Overlooking Finland. And?

If you haven’t read Anu Partanen’s recent article for The Atlantic, “What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland’s School Success,” you should. The article profiles Pasi Sahlberg, a Finnish authority on the country’s educational system and author of the book Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland?

The basis of the article is a visit Sahlberg recently made to the Dwight School in New York. Partanen writes: “And yet it wasn’t clear that Sahlberg’s message was actually getting through. As Sahlberg put it to me later, there are certain things nobody in America really wants to talk about.”

The article is full of things that you will indeed want to talk about. Take, for example, this paragraph:

“And while Americans love to talk about competition, Sahlberg points out that nothing makes Finns more uncomfortable. In his book Sahlberg quotes a line from Finnish writer named Samuli Puronen: ‘Real winners do not compete.’ It’s hard to think of a more un-American idea, but when it comes to education, Finland’s success shows that the Finnish attitude might have merits. There are no lists of best schools or teachers in Finland. The main driver of education policy is not competition between teachers and between schools, but cooperation.”

But what really got me thinking was the small mention in the article that, in the latest round of PISA survey scores, it was actually Shanghai, China, that received the highest marks.

This isn’t to suggest that we should now be focusing all of our attention on China to figure out how to fix our schools. But it doesn’t hurt to look. And it leads to the question: What (or who) else are we overlooking? Where else can we look for innovation and results in education that we’re currently overlooking?

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