Jun 28, 2012

Why does Finland have Better Schools?

My friend and former Harvard Graduate School classmate Laurel Schwartz wrote a piece about teacher collaboration for the Huffington Post, noting the many strides American educators are taking to collaborate, co-create lessons, and share them on the web.

She alludes to the fact that Finnish students out perform American students on international tests, suggesting that teacher collaboration in Finland is a key factor in their success.  Laurel writes:
"A recent article in the Atlantic Monthly praised Finland's schools for outperforming the rest of the developed world, and also for being consistently high quality. Why? Because they collaborate."
While I agree with Laurel's argument, I would add that Finnish educators collaboration surpasses merely using online lesson websites.  Finnish teachers sit down face-to-face with other educators daily and create high quality lessons.

In contrast, it seems that many American teachers work in isolation; additionally, they often spend the precious few non-instructional times in the day performing 'duties' - lunch duty, recess duty, morning duty.  The time that American educators squander on tasks unrelated to instruction, based on Pasi Sahlberg's explanation of Finnish schools, is nonexistent in Finland.  All that time is spent developing curriculum and collaborating (sitting face-to-face with other practitioners discussing instruction and curriculum) with other educators.

In short, administrators should do their students a favor and build time for teachers to work together into the school schedule.  These times should be considered sacred.  No duties.  No monitoring students who are serving detention.  Nothing.  Keep it sacred.

Imbedding time for teacher collaboration is a hallmark of a high-functioning school; or in the case of Finland, a high functioning national school system. 

Link to Laurel's Huffington Post Article:  Why Can't We All Just Get Along?

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