Wellesley High School Principal Andrew Keough, fairly fresh off a fact-finding mission to Scandanavia this fall with other educators and state educational officials, says we could learn a few things from Finland and its “success in recent years on international educational testing measures.”
He’ll share some of what he learned overseas at next week’s School Committee meeting. Among the topics Keough had said he was interested in exploring in Finland and Sweden was the role of athletics in those countries’ school systems, concerned that there might be an “unhealthy” emphasis on athletics at Wellesley High (links to PDF of Wellesley PTSO September newsletter). (UPDATE: Principal Keough says he’s a big supporter of Wellesley High athletics, but does have concerns about some attitudes toward high school sports.)
Keough says that as a nation of 5M people, it’s easier for Finland to establish a national curriculum than it would be for the United States. The education system is also backed by a nationalized university program.
“It was not so much the curriculum, or the political ideology of Finland that impressed me most, but rather the general philosophy of the people,” Keough writes of his trip. “They speak with great reverence for the ‘culture of trust’ that permeates their society. It is a belief system in which every citizen is counted on and trusted to work cooperatively and diligently to ensure that no one is let down or left out, so that ultimately the country can thrive.” Finland holds no national exams and has no inspectors, he says.
“If I had not had the chance to ask every individual I came in contact with whether this was true, and continually received the same positive response, I would have thought this was some sort of well-orchestrated hoax!” Keough says.
“As I reflect on the trip and the implications for me as a school leader, I cannot help but wonder if perhaps the Finns are onto something. Perhaps in our pursuit for standardization, accountability, and teaching to the test here in the United States, we have lost sight of the importance of having trust in one another to work for the greater good of our society.”
For more on the trip, read here.