Archive for January 5, 2012

Equality in school leads to system excellence: Boredom and failure, part 3

The Finnish education system is excellent, one of the best in the world, in part because they have chosen differently than in the US education system.  The trade-off is one that I talked about in my posts on boredom and failure.  The Finns don’t pull out the gifted students to keep them from getting bored, and they don’t have private schools for the rich. Instead, everyone gets the same excellent schooling, and there is less failure.

Our American higher education system explicitly chooses differently.  Many see the role of US higher ed as developing and promoting excellence. I have argued that we in CS cater mostly to the top end of our grade distributions.  I wonder if that focus on excellence is exactly what leads to a significant rate of failure?

Maybe there’s a cost to a focus on equality.  Interesting question: Do the Finns end up with fewer entrepreneurs and Nobel prize winners than the US, or a lower standard of living due to less intellectual property?  Do they suffer a lack of excellence?

Herein lay the real shocker. As Sahlberg continued, his core message emerged, whether or not anyone in his American audience heard it. Decades ago, when the Finnish school system was badly in need of reform, the goal of the program that Finland instituted, resulting in so much success today, was never excellence. It was equity.

Since the 1980s, the main driver of Finnish education policy has been the idea that every child should have exactly the same opportunity to learn, regardless of family background, income, or geographic location. Education has been seen first and foremost not as a way to produce star performers, but as an instrument to even out social inequality.

via What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland’s School Success – Anu Partanen – National – The Atlantic.

January 5, 2012 at 6:53 am 6 comments


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