OPINION: Can this 12-step program from Finland aid U.S. education?

By Michael Hynes and William Doyle for hechingerreport.org

We are two American public-school dads who just returned from a fact-finding trip through Finland.

We wanted to see what the United States could learn from an education system that consistently receives top marks from UNICEF, the OECD and the World Economic Forum.

Why should we bother to learn from a small country of just 5.5 million people that is less diverse than America, and that has a history very different from our own?

Many U.S. states are similar in population size and demographics to Finland, and education is largely run at the state level. In the economically depressed forest region of North Karelia — on the Russian border — where we spent much of our time, the unemployment rate is nearly 15 percent, compared with under 5 percent in America and our home state of New York. However, the U.S. child poverty rate is four times higher than Finland’s.

Finland is less diverse, and has much less immigration, than the United States. (This, though, is rapidly changing — we visited a high school in Helsinki that is as diverse as any American high school.) The foundations of Finnish society are communal trust and perseverance, while the United States focuses more on individual rights, competition and achievement.

Finland may have the world’s best schools, though they are far from perfect. But to ignore education insights from Finland is to make a dangerous strategic blunder.

Read more here.

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