Finland vs. America–How Our Education Systems Differ


Since Newsweek ranked Finland #1 in quality of life last year, we have to wonder how they got there.  Part of that ranking includes their EDUCATION SYSTEM.  For the last 30 years or so, Finnish students have been scoring consistently high, and we have been in the middle somewhere.

There are a few major reasons why Finland is at the top of the heap.  They ASSIGN LESS HOMEWORK and ALLOW CREATIVE PLAY in schools.  There are NO PRIVATE SCHOOLS IN FINLAND.  None are allowed to charge tuition.  Almost every person in Finland attends public school whether it’s for preschool or a PhD.  They have NO STANDARDIZED TESTS.  Rather, they use teacher-made assessments and students are graded individually by their teachers.  They give their teachers and administrators PRESTIGE, DECENT PAY and A LOT OF RESPONSIBILITY.  (You must have a Master’s degree to teach in Finland.)  They use COOPERATION between teachers and schools, not competition.  They have FREE SCHOOL MEALS,  FREE ACCESS TO HEALTH CARE, FREE PSYCHOLOGICAL COUNSELING, and INDIVIDUALIZED STUDENT GUIDANCE.

The word “accountability” doesn’t even exist in Finnish.  “Accountability is something that is left when responsibility is subtracted.”

One point that stood out to me was, “Every child should have the same opportunity to learn, regardless of family background, income or geographic location.”  It is not a way to produce star performers, but is used as an tool to even out social inequality.  When the focus is on EQUITY, not academic excellence, they GOT academic excellence!

Their focus is on cooperation rather than competition, and on equity rather than choice.  Food for thought, folks.  Food for thought.





Least Effective Teaching Practices


As per John Hattie again, there were some major findings from his research about those things in education that make the LEAST impact.  Topping the list was RETENTION.  It actually had a negative effect.  Some others:

  • reducing class size (from 30 down to 15 students–no effect).  I know.  I found this hard to believe too.  I think the effect comes in at 14…
  • ability grouping/tracking
  • homework (no details on this, so I can’t tell you any specifics–just in general)

Some things to ponder, for sure…





John Hattie, an Australian statistician with an interest in education worldwide, has published some very interesting results.

These are the things that have the HIGHEST EFFECT in education across the globe:

  • Providing FEEDBACK to your students.
  • SPACED vs. mass PRACTICE (4 days of 15 min practice rather than one straight hour of practice)
  • PHONICS instruction!
  • Teaching STUDY SKILLS.
  • HOME environment.
  • Teacher-Student RELATIONSHIPS.
  • VOCABULARY programs.

The practice that gives the overall HIGHEST EFFECT?


Get your students to fill in their fluency charts, put stickers on the classroom Autoskills chart, make goals for how many books they will read this year, predict what their grades will be in a month or at the end of the trimester, give themselves their own grades on writing projects.  Got more ideas?  Comment on this blog post and add them here!


Parents/Teachers–Lots of free e-books!

Helping your child/student do research for a paper?  Looking for something for yourself?
The Michigan e-Library MeL has thousands of e-books available for your kids.



Reading Assistant Tip for Correct Pronunciation


Is Reading Assistant making your students repeat certain words over and over, only to cause massive frustration?  Here’s the solution:

  • Go to your myscilearn account.
  • Click Manage.
  • Go to your school, then your class.
  • Click on one of your students to go into the account.
  • Go to Assignments/Reading Assistant.
  • Click on Edit.
  • Click on Show Advanced Settings.
  • Go to Speech Recognition Settings/Pronunciation Correctness.
  • Set the scale to whatever you wish, but 25 might be a good place to start.  It is currently set at 50.  This gives the computer a little more leeway when “hearing” your student read.
  • Click Save.

Adjust down further, if needed, once you try the student out at that setting.

It takes about 30 seconds per student to do these adjustments, once you get the hang of it.

This has helped in my classroom–I hope you find it helpful, too.