Obama is constantly holding forth about the need for America to achieve educational excellence – like Finland, which is top-ranked in the world. But a recent article in the Washington Post by Finnish educational leader Pasi Sahlberg makes clear that his country’s success is rooted in a comprehensive national system that strives for equity – for equality of access to resources for all Finland’s people. The United States, with the most striking social inequalities among the rich countries of the world, is simply not equipped to benefit from the Finnish model, and will never be until the U.S. is transformed as a society.
Even the baby steps towards equity that Mr. Sahlberg says the U.S. must take to advance educationally, are anathema to the corporate powers-that-be. Finland guarantees equal allocation of educational resources to all communities, rich or poor; requires, by law, that all kids have “access to child care, comprehensive health care, and pre-school”; and it provides free education from pre-school through university. These are prerequisites for general, quality education – and are non-existent in the United States.
Teachers in Finland are respected professionals, with the prestige of doctors and lawyers, and a masters degree as a minimum. It is because they are so esteemed by society that Finnish teachers are the “sole authority in monitoring the progress of students.” There are no standardized tests in Finland.