Many of us have used Nokia handphones and even those who have never used Nokia before would have heard of the brand. It is one of the largest and most innovative companies in the world, and certainly one of the largest if not the largest handphone sellers.
Nokia is made in Finland, a small country in terms of population. It has a population of about 5.3 million, but is one of the highest income countries, and consistently within the top ten most competitive countries in te world. Size of population really does not matter. Besides Nokia, Finland also boosts of having 800 high tech companies, many times more advanced than our so-called Multimedia Super Corridor.
Finland is also rated to have the best education system in the world.
Those who have read the many ranking lists that I have posted previously will have noticed that it is not only one of the most competitive , but one of the most innovative, in terms of patent filing and so on..
ANy wonder why they are so successful, when the country is rated to have the best education system.
This is what was reported in a website called “School Matters” run by an AMerican:
Education in Finland starts with preschool at age 6. The preschool emphasis is on fun and THE IMPORTANCE OF LEARNING. Preschool is followed by nine years of compulsory basic education. From 9th or 10th grade one can go to the Upper Secondary school (like senior high school) or a 3 -year vocational school, but the curriculum is so heavy in either of these that one can cross from one to the other, or finish one and then go to the other for emphasis on trade skills. Either branch can lead to a university for a masters or PhD degree or to a Polytechnic College that focuses on trade skills with the possibility of a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree.
Although the great majority of Finns finish their education by age 25, later than most other nations, education is looked upon as a life-long process in any job. People are generally much more educated in any trade or professional jobs than they are in other countries. They do an excellent job in having the highest work force readiness of any nation.
……..Being a teacher in Finland, as in most industrialized countries, is the most highly respected position. Medical doctors come second. I do not think that this is a cultural difference. The education system is set up such that they earn people’s respect every day by the way they are centrally managed in the country to the highest standard in the world and by the level of authority that is given to the teachers. Teachers are also very well trained. Keeping both teacher competence and school quality the best is a national mandate in Finland.
ALso the Finns emphasised quality, class work , year long monitoring rather than sitting for National exams and equality in classrooms . This is from another article:
The Finnish government keeps the pressure on students to a point that they complain of a lack of fun at school. At the same time, there are no nationwide exams or even final tests. There is continuous assessment — a mixture of monthly tests and teacher evaluations
The Finns make sure that all children get fed by providing free meals at school. They subsidize student travel, which they feel is a major part of the education process.
However badly behaved, no student fears expulsion. The emphasis is “getting to the bottom of” whatever behavior problems emerge.
Only 15 per cent of those who apply to be teachers are accepted, even though pay levels are about average for Europe. A master’s degree is required. (Not unrelated, for it’s size this country has one of the highest percentage of Ph.D.s in the world.) Teachers are regularly sent on courses during their long holidays to upgrade their knowledge and skills.
The Finns focus on students in need and reject a class-stratified educational system. They feel that equality in the classroom ends up being a plus and not a hindrance to overall progress.
Thus, the educational gap between the “haves” and the “have-not’s” shrinks, and the overall level of student and adult achievement in the country is raised.
Also note this:
Finland has a national education policy and national testing. Morals and ethics are in the curriculum. This is a big difference between their system and ours. The teachers make all decisions about how their class will be run, how the education material will be presented and what books are to be used. They keep up with the best worldwide. There are two official languages in Finland: Finnish and Swedish. People typically speak four languages in Finland. One is Finnish, then English, Swedish, and one of German, French or Russian at minimum.
Education is the key to innovative and knowledge based society which is the pre-requisite for a country to move up to be among the High Income Country.
Looking at ourselves, I can’t help but ask: If we want to be a HIgh Income country, as suggested by the PM, are we prepared to go the way of the Finns; go for quality teachers’ training (with meritocracy to select those who wish to become teachers), set aside quotas (except for the very poor and the disabled which should be helped), stress on quality rather than quantities, change the curriculum to produce thinking students, give students continuous monitoring and assessment , taking steps to help those who are weaker as revealed by these assessments.
Are we prepared to go the way of the Finns? I believe that if we want to reverse the declining standards in schools, we can do it. Just leave the politicians out of education, and stress meritocracy and quality instead of quantity. The solution is simple, but if we do not have the will, it can be as difficult as scaling Mount Everest without oxygen…