Sun | Jan 24, 2021

Learning from Finland’s model

Published:Friday | December 1, 2017 | 12:00 AM

Finland and other countries are leading the way with innovation in education, and the world is taking notice. The country is the epitome of "What goes for the goose does not go for the gander" , with Singapore now surpassing them in global rankings.

Let us look at three things Finland does well.


Standardised Tests:


The students take one standardised test throughout their elementary and high school years. In contrast, the system here demands that children are tested from third to 12th grade. To amplify matters, the current system operates on a "scarce benefits programme". There are not enough high school places in quality schools, and, therefore, a test that is designed to capture mastery instead places its focus on placement.


Free Tertiary Education


Finland offers completely tuition-free programmes not only across bachelor's degree programmes, but master's and doctoral programmes as well. If we put that into perspective there are only a few major tertiary institutions within the entire island, and these programms are already heavily subsidised, and still, students are unable to afford them, and this is assuming they are able to afford the matriculation to sixth form after sitting CSEC. The expectation that the benefits of a socialist country are easily adaptable and transferable to our society is erroneous, at best.


Time to play


Imagine a system where, by law, for every 45 minutes of instruction you receive 15 minutes of play children in Finland do an estimated 2.8 hours of homework every week. From the complaints of parents everywhere, we estimate that Jamaican parents spend 2.8 hours on homework every night.

The truth that is neither our economy nor our social infrastructure is set up to mirror Finland in any capacity, but there are principles from Finland that we can adapt. First, we must acknowledge that simply exporting Finland's teachers, curricula, and teaching methods will not automatically alter the state of education or their grades.

Teaching is not an individual sport. It requires a supporting network of policy, systems and attitudes among all stakeholders.

What the system in Finland teaches us is that education should be made a priority and be depoliticised, the curriculum should be structured around what is best for children, and not a game of chance for entry into high school.

It is imperative to examine standardising all schools across age and stage levels so that there is no more "getting into the top schools" to automatically create a level playing field across the board.

The question that is consistently asked is it best for students at its core? Differentiation in classrooms is not innovative. It should be the standard at which all classrooms and all teachers have the leverage and decision capital to extend to their students.

- Article courtesy of the American International School of Kingston (AISK), a global centre for excellence in education. Send feedback to