Finland or Bust
In two days, I'm heading to Finland to dive deeper into the fascinating education reforms undertaken there. In education circles, Finland has become almost shorthand for the most progressive education reforms (and also for the frustrations of assuming that what was done there can easily be done elsewhere, given the unique characteristics and small size of the country). Yet, there is much to learn. As Amanda Ripley described in her excellent book, "The Smartest Kids in the World," the Finns pulled off one of the most extensive education reforms in modern times based on a few simple principles. They limited teacher training to only the best universities and the best students within those universities; they reduced standardized testing and offered more latitude to these excellent teachers coming into the system; and they began rebuilding their curriculum, notably shifting from traditional "disciplines" of math, science, language, etc, to "phenomenon based learning," in which students do deep dives into given topics - say, the European Union - and weave the traditional disciplines through that topic. The result has been a re-invigoration of their education system, and among the highest international test scores in the world.
We're fortunate to be able to meet with many of the education leaders who have led this charge in Finland, as well as others in Europe working to build new models for curriculum and school design. Of course, there is a huge amount to learn within our own borders, and we've traveled coast-to-coast over the past two years visiting the best schools in the US. Yet similar to our hopes for our students, we aim for a vision of global citizenship that encompasses learning from any source, while being aware of the context of that source. Finland may be a small and more homogeneous country, but that doesn't change what best practice is for education, it just makes it easier to implement. I look forward to returning with some ideas and insights into what works and doesn't work in their system, and sharing the most useful elements on this blog and in our school design. If anyone has questions they would like me to explore while there, feel free to post them here or email us.