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U.S. and Finnish Education Systems, Essay Example

Pages: 1

Words: 983

Essay

U.S. is the world’s largest economy and still a leader in innovation but it may soon lose its status as the largest center of innovation unless drastic measures are taken to overhaul its education system. U.S. education system was once the envy of the world but now other countries have not only caught up but even overtaken it, especially at high school level. One of the education systems that is often mentioned as the role model for U.S. is that of Finland. U.S. may benefit by adopting the Finnish model because it is not only efficient in terms of allocation of resources but also places greater emphasis on results than the means.

While high school in the public sector is free in the U.S. and schools may also provide free lunch, Finnish school system doesn’t only provide free education and free lunch but also takes other measures such as free healthcare and other welfare services to reduce inequality as a result of students’ economic and social backgrounds (Sahlberg, 2012). The Finnish education system also tries to reduce inequality by providing more funds to schools where average performance may be lacking behind as opposed to the U.S. education system which usually rewards top-performing schools (Tung, 2012).

Another difference between the U.S. and Finnish education system is that U.S. education system is more procedure-intensive and uniform in terms of policies as opposed to the Finnish education system which is more focused on achieving results and more flexible. Finnish education system doesn’t require standardized testing as opposed to the U.S. education system and it also doesn’t evaluate its teachers like the U.S. Instead, it leaves to the school principals to identify problems and take measures as necessary (Tung, 2012). There are numerous benefits to this approach. First of all, Finnish system realizes that different schools may have students with different characteristics, thus, a local approach is more fitted to address their needs as opposed to national approach which ignores the unique differences among student populations of different schools. Finnish approach also eschews standardized testing and teach evaluation which may only result in waste of financial and time resources and may do little to address the underlying problem.

One cannot overstate the importance of teachers in the quality of education students receive. One of the major differences between Finnish and U.S. education systems is also the quality of teachers as well as the prestige attached to the teaching profession. In the U.S. teaching profession doesn’t attract the most talented individuals who would rather choose other professions with more prestige and income prospects. Similarly, entering the teaching profession is relatively easier in the U.S. as compared to Finland where teachers are required to obtain three-year Master’s degree at state expense. The demand for these programs is so high that only ten percent primary school applicants are accepted. Moreover, the teaching profession enjoys the same prestige as doctors, lawyers, and architects etc. in Finland (Tung, 2012). This also gives an edge to Finnish education system over the U.S. education system.

Another major difference between the U.S. and Finnish education system is that education is a commodity and available to everyone whether at elementary level, high school level, or college level. In addition, the concept of private education is almost nonexistent in Finland. This means that Finnish from all backgrounds get similar quality education and they get to do for free for as long as they want to study (Partanen, 2011). Unlike Finland, the best schools in U.S. tend to be private which are outside the reach of the majority of the population. There are few good public schools but they are only a small minority. In addition, college education is funded by a significant proportion of students through student loans which may discourage many from going to college or force them to drop out before completing the degree.

The concept of competition is also absent in the Finnish education system where administrators have the responsibility to identify and address problems and the emphasis is on cooperation rather than competition among schools. No lists are published in Finland regarding best schools or teachers (Partanen, 2011) as opposed to the U.S. where such rankings are common place and are thought of as necessary to encourage schools and colleges to improve their academic standards. The absence of competition has certain benefits. First of all, it removes distraction which comes from competition. It also means that schools focus on real problems instead of on the criteria which determines ranking. This spirit of cooperation doesn’t only exist among schools but also within schools. Teachers in schools are not subjected to scrutiny by the boards or the parents but instead mentored by superiors and colleagues so that they could improve upon their weaknesses. In addition, the teachers also have autonomy in designing course materials and are not forced to follow predetermined curriculum (Shoubaki, 2013).

It is apparent that while competition is usually desirable, in education system it does more harm than good as the performance of the U.S. education system and the Finnish education system shows. While U.S. education system places great emphasis n procedures and competition, Finnish education system places greater emphasis on cooperation and achieving results. Finnish education system has also been more successful because it takes active measures to reduce inequality among students and provide high quality education to every one free of cost for as long as they study. It also gives more prestige to teachers and attract higher quality applicants than the U.S. education system, especially at pre-college levels.

References

Partanen, A. (2011, December 29). What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland’s School Success. Retrieved April 23, 2013, from http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/12/what-americans-keep-ignoring-about-finlands-school-success/250564/

Sahlberg, P. (2012, Spring). A Model Lesson. American Educator, pp. 20-28.

Shoubaki, S. (2013, February 14). The Finland Phenomenon: Inside the World’s Most Surprising School System. Retrieved April 23, 2013, from http://www.examiner.com/article/the-finland-phenomenon-inside-the-world-s-most-surprising-school-system

Tung, S. (2012, January 20). How the Finnish school system outshines U.S. education. Retrieved April 23, 2013, from http://news.stanford.edu/news/2012/january/finnish-schools-reform-012012.html

 

 

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