Sunday, May 22, 2016

International Exemplars

It is not a secret to most people who know me that once I traveled to Finland in March 2015, I have been more or less obsessed with the Finnish education system ever since. How do they do what they do so well? Why can't the US get it together to be more like them (specifically by dialing WAY down on the amount of testing we do)?

I get some push back sometimes...telling me how Finland is too small to be compared to the US, how it is not diverse so we can't compare it to the US in that case either. 

But I am fortunate enough that my current doctoral class is all about international schools and how we can learn from and emulate them. Of course, Finland is one of the countries we are looking at. And what is most interesting is the authors of The Global Fourth Way admit that while Finland is much smaller and less diverse than the US as a whole....it is possible to emulate some of their strategies at a state level because the entire country of Finland is very similar in size to many of the individual states in the US. (I also found it quite interesting that some of the states in the US actually have less foreign born residents than Finland....so some places here aren't very diverse either!)

The pieces that resonate with me the most, however, is the commitment to equity. All students receive free universal preschool, parents can take three years of maternity leave to be at home during the most precious years and all schools are funded by the government (even the few private schools they have). Teachers are in charge of the curriculum...there is a trust there that they have prepared their teachers well and thus, the teachers can be trusted to do what they need to do. 

My favorite thing ever....is this quote "Accountability is the remainder that is left when responsibility is subtracted." 

Truer words have probably never been spoken. It is like most things....because of a few people taking advantage of the system, everyone else has to suffer. Quite honestly, I work HARDER to please MYSELF than I ever have for my bosses...because I am the one who has to sleep at night knowing whether or not I gave my students my all. I don't need some arbitrary accountability system to get me to do my job well...but others do and that's sad.

My second favorite part of this...teachers are respected. They are not scapegoats for bigger problems with the systems. They are treated as professionals and trusted as professionals. I know some absolutely amazing educators all over the US (thanks PLN!)...and I can tell you that all of them would continue to be amazing if the accountability systems we employ were to disappear. They would not stop being amazing because suddenly no one was watching them. When we lift teachers up, treat them well and pay them a living wage for their work....we might be surprised at the result we get.

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