Salmon, Finland and a Great Book Plot!

I’ve got it.  It came to me after watching this trailer:

What would happen if you took the story of Salmon Fishing in the Yemen and translated it to Finland’s Education system and the American Education system?  Now you see where I’m going with this, right?

I’ve been reading posts about Finland’s education for many moons now and I’ll admit it, I’m hooked.  We’re always talking about not reinventing the wheel and here appears to be a tried and true model that works!  So why aren’t we all jumping on it?

An article shared by a colleague sums it up very nicely (What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland’s School Success by Anu Partanen featured in The Atlantic, Dec. 29, 2011) by pointing out that Finnish success was in the goal of equity versus excellence.

In the article, Partanen references Pasi Sahlberg, director of the Finnish Ministry of Education’s Center for International Mobility, view that “Americans are consistently obsessed with certain questions: How can you keep track of students’ performance if you don’t test them constantly? How can you improve teaching if you have no accountability for bad teachers or merit pay for good teachers? How do you foster competition and engage the private sector? How do you provide school choice?”

So imagine it.  I decide that I’m going to open a Finnish school in the U.S. (Salmon in the Yemen).  Picture Ewan McGregor saying, “It’s an extraordinary idea.”  My task is simple.  Open a school that:

  • focuses on cooperation among educational institutions versus competition
  • requires educators to have a Master’s degree before applying
  • works toward equity versus excellence
  • assigns less homework
  • promotes more and more creative play
  • doesn’t administer of any standardized tests, where teachers are trained to assess with independently designed
  • where teachers and administrators are held in the highest prestige and compensation
Would it work?  Would the challenges come more from teachers? students? parents? our culture?  Where? And why do our brightest reform movements point in different directions?
I’m telling you, this could be the best story ever!


Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland? 

NY Times Article about Sahlberg’s Visit From Finland, an Intriguing School-Reform Model by 

The Children Must Play: What the United States could learn from Finland about education reform by Samuel E. Abrams

What we can learn from Finland’s successful school reform. Finland came from behind to become the world leader in student achievement. Their strategy is the opposite of what we’re doing in America. By Linda Darling-Hammond

Great List of Resources at The Best Resources To Learn About Finland’s Education System by Larry Ferlazzo

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