Education policies for raising student learning: the Finnish approach

Author(s): Sahlberg, Pasi

Date: 2007

Pages: p. 147-171

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This article argues that system-wide excellence in student learning is attainable at reasonable cost, using education policies differing from conventional market-oriented reform strategies prevalent in many other countries. In this respect, Finland is an example of a nation that has developed from a remote agrarian/industrial state in the 1950s to a model knowledge economy, using education as the key to economic and social development. Relying on data from international student assessments and earlier policy analysis, this article describes how steady improvement in student learning has been attained through Finnish education policies based on equity, flexibility, creativity, teacher professionalism and trust. Unlike many other education systems, consequential accountability accompanied by high-stakes testing and externally determined learning standards has not been part of Finnish education policies. The insight is that Finnish education policies intended to raise student achievement have been built upon ideas of sustainable leadership that place strong emphasis on teaching and learning, intelligent accountability, encouraging schools to craft optimal learning environments and implement educational content that best helps their students reach the general goals of schooling.

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