Finlandophilia only picked up when the nation placed close to the top again in 2009, while the United States ranked 15th in reading, 19th in math and 27th in science.
…Finland scorns almost all standardized testing before age 16 and discourages homework, and it is seen as a violation of children’s right to be children for them to start school any sooner than 7, Dr. Sahlberg [Finnish educator and author] said.
“The first six years of education are not about academic success,” he said. “We don’t measure children at all. It’s about being ready to learn and finding your passion.”
He emphasized that Finland’s success is one of basic education, from age 7 until 16, at which point 95 percent of the country goes on to vocational or academic high schools. “The primary aim of education is to serve as an equalizing instrument for society,” he said.
Finland is going against the tide of the “global education reform movement,” which is based on core subjects, competition, standardization, test-based accountability and control.
See also, a previous post on this topic. Another important note – students at the elementary level in Finland are required to do 608 instructional hours per year, while California requires more than 900 hours according to the Center For Public Education. Starting school 2 years later, attending fewer hours, no cramming for exams and no homework – sounds like what our family is looking for! (Too bad it’s so darn cold over there.)