The Finnish good PISA results have brought thousands of educationalists to Finland
Finland became the focus for interest in 2001 when the first PISA results were published. The main emphasis in PISA 2011 was on reading literacy with Finland as the top performer. We rapidly gained a reputation of a country with an education well-functioning system that produced good learning results. Educationalists all over the world wanted to come and learn about this small and remote country and its excellent education system.
The PISA test is done every three years. Finland is still among the top performers although the results have not been as good as in the early years. Finland is known for its good learning outcomes and a child-friendly and encouraging approach. Finland quite uniquely scores well without compromising children’s well-being. Therefore we are still interesting to educationalists all over the world.
The National Agency for Education has received PISA visitors from more than half of the world’s countries
The National Agency for Education hosted more than 16 000 guests from 114 countries in 2004─2019
The backgrounds of the visitors has varied. We have hosted ministers, officials, researchers, school heads, teachers and other school personnel. We have also welcomed students, parents’ associations, foundations, politicians, labour market representatives and textbook publishers. We have met with journalists who have made Finnish education known also to the public in newspapers, TV and radio programmes.
School autonomy and absence of inspections has been a surprise
The National Agency for Education has introduced the visitors to education in Finland and its specificities. Often visitors also meet with experts in education and visit schools, early childhood education and care centres, pre-primary schools and libraries.
Visitors are interested in those aspects which are different. One recurring topic is the strong autonomy of education providers and schools. Visitors are also surprised that the low level of control and monitoring measures can still produce good results.
Teachers and their work is found interesting. Finnish teachers are well trained and they are esteemed in society. Teachers are more independent than in many other countries and their work is not formally evaluated nor are schools inspected. Teachers and schools enjoy a high level of trust.
Sometimes visitors want to find out the ‘Finnish secret’, the recipe to excellent learning results that could be copied. Some of our visitors have been disappointed that such a recipe does not exist. Another disappointment can be that Finnish schools seem ‘ordinary’, that on the surface they are like schools anywhere in the world.
The hosts also benefit from the visits
As hosts we benefit from the visits in at least two ways. We learn a lot about other countries’ education systems through the questions and comments of our guests. At the same time they open our eyes to the differences and similarities of our own education system. We see ourselves in a wider perspective and recognise strengths that we have taken for granted.
- Hanna Laakso hanna.laakso[at]oph.fi
- Elina Lötjönen elina.lotjonen[at]oph.fi
Typical questions by our visitors:
- Why do children start school as late as at the age of 7?
- Why is there such a strong emphasis on play in the early years of education?
- Why don’t you have school uniforms?
- Why do pupils and students call their teachers by their first name?
- Why do you take off your shoes at school?
- How do the teachers build their authority when they cannot punish their pupils?
- How do you ensure quality without inspections?
- How can you get so good results with so little regulation?
- How are schools punished for bad results?