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Finland Tops World Education; How Does Australia Fare

When compared to Finland, by the age of 16 Australian school students have the equivalent of 5 years more compulsory schooling hours, and yet Finland continues to top the world in literacy, maths and science. How can this be so?

We were thrilled to hear from expert Professor Pasi Sahlberg from the Gonski Institute who was able to share his knowledge in this space especially given his previous experience as a teacher in Finland and policy advisor.

Pasi explained Finland’s world leading outcomes in literacy, maths and science hasn’t happened just by chance or fluke. The country appreciates and values education.

In Finland there is equity in education. The Education is free and it includes lunch. Students attend their closest school. There is no need to shop around for the best school as they all provide the same high quality education and educational outcomes.

The Finnish school day is much shorter than Australia’s school day and it is broken up by 15 minute play times after 45 minute learning blocks. They understand that children learn different, but essential skills in the school yard and this play-time provides an opportunity for their brains to rest from formal learning.

Primary school teachers in Finland are given similar respect as doctors and lawyers. Teaching is a highly sought-after degree and entry into university is limited and interview based. Teachers are trained in a teaching school, similar to how doctors are trained at a teaching hospital.

Based on this information what can we do in Australia to improve our educational outcomes?

  • All children should have access to equity in education. Currently the best schools are only available to those who can afford it. This leads to a society where the rich get richer and the cycle of disadvantage continues.
  • Teachers need to be valued. Teaching needs to become a ‘career of choice’. Should entry scores to a teaching degree rise and the number of university places available limited?
  • Students need to be valued. Should we consider, as Pasi suggests, taking away the lunch box providing lunch for all students and value the time out of the classroom by increasing play-time.

If Australia wishes to improve its outcomes for our young people we need to value the education system, all the people in it and be prepared to make some significant systemic transformations.

Are you ready for change?


Catherine Darkin, 2020 Participant

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