Finland has become a model for teachers across the globe hoping to learn about educational success. Attracting the best and brightest to the teaching profession is among the key benefits for the Scandinavian nation, which prides itself on rewarding those teachers with more autonomy. The Christian Science Monitor reports:
No single factor can explain the students’ strong showing. They grow up in a highly literate, bilingual society (Finnish and Swedish, with most learning English as well). Finns also enjoy strong governmental supports for parental leave, day care, and healthcare (in exchange for high taxes), which means that problems associated with poverty don’t show up at the schoolhouse door nearly as often as in the US.
One essential element, though, is the high caliber of Finland’s teaching corps, education leaders say. "We trust our teachers," says Reijo Laukkanen, head of international relations at the Finnish National Board of Education in Helsinki. "That is very important, and it’s not easy to realize in all countries – the culture of trust we have in Finland."
Since 1979, master’s degrees have been required for teaching in primary and secondary schools. And the profession is so popular – even with its moderate salaries – that only 10 to 15 percent of applicants make it into university teacher-education programs…
While many American teachers have been chafing under the accountability systems of the federal No Child Left Behind law in recent years, autonomy is a hallmark of the teaching profession in Finland. "There’s nobody who supervises if we follow [the curriculum]," says Marja Asikainen, a longtime English teacher at the Länsimäki School. "They trust us that we’ll follow it, and Finnish teachers are rather free … to do it in their own way."
Finnish teaching places a strong emphasis on helping students become independent thinkers. "We don’t want to give only ready answers," says Liisa Norvanto, a primary teacher at the school. "We want to teach them to explore their surroundings…. We try to teach them how to compare knowledge … and be critical."