Are Scandinavian schools really better than American ones?

There is a fascinating interview by with Hans Renman, the CEO of Scandinavian Education, a think tank that has the aim of using pointed strategy to properly manage development “to help the school take the next step.”

In the talk, Renman speaks of trouble with the testing culture in the United States, problems with technology and teaching, and how equality has aided the growth of education in Noridic countries.

“In every single class you can find students from any social background. How people live in Finland is not as extreme as in other countries, like England or the United States. You can see research on the effectiveness of school systems that says that if the education system is equal and democratic, it’s a good thing for every student, not just the top five percent, like say in Singapore or China.”

An interesting distinction to the argument for equality are the living conditions of some Americans. In Finland, schools are publicly funded, so there is no discrepancy on which schools receive more money. There are also “no rankings, no comparisons or competition between students, schools or regions.”

That leads to equality as every student may be measured on the same level, sort of, and each individual will receive the same quality education.

Obviously America’s approach is a little different. We thrive on competition, think that comparisons are healthy, and use rankings as a way to show what’s good and bad. Doing away with these footnotes would likely remove a level of stress from educators and students here but there is no way to tell if it would make a significant difference in how students learn. Our economy isn’t necessarily based on equality either, so to insert fairness into how we educate students would mean that America has changed its capitalistic philosophy.

Outside of equality, we can probably learn from the Finnish on why testing may hinder a student’s ability succeed. Students in Finland are given just one exam prior to graduating high school. According to Renman, it is a key difference in how students are education in America versus say Finland or Sweden.

“In Scandinavia, the results of the national tests are more the business of the school officials. For a single student, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t affect your grade.”

The research surrounding the success of schools in Scandinavia and Finland is worth continued exploration. America may surely cherry pick certain policies from the education model in Northern Europe to improve the education system here. But there are also certain practices that wouldn’t fit and would fail if implemented.

Still–copying the steps success will usually yield good results.

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