Tuesday, October 18, 2011


There is a great debate going on about the state of education in Wales not only at the university level, but also at primary and secondary levels as well.

As many have pointed out, there seems to be one particular country that Wales could learn from and that is Finland, the international trailblazer in the field of education.

As a regular visitor to Finland for the past 15 years, I have experienced, at first hand, the high quality of university student coming through the system. Yet, it is only recently that other nations have begun to sit up and take notice of what is going on.

One excellent point of reference for the so-called Finnish Way is the work of  Pasi Sahlberg. His writing and lectures on this subject are worth having a look at, such as this presentation on what a Canadian province can learn from Finland in the field of education.

Essentially, Sahlberg argues that the rest of the World is trailing Finland in five key areas of education, namely:

  • Teaching core subjects vs Broad and creative learning 
  • Standardisation vs Personalisation 
  • Test-based accountability vs Professional responsibility 
  • Market-based management vs Educational leadership 
  • Data and control vs Collaboration and trust 

As he said on his blog yesterday, "The Finnish education system has progressed steadily since the 1980s because we prepare teachers to improve their students’ learning as well as their own work in collaboration with their colleagues. We see teachers as knowledge workers, not technicians who implement instructions or standards mandated by someone else. The Finnish Way is unique also because it has been able to accomplish educational excellence and equity simultaneously".

The video below also demonstrates the state of education in Finland.

The question, of course, is whether the Welsh Government will even look at this proven model as a way forward in revolutionising the educational system in Wales over the next few years? Certainly, that is where Finland started, by learning from other countries. As Sahlberg himself points out "An important lesson from Finland is that its educational success is a result of deliberate and continuous learning from other education systems, their practitioners, policy-makers and researchers". Perhaps that is the most important lesson of all for Wales educationalists and policy-makers from the Finnish Way.