Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Finnish Schools and Economics

I've seen a number of links to articles waxing poetic about Finland's amazing educational system all across my social media outlets recently. As a former teacher (and daughter of another), it's all pretty interesting and relevant to me.

It's also ignoring the really uncomfortable fact that America is doing a crappy job in providing, financially, for its children.

First, a backtrack. I won't argue with Finland's decision to make teaching a high-paying and competitive position. Altruism and sense of duty doesn't pay student loan debts, after all. But when you start talking about differences that are more about pure pedagogical and educational theory, you tend to forget that education happens in the real world.

Diane Ravitch, in her interview on The Daily Show, declared that the United States leads the OECD (or world?) in child poverty. That may have been an overstatement, but not by much. Check out all these graphs.

Granted, the link between poverty and poor academic performance might be more pronounced in the United States than in other countries, due to how American public schools receive their funding. Nonetheless, to tease out the effects of Finland's chosen system (and not any happy side effects of greater income parity, lower levels of child poverty, or differences in school funding), a comparison that controls for economic differences is necessary. Of course, Finland does pretty well on the world stage, but so does Japan, and their systems are very different.

The world is complicated, and solving a problem often requires multiple fixes.

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